The New International Encyclopædia/Bœotia

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BŒO'TIA (Gk. Βοιωτία, Boiōtia). In ancient geography, next to Attica, the most important political division of Central Greece, bounded on the north by Locris and the Eubœan Gulf, on the east by the narrow strait of the Euripus, on the south by Attica, Megaris, and the Corinthian Gulf, and on the west by Phocis. Bœotia had a surface estimated at 1000 square miles. The plains inclosed on the south by Mounts Cithæron and Parnes, on the west by Mount Helicon, on the north by the slopes of Mount Parnassus and the Opuntian Mountains, fall naturally into two divisions — the basin of Lake Copaïs, now called Topolias, and that of the Asopus, together with the coast district on the Corinthian Gulf. The principal stream was anciently called the Cephissus. It entered the country from Phocis at Chæronea; and in the spring, when it was swollen by innumerable torrents, converted the Copaic plain into a shallow lake. There were underground channels for the outlet of the waters that congregated in this plain, but only four were active at the time the French engineers began work. To recover this valuable region to agriculture and remove the malarial marshes, extensive drainage operations were begun by a French company in 1883 and carried to a successful completion. The draining of the bed showed that similar works had been carried out by the Minyæ of Orchomenus in the Mycenæan period; a large dike ran along the north shore, collecting the waters of the Cephissus and Melas, and emptying them through a great natural subterranean passage. Another dike kept back the waters from the south shore, and brought them to the same outlet. A dike near the centre seems to have been connected with a system of irrigation. Forts secured the outlets against hostile attack. With the fall of the Mycenæan kingdom at Orchomenus, the works seem to have been neglected, and a change in the sea-level seems to have rendered the outlets useless, so that the region became again flooded. An attempt to clear out the old passages and open new ones was made during the reign of Alexander the Great, and there are traces of similar attempts later, but none with success. Bœotia in ancient times was a productive region, abounding in corn and fruits; marble, potters' clay, and iron were obtained, and it was also celebrated for flute-reeds. The inhabitants in the legendary age were the Minyæ; of Orchomenus and the Cadmeans of Thebes, both Greek races and hostile to one another. Later, the country was occupied by the Bœotians, an Æolian people, who were driven from Thessaly. The Bœotians excelled as cultivators of the soil, and were gallant soldiers, both on foot and on horseback, but they were rude and unsociable, and took little part in the gradual refinement of manners and intellectual development of the rest of Greece, so that the name became proverbial for illiterate dullness. This was usually ascribed to their thick damp atmosphere. Yet there were not wanting among them eminent generals, as Epaminondas and Pelopidas; and poets and historians, as Hesiod, Pindar, Corinna, and Plutarch. The greater cities, of which the number was about fourteen, Thebes, Ilaliartus, Thespiæ, etc., with their territories, formed the Bœotian League. At the head of this were seven Bœotarchs. who held office for one year, commanded the army of the league and conducted its diplomacy, though the final decision in matters of policy seems to have rested with the four councils, concerning whose composition we are not informed. The internal history of Bœotia is largely concerned with the efforts of Thebes to maintain her leadership through this league against the efforts of Thespiæ, Orchomenus, and other cities for autonomy. The power of Thebes and the league was at its height in the years succeeding the battle of Leuetra (B.C. 371), when Epaminondas (q.v.) placed Thebes at the head of Greece. After the battle of Chæronea, in which Philip establislied the Macedonian throne on the ruins of Grecian liberty, the political importance of the country declined so rapidly that about B.C. 30 only two cities, Tanagra and Thespiæ, had any prominence. Bœotia now forms one of the nomes of the Kingdom of Greece. The capital is Livadia. Area, about 1550 square miles. Population, in 1896, 57,091. Consult: W. Rhys Roberts, The Ancient Bœotians (Cambridge, 1895); for the works in Lake Copaïs, E, Curtius, Die Deichbauten der Minyer (Berlin, 1892); and for topography, Ulrichs, Reisen und Forschungen in Griechenland (Bremen, 1840).