Information about the place DIMITRIAS (Ancient city) MAGNESSIA - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  A city of Magnesia. It was founded in ca. 293 B.C. by Demetrios Poliorketes as a synoecism, according to Strabo (9.436, 443), of Neleia, Pagasai, Ormenion, Rhizus, Sepias, Boibe, lolkos, and probably Kasthanaie. From inscriptions we learn that Spalauthra, Korope, Halos, Aiole, Homolion were absorbed into it then or later. Demetrias was then and through the 3d c. B.C. a strong point and harbor for the Antigonids. In 196 B.C. it fell to Rome and in 194 B.C. was made head of the Magnesian League (Livy 34.51.3). With inside help it fell to the Aitolians in 192 B.C. (Livy 35.34) and was used by Antiochus III until his retreat from Greece. The confused city was retaken by Philip V of Macedon in 191 B.C. (Livy 36.33) and remained in Macedonian control until the battle of Pydna in 167 B.C., when its fortifications were destroyed. It continued, however, as head of the reformed Magnesian League, and flourished through the Roman period, although its most splendid days were past. It was a bishopric in the Christian period, was ravaged by the Saracens in the 9th c., and declined until its desertion by 1600.
  The city was long thought to be located at Goritza across the way, but has proved to be, as Strabo (9.436) stated, exactly between Pagasai and Neleia, indeed it absorbed part of the walled area of Pagasai and probably all of Neleia. Pagasai is immediately SW of Demetrias and Neleia was probably at the tip of modern Cape Pevkakia (Tarsanas) within the wall circuit of Demetrias. Demetrias is on the W shore of the Gulf of Pagasai, 3 km SE of modern Volo. Its wall included a rocky cape (Pevkakia) jutting E into the gulf and a hill inland to the W. The low hill of the cape and the higher one inland are separated by a flat valley through which runs the modern Volo-Halmyros road. Immediately to the S of this cape is a marsh (Halykes) which may have been the S harbor of the city, and to the N a bay (N harbor) with a marsh (Bourboulithra) at its W end.
  The wall of Demetrias, ca. 7 km in circumference, is fairly well preserved to several courses high along much of its length; it has largely disappeared along the shore between the Pevkakia peninsula and the Bourboulithra marsh. The enclosed acropolis is on a high point (Palatia, 170 m) on the W hill of the city. There remain 182 projecting towers, more or less evenly spaced along the wall. The wall and towers consist of a stone socle with mudbrick upper parts, the brick represented now only by some earth covering. The socle is built of rough-faced rectangular and trapezoidal blocks laid in more or less regular courses, and varying somewhat in style depending on the material at hand. It is double with a filling of stones. In some places the remains of an outer wall (proteichisma) also furnished with towers (included in the 182) may be seen. The wall must date from the early 3d c. B.C. A few of the towers at the SW end of the city were hastily enlarged, perhaps at some time between 192 and 191 B.C. in connection with the Aitolian takeover, or Antiochus' use of the city, or in the disturbed period after his departure. These towers included painted grave stelai from a necropolis immediately outside the original wall.
  Several buildings are visible within the circuit. No comprehensive excavations have ever been carried out, although in the early part of the century Arvanitopoullos excavated here and there (including the stelai towers) and some areas have been cleared or recleared recently.
  The civic center of the ancient city seems to have been at least partly at the base of the peninsula. Here are the foundations of a temple, perhaps originally peripteral, excavated in 1908 and recently cleared. It is attributed to Artemis lolkia, and apparently dates to the early 3d c. B.C. Remains of its peribolos wall can be seen to the N and S of it. It appears that at least on the W side the precinct was bounded by a stoa. Within the peribolos was a Sacred Market, known from inscriptions. Just N of this is a large (54 x 55 m) building with a square central peristyle court surrounded by rooms. Stahlin thought this was a market, but by analogy with, e.g., the Macedonian palace at Verghina it has recently tentatively been identified as the Antigonid palace known to have been built at Demetrias. Partially excavated and recently cleared, it is dated to the first half of the 3d c. B.C. West of this is a flat area with the remains of a terrace wall at its W side. On the peninsula are various other ruins, including a shrine of Pasikrata excavated by Arvanitopoullos. Some remains of the ancient harbor may be seen. At the tip of the peninsula recent excavations have uncovered numerous Mycenaean remains, probably those of Neleia, and some Hellenistic remains, notably those of a purple-dye factory.
  The ancient theater lay at the foot of the W hill, just across the valley from the Macedonian palace (?). It was partially excavated early in the century, and finally cleared in 1958 and 1959. The edge of the orchestra was discovered, and the first row of seats. The theater apparently dates from the period of the city's foundation. Only the foundations of the Hellenistic proskenion remain. The fairly well-preserved skene is of the Late Roman period. North of the theater are two large hollow areas, and some ancient remains including washbasins. It is presumed the hippodrome and stadium were here. On the N harbor there is a modern lighthouse. Near this in 1912 were discovered the poros foundations of a temple.
  The main Late Roman and Christian settlement was evidently in the flat valley by the N harbor. Here are numerous wall remains, the foundations of a basilica, etc. Seventy-six piers of a Roman Imperial aqueduct (now called Dontia, teeth) cross the valley from just S of the theater. In 1962 an Early Christian (late 4th c. B.C.) basilica was excavated above the S harbor of the city.
  There are few remains to be seen on the city's W hill. Above the theater is a not completely understood building partially cleared in 1961. This is a complex of rooms and terraces with a rough surrounding wall, and a roadway leading to an entrance, perhaps with propylon, on the W side. There was an altar in the center of the complex. Stahlin suggested the Macedonian palace might have been here, but at present this building is considered to be a shrine.
  The finds from Demetrias are mainly in the Museum of Volo; some of the objects from tombs are in the Stathatos Collection in the National Museum of Athens. Perhaps the most notable group of objects is that of the painted grave stelai from the towers. Numbering ca. 400 and dating mainly from the 3d c. B.C., they are of marble, painted with encaustic, generally with farewell scenes, or single or grouped figures. Most are faded; a few retain considerable color.

T. S. Mackay, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


nbsp;  A town in Magnesia in Thessaly, on the innermost recesses of the Pagasaean Gulf, founded by Demetrius Poliorcetes, and peopled by the inhabitants of Iolcus and the surrounding towns. Its position was such that it was styled by the last Philip of Macedon one of the three fetters of Greece, the other two being Chalcis and Corinth.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Eth. Demetrieus. A city of Magnesia in Thessaly, situated at the head of the Pagasaean gulf, was founded about. B.C. 290 by Demetrius Poliorcetes, who removed thither the inhabitants of Nelia, Pagasae, Ormenium, Rhizus, Sepias, Olizon, Boebe and lolcos, all of which were afterwards included in the territory of Demetrias. (Strab. ix.) It soon became an important place, and the favourite residence of the Macedonian kings. It was favourably situated for commanding the interior of Thessaly, as well as the neighbouring seas; and such was the importance of its position that it was called by the last Philip of Macedon one of the three fetters of Greece, the other two being Chalcis and Corinth. (Pol. xvii. 11; Liv. xxxii. 37.) Leake remarks that it may have been recommended to the kings of Macedonia as a residence not more for its convenience as a military and naval station in the centre of Greece, than for many natural advantages, in some of which it seems to have been very preferable to Pella. The surrounding seas and fertile districts of Thessaly supplied an abundance of the necessaries and luxuries of life: in summer the position is cool and salubrious, in winter mild, even when the interior of Thessaly is involved in snow or fog. The cape on which the town stood commands a beautiful view of the gulf, which appears like an extensive lake surrounded by rich and varied scenery; the neighbouring woods supply an abundance of delightful retreats, embellished by prospects of the Aegaean sea and its islands, while Mount Pelion might at once have afforded a park, an icehouse, and a preserve of game for the chase.
  After the battle of Cynoscephalae, B.C. 196, Demetrias was taken away from Philip, and garrisoned by the Romans. (Pol. xviii. 28; Liv. xxxiii. 31.) In B.C. 192, it was surprised by the Aetolians; and the news of its defection from the Romans determined Antiochus to defer no longer his departure to Greece. (Liv. xxxv. 34, 43.) After the return of Antiochus to Asia in B.C. 191, Demetrias surrendered to Philip, who was allowed by the Romans to retain possession of the place. (Liv. xxxvi. 33.) It continued in the hands of Philip and his successor till the over-throw of the Macedonian monarchy at the battle of Pydna, B.C. 169. (Liv. xliv. 13.) Demetrias is mentioned by Hierocles in the sixth century.
  The ancient town is described by Leake as occupying the southern or maritime face of a height, now called Goritza, which projects from the coast of Magnesia, between 2 and 3 miles to the southward of the middle of Volo. Though little more than foundations remains, the inclosure of the city, which was less than 2 miles in circumference, is traceable in almost every part. On three sides the walls followed the crest of a declivity which falls steeply to the east and west, as well as towards the sea. To the north the summit of the hill, together with an oblong space below it, formed a small citadel, of which the foundations still subsist. A level space in the middle elevation of the height was conveniently placed for the central part of the city. The acropolis contained a large cistern cut in the rock, which is now partly filled with earth...Many of the ancient streets of the town are traceable in the level which lies midway to the sea, and even the foundations of private houses: the space between one street and the next parallel to it, is little more than 15 feet. About the centre of the town is a hollow, now called the lagumi or mine, where a long rectangular excavation in the rock, 2 feet wide, 7 deep, and covered with flat stones, shows by marks of the action of water in the interior of the channel that it was part of an aqueduct, probably for the purpose of conducting some source in the height upon which stood the citadel, into the middle of the city. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iv. p. 375, seq.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited May 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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