1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Thespiae

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THESPIAE, an ancient Greek city of Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes. The deity most worshipped at Thespiae, according to Pausanias, was Eros, whose primitive image was an unwrought stone. The town contained many works of art, among them the Eros of Praxiteles, dedicated by Phryne in her native place; it was one of the most famous statues in the ancient world, and drew crowds of people to Thespiae. It was carried off to Rome by Caligula, restored by Claudius, and again carried off by Nero. There was also a bronze statue of Eros by Lysippus. The Thespians also worshipped the Muses, and celebrated a festival in their honour in the sacred grove on Mount Helicon. Remains of what was probably the ancient citadel are still to be seen, consisting of an oblong or oval line of fortification, solidly and regularly built. The adjacent ground to the east and south is covered with foundations, bearing witness to the extent of the ancient city. The neighbouring village Eremokastro, on higher ground, was thought by Ulrichs to be probably the site of the ancient Ceressus. In 1882 there were discovered, about 1200 yds. east of Eremokastro, on the road to Arkopodi (Leuctra), the remains of a polyandrion, including a colossal stone lion. The tomb dates from the 5th century B.C., and is probably that of the Thespians who fell at Plataea, for those who fell at Thermopylae were buried on the field.

History.—Thespiae figures chiefly in history as an enemy of Thebes, whose centralizing policy it had all the more to fear because of the proximity of the two towns. During the Persian invasion of 480 B.C. it stood almost alone among Boeotian cities in rejecting the example of treason set by the Thebans, and served the national cause with splendid devotion. Seven hundred Thespians accompanied Leonidas to Thermopylae and of their own free will shared his last stand and destruction. The remaining inhabitants, after seeing their city burnt down by Xerxes, furnished a force of 1800 men to the confederate Greek army at Plataea. In 424 B.C. the contingent which the Thespians had been compelled to furnish sustained heavy losses at Delium, and in the next year the Thebans took advantage of this temporary enfeeblement to accuse their neighbours of friendship towards Athens and to dismantle their walls. In 414 they interfered again to suppress a democratic rising. In the Corinthian war Thespiae sided with Sparta, and between 379 and 372 repeatedly served the Spartans as a base against Thebes. In the latter year they were reduced by the Thebans and compelled to send a contingent to Leuctra (371). It was probably shortly after this battle that the Thebans used their new predominance to destroy Thespiae and drive its people into exile. The town was rebuilt at some later time. In 171 B.C., true to its policy of opposing Thebes, it sought the friendship of Rome. It is subsequently mentioned by Strabo as a place of some size, and by Pliny as a free city.

See Herodotus, v. 79, vii. 132–ix. 30; Thucydides, iv. 93, 133, vi. 95; Xenophon, Hellenica, iv. vi.; Pausanias, ix. 13, 8–14, 2, 26–27; Strabo, ix. pp. 409–10; B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (Oxford, 1887), pp. 479–80; Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, ii. 479 sq.; Dodwell, Tour through Greece, i. 253; Bursian, Geogr. von Griechenland, i. 237 sq.; Ulrichs, Reisen u. Forschungen in Griechenland, ii. 84 sq.; Mitteil. d. deutsch. archäol. Inst. in Athen (1879), pp. 190 sq., 273 sq.; Πρακτικὰ τῆς ἀρχ. Ἑταιρίας (1882), pp. 65–74.