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Sparta[]

History[]

The idea of Sparta is one of the most evocative in the Western consciousness. A proud warrior society, the original army with a state, Sparta has become almost mythologized over the millennia as the exemplar of a laconic martial discipline. Sparta built this reputation in the Hellenistic mediterranean through the development of a rigid communal military culture, a nearly single-minded focus on preparing the young men of the state for service as soldiers. Though Sparta would decline and fade after the rise of Macedon and Rome, the idea of Sparta has lived on into modernity in a romanticised form.

Terrain and Climate[]

Sparta is found in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece, in an area now known as Laconia. Laconia is surrounded, much like other Greek regions, by mountains and sea— the western Taygetus range and the Northeastern Parnon massif, and the Mediterranean sea to the South and East. The Evrotas river valley where Sparta itself was founded is one of the most fertile regions of Greece, and its natural defenses protected Sparta throughout its history.

Early Settlement of the Region[]

Sparta was first settled by the Mycenaeans who settled much of the rest of Greece. The principal Mycenaean settlement in Laconia was Therapne, founded in approximately 1450 BCE. A shrine known as the Melanion, founded in honor of Menelaus and Helen and maintained for centuries, is the main archeological relic of the Mycenaean period in Laconia.

The history of Sparta truly begins, though, with the rise of Doric civilization in Greece. While it is a subject of historical debate whether the Dorian Invasion written about in traditional Greek histories actually occurred, or if the Dorian people simply rose to power after the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, the settlement of Sparta lines up roughly with the Bronze Age Collapse that included the end of Mycenae. In Greek myth, the first kings of Dorian Sparta were the descendants of Heracles, known as the Heraclides. Regardless of the true origin of these rulers, they did set up a few important institutions of Spartan society, most notably the dual kingship of the houses of Agiad and Eurypontid.

Spartan Society[]

Spartan society began to take its uniquely militaristic form in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries BCE, due to the reforms of Lycurgus. Lycurgus is considered to be the great law-giver of Spartan society, organizing the city-state under an oral constitution known as the Great Rhetra, passed down to him by the Oracle of Delphi. Lycurgus also studied the governments of Crete and the states described in Homer’s works, and developed further plans to shape Sparta into an efficiently governed city-state.

Lycurgus instituted a wide range of reforms that affected every aspect of Spartan society. At the highest level, he created the Gerousia, an elected council of elders that advised and could even overturn the decisions of the dual monarchy. More important for Spartan society, though, was his implementation of the agoge and the syssitia hall, two institutions that would shape Spartan culture for centuries. The agoge was the program through which the male citizens of Sparta were molded into loyal soldiers of Sparta, through intensive training from ages 7 to 20. The agoge was harsh and at times cruel, intentionally depriving young Spartiates of proper food and lodging in order to train them for conditions in the field. Upon reaching adulthood and completing training, the young men of Sparta would attempt to join a Syssitia, a communal feast of men at the heart of Spartan society. Membership in a Syssitia was a prerequisite for Spartan citizenship.

In classical Sparta, society was largely divided into three groups: the Spartiates, the Perioikoi, and the Helots. The Spartiates were the elite class of the city-state, those who could trace their lineage back to the founding families of the city. Only Spartiate men could go through the Agoge and join in a Syssitia hall, though there were some exceptions in the cases of foreign families of note (like the children of the Athenian general Xenophon) or in the case of Helots sponsored by Spartiates. Perioikoi were the free denizens of Spartan territory that were not Spartiates. Typically living in the other towns of the Evrotas valley, or other conquered territory, Perioikoi typically participated in commerce and manufacturing, as Spartiates were forbidden from doing so, and also contributed their own hoplites to the Spartan military. Helots were a class of serfs or slaves within Spartan society consisting of many of the subjugated peoples of Laconia. Helots, like all land in Sparta, were owned by the state and distributed equally to Spartiate families. Helots were treated with extreme disdain and distrust by the citizens of Sparta— disdain due to their low status and distrust due to their high population. Spartan policy towards Helots was designed to prevent disobedience and cultivate fear in the Helot population. Most notably, the killing of Helots was allowed during the Autumn without recrimination, a task that was typically performed by members of the crypteria, the Spartan secret police. Of course, this harsh treatment naturally begot uprisings, typically after calamity or defeat struck Sparta.

Sparta's Expansion[]

Spartan expansion began with the Messenian wars at the end of the 8th Century and the middle of the 7th. The wars, possibly caused by a dispute over land and cattle between two prominent citizens of Sparta and Messenia gone awry, pitted Sparta against its Eastern neighbors. The Messenians, beyond just being a neighboring people with conquerable land, were also Achaeans, a pseudo-ethnic group often pitted against Dorians in classical Greek history. The wars lasted 40 years total, and despite the most valiant efforts of the Messenian forces, the region was incorporated into Sparta.

The conquest of Messenia and the Spartan dominance over Laconian gave the city-state an overall territory of 8,500 square kilometers. This was by a significant margin the greatest area of a city state in Greece at this time. The Messenians were subjugated by their new Spartan rulers, and the base of the Helot class was these conquered Messenians. Those who weren’t enslaved were forced to emigrate. From this dominance over Messenia, Sparta became the undisputed hegemon of the Peloponnese, with not even Argos able to challenge Spartan might.

It was over the next two centuries that Spartan regional dominance would solidify. The most obvious example of Laconian dominance in the Peloponnese is the establishment of the Peloponnesian League. The Peloponnesian league was a loose alliance of the city-states of the Peloponnese, save for Argos. Unlike other leagues in Classical Greece, where all the members of the league agreed on a single compact, the Peloponnesian league was based around individual treaties that the smaller states of the region made with Sparta. The league was founded in 550 BCE, and achieved near-complete regional dominance by the end of the century. Its military exploits served to quell Messenian rebellions in Sparta and defeat Argos, the lone holdout of the Peloponnese, multiple times. By the second century of its existence, the league had expanded to contain even polities beyond the peninsula, like Megara.

Even beyond the league, Sparta showed considerable influence in the Greek world of the late 6th and early 5th century. Sparta allied with the Lydians in the mid-6th century and aided an ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against the tyrant Polycrates of Samos in 525 BCE. Fatefully, Sparta also assisted Athens in the overthrow of the dictator Hippias in the late 6th century. The Athenian democracy that ensued after his fall would ultimately become Sparta’s greatest foe.

War With Persia[]

Sparta largely remained aloof from the first years of the Persian Wars. During the Ionian revolt, Athens was the primary backer of the rebellious Greeks, with King Cleomenes of Sparta refusing to give aid after hearing of the long distance between Sparta and Persian Anatolia. However, by the end of the first decade of the 5th Century, Sparta had begun to take steps against Persia, with an attack on Persian-sympathizing Argos and a raid on Aegina, a island that had pledged allegiance to Persia.

After a decade of relative peace following the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, Greece and Persia both prepared for war at the close of the 5th Century’s second decade. In Greece, an alliance of city-states formed a military confederation to protect against Xerxes’ incursions. With Sparta and Athens at its head, these 70 city-states began to prepare a defense against the Persian army, which began its march in early 480 BCE. Key to the initial Greek defense was the blockading of the two passes Persia could use to enter Greece. On land, a formation of Hoplites would defend the narrow mountain pass at Thermopylae. On sea, the straits of Artemisium were to be blockaded by the Greek navies. Following the historical dispositions of the two states, Sparta headed up the defense of Thermopylae, while Athens sailed to Artemisium.[NEWLINE][NEWLINE]It was at Thermopylae that King Leonidas of Sparta, his Hippeis of 300 Spartans, and about 1000 Thebans and Thespians held off the advance of the Persian army. Leonidas initially brought a force of several thousand troops to hold off Xerxes’ army, and for the first two days of the battle the two forces engaged in a number of assaults. However, on the third day, the Persians managed to lead a force of 20,000 through a secret trail revealed to them by a Greek traitor by the name of Ephialtes. Leonidas’ Hippeis then lead the defense of the retreating Greek army, managing to hold the pass for long enough to allow for the escape of thousands of Greek soldiers. The last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae has been memorialized throughout Western culture for centuries.

Xerxes continued his advance through the Balkans, capturing Boeotia and much of Attica in 480 BCE while being stopped for advancing further by the destruction of the Persian navy by the Athenian trireme fleet at Salamis. This defeat at Salamis was a turning point in the war—the next year, Greek armies led by Spartan commanders like Leotychidas and Pausanias won resounding victories against Persia at Mycale and Plataea, forcing Persia out of Greece. Sparta would only play a limited role in the next phase of the war, wherein a largely Athenian-led coalition of states would attempt to fight Persia in Asia minor; after Pausanias was deposed as ruler of Byzantium by Athens, Sparta would fully withdraw from the conflict.

The Peloponnesian Wars[]

Though Sparta returned to a period of relative peace after its exit from the Greco-Persian wars, the decades to come would represent some of the pivotal moments in Spartan history. This tumultuous time began with a war against one-time Peloponnesian league member Tegea, and its ally Argos. The Tegean War, fought between 473 and 471 BCE, ultimately was a Spartan victory, but losses were heavy, especially in the Battle of Tegea in 473. Sparta’s troubles continued with the earthquake and Helot revolt of 464 BCE. While Athens initially helped suppress the revolt, Spartan worry about an alliance between the Athenians and the Helots led to Athens’ dismissal from the conflict, a major diplomatic snub.

This snub led directly to Athens and the Delian League allying with Argos for the first Peloponnesian war. Sparta, despite being a major instigator of the conflict, remained aloof for its first few years, as Athens defeated many of the Peloponnesian allies, as well as Thebes, on land and sea. In 457, though, a conflict between Phocis and Doris drew Sparta into open battle with Athens at Tanagra, with Sparta achieving victory. Athens responded to the defeat with a campaign in Boeotia, conquering most of the area and achieving dominance elsewhere. Athens had to call a truce in 451, though, in order to deal with Egypt and Persia.

After the truce, Sparta and Athens faced off once more, in the 2nd Sacred War. This conflict was largely based around the independence of the prophetic city of Delphi, with Sparta backing its independence and Athens supporting Phocis. This conflict was short and resulted in a Spartan defeat, but soon after the tide of the war would shift, with Athens losing Boeotia in 446, and a 30-year truce being signed shortly after.

The truce would not prove to live up to its name, as a mere 15 years later the two leagues would erupt into conflict once more. In 431 BCE, King Archidamus II of Sparta began his invasion of Athens. Over the next few years, Archidamus would attempt to surround the city of Athens, starving out the populace. This strategy was inconclusive, but a plague that killed 30,000 in Athens, including Pericles, led to a shift in the tenor of the war. Both sides would become more aggressive, with Cleon and Demosthenes leading the Athenians and Brasidas leading the Spartans.The next eight years of the war had Spartan defeats, like at Pylos, and victories, like at Amphipolis, in roughly equal measure, and ultimately led to another truce after the deaths of many of the war hawks on both sides.

The next phase of the war began with the Athenian expedition to Sicily, a war with the principal goal of defending Athens’ Ionian allies from Doric Syracuse. A variety of missteps, from the Athenian refusal to retreat to their lack of Cavalry, led to Sparta and Syracuse defeating Athens handily. The Spartans also disrupted Athenian shipping and mining, and, upon Athens’ second attempt to capture Syracuse, destroyed and enslaved the Athenian fleet. After the fleet’s destruction, Athens was in disarray, with many of its Ionian allies rebelling. While Athens did have a minor resurgence under Alcibiades, the Spartan commander Lysander brought Athens to heel with a skillful alliance with Persia and the destruction of Athenian grain reserves. Athens and its allies surrendered by 404 BCE, and Athens was made a tributary state of Sparta.

Spartan Hegemony[]

After the defeat of Athens, Sparta achieved a period of sustained dominance in Greece from 404 to 371 BCE. The principal events of this period were Sparta’s incursions into Persian affairs, the Corinthian War, and the Boeotian War. Sparta’s incursions into Persia included its support for Cyrus the younger’s unsuccessful bid for the throne and an attempt to defend the Ionian colonies in Anatolia that also ended in Spartan defeat.

The Corinthian War simultaneously revealed the cracks in Spartan dominance and further solidified it. The course of the conflict pitted Sparta against all five other major powers of the region: Thebes, Argos, Athens, Corinth, and Persia, though the Persians did switch sides by the conflict’s end. While Sparta was able to fight these powers to a stalemate on land, it suffered severe losses at sea, ending Spartan ambition to a truly thalassocratic empire. In fact, Athens would regain much of its own naval empire during the war, after those colonies were left undefended after the Persian destruction of the Spartan navy. However, Spartan hegemony was reinforced by the war’s end, with the King’s Peace of 387 giving Sparta power to enforce the peace in Greece, and the cost of the Ionian colonies.

The Boeotian War spelled the end of Spartan hegemony. In 378 BC, Thebes began its revolt against Sparta. Athens aided the rebellious Thebans, and Sparta proved unable to bring them to heel. The affair worsened for Sparta as the war waged, with the Spartan fleet being defeated by Athens and independent Thebes increasingly claiming hegemony over all of Boeotia. In 371, after the breakdown of peace negotiations due to Thebes signing as a representative of all Boeotia, Sparta was defeated handily by Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra. Never again would Sparta dominate Greek affairs.

Sparta after Hegemony[]

Over the next two centuries, under Theban, Macedonian, and Roman Hegemony, Sparta would remain proud and independent, or at the very least more independent than most Greek states. It would struggle mightily under these yokes, and would always remain devoted to its Lycurgian rites and custom. Sparta’s ultimate subjugation would come in the second half of the 2nd Century BCE, wherein it was forced into the Achaean League and then conquered after that group’s unsuccessful revolt against Rome.

Factoids[]

  • Contrary to popular belief, Sparta was in fact ruled by two kings - one from each historial lineage of the throne.

Leonidas[]

History[]

Leonidas I was one of two Kings of Sparta during the middle phase of the Persian War. An able and respected commander, Leonidas was chosen to head up the defense of the pass at Thermopylae, the bulwark that would decide whether or not the armies of Xerxes could enter Boeotia, and then the rest of the Greek mainland. The outnumbered Greek forces held off the Persians for three days, but it was Leonidas’ heroic last stand with his Hippeis of 300 Spartans on the last day that allowed for the escape of the remainder of the Greek force. Though he perished in battle, his sacrifice allowed for the eventual defeat of the Persians.

Early Life[]

Leonidas was born the third son of the Agiad Spartan King Anaxandridas II, though only the second from his first wife. As such, Leonidas was not expected to take the Spartan throne, and received the typical education of a Spartan boy. Unlike most kings of Sparta, Leonidas went through the full agoge, and lived as a normal, albeit noble Spartan for most of his life. Meanwhile, his two older brothers, Cleomenes and Dorieus, squabbled over the throne. Tensions rose between the half-brothers to the point that Dorieus abandoned Sparta to colonize North Africa and Sicily. His expeditions proved to be his doom— Dorieus was expelled from Libya by Carthage, and killed by Segesta in Sicily.

Cleomenes ascended to the Agiad throne in around 519 BCE and proved to be a dynamic ruler of Sparta. He was one of the first Spartan kings to be truly interested in global affairs, interceding in Athenian politics to overthrow the tyrant Hippias and involving himself in the Ionian Revolt, the first stage of the Persian War. In his efforts to suss out Persian collaborateurs in Greece, he ran afoul of his co-king, Demaratus. Cleomenes then plotted to assassinate Demaratus, but was found out. Cleomenes was exiled, and only re-admitted when he threatened to invade Sparta. He was then imprisoned, where he died, likely by suicide. He was survived by no male heir, leaving behind only his daughter Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas.

The Kingship[]

Leonidas ascended to the throne in 490 BCE, at the start of a ten year interbellum between the first and second stages of the Persian Wars. Not much is known about Leonidas’ kingship during this period, though it is clear that Sparta did much to prepare for the coming war. It is known that Sparta likely received a wax tablet with a hidden message from the former king Demaratus, who had taken refuge in Persia after being deposed. The tablet likely helped forewarn the Persian invasion of 480 BCE. Before the formal beginning of that phase of the conflict, Leonidas was elected military commander of the entirety of the Greek force, a move that was as much a vindication of Sparta’s prestige within Greece as Leonidas’ renown as an honorable and loyal commander.

The Persian army began its invasion of Greece in earnest in August 480, an inopportune time for the Greek Army. Two ceremonial commitments stymied full participation in the defense of the pass at Thermopylae at the time: the Olympic games and a Spartan Lunar festival known as the Carnea. To fully commit military forces during either of those occasions was highly irregular. Nevertheless, when reports of a Persian advance to the pass became known, the ephors of Sparta allowed Leonidas to lead his Hippeis of 300 bodyguards to defend the pass, the gateway into Greece.

Thermopylae[]

While pop culture has mythologized the valiant last stand of 300 Spartans against the myriad forces of Persia, the Battle of Thermopylae was actually a longer, more diverse affair. To wit: the 300 Spartans made up a relatively small fraction of the total Greek force. According to Herodotus, the Spartans were joined by 900 Helots or Perioeci, around 3000 other Peloponnesians, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, 1000 Phocians, and assorted other Greeks to create a force of 6000 to 7000 soldiers. Of course, this force was still dwarfed by a Persian force that was, even at the smallest estimate, 10 times the size.

Even at a large disadvantage in terms of numerical strength, the Greeks managed to hold their own for two days of battle, largely due to Leonidas’ able command of the phalanx of Spartans that formed the front lines of the Greek force. The positioning of the Greek army, safely ensconced in the mountain pass of Thermopylae, allowed them to avoid dealing with the brunt of the Persian assault at once. The Persians instead had to face a near-impenetrable phalanx head-on.

Unfortunately for the Greeks, there was one flaw in their seemingly-impenetrable mountain fortress. A local shepherd led the Persians to a mountain path from the Persian position that led to the Greek camp. When Persia took this path, Leonidas immediately sprung into action. The vast majority of the Greek force retreated, to ensure the strength of the army in future battles. Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, as well as the Helots, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans, remained to hold off the Persians for as long as possible. While Leonidas’ forces held off the Persians valiantly, and allowed for the escape of the remainder of the Greek force, the Persians eventually defeated them, killing all of them save for the Thebans, who surrendered. The Persians, in an act of extreme disrespect, made plans to desecrate Leonidas’ body, crucifying him and putting his severed head on a stake.

Judgement of History[]

Leonidas was memorialized throughout Sparta and Greece for his valiant sacrifice, especially after the Greek victory in the Persian Wars. At the site of the battle, a monument of a stone lion was erected in honor of the Spartan forces, and Leonidas is believed to be depicted as part of the Acropolis in Athens. His remains were also exhumed and reburied in a hero’s grave in Sparta, and a hero cult existed around his legend for centuries after his death. Western pop culture has remained fascinated with Leonidas’ last stand even to the present day. Two quotations principally define the legacy of Leonidas: “Stranger! To Sparta say, her faithful band / Here lie in death, remembering her command,” the epigram written by the lyric poet Simonides, and “Molon Labe” (“Come and Take It!”), the defiant response of Leonidas to the advancing Persians.

Unique Components[]

Hoplite[]

The Greeks mastered the art of spear warfare, creating long, deadly-sharp weapons and put them in the hands of highly trained hoplite soldiers moving in phalanx formation, which were nearly impossible for standard infantry or horsemen of the day to defeat. A soldier facing a Greek phalanx had to contend with not only the enemy he faced, but also with the spears of the two or three soldiers behind that enemy. The hoplite remained somewhat vulnerable to archery fire, of course, and it was nearly impossible to maintain a phalanx's formation in difficult terrain, but in flat, open terrain, the hoplites were extremely tough opponents.

Syssitia Hall[]

The syssitia was a common meal found in many greek city-states of the classical period, though the ritual surrounding it was most developed in Sparta. More than a mere meal, the Syssitia was a focal point of the military lifestyle in Sparta— it was an inherently public, communal occasion, wherein all the men assigned to a given syssitia (size estimates vary from 15 to 200) were obligated to attend. Even a king could not shirk his duty of attendance without a strong extenuating circumstance, with those absent for inadequate reasons providing gifts to the table instead.

The Syssitia was typically held in a large hall in a banquet style, a precursor to the modern mess hall. In Spartan culture, where the feast was also called the Pheiditia, membership in a hall was vital to one’s membership in Spartan society, with Spartan men from the ages of 20 to 30 having to be voted into a given Syssitia hall.

City-States[]

Corinth[]

Corinth was an ancient Greek city-state in the northeastern part of the Peloponnesus peninsula in present day Greece. Neolithic pottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500 BC. The site of Corinth was likely not heavily occupied until around 900 BC, when it is believed the Dorians settled there. The ancient myths portrayed Corinth as the site where Jason abandoned his wife Medea. Corinth had been a backwater in 8th-century Greece. The Bacchiadae, a tightly-knit Doric clan, were the ruling kinship group of archaic Corinth in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, a period of expanding Corinthian cultural power. In 747 BC, an aristocratic revolution ousted the Bacchiad kings. The royal clan of Bacchiadae dispensed with the kingship and ruled as a group, governing the city by electing annually a prytanis, who held the kingly position for his brief term. During Bacchiad rule, from 747 to 650 BC, Corinth became a unified state. In 733 BC, the city established colonies at Corcyra and Syracuse. In 657 BC, the polemarch Cypselus became the first tyrant of Corinth after seizing power and exiling the Bacchiadae. In the 7th century BC, under the rule of Cypselus (r 657-627 BC), and his son Periander (r. 627-585 BC), the city sent forth colonists to found new settlements, including Epidamnus (modern day Durrës, Albania), and Apollonia in Illyria. Corinth was one of the nine Greek sponsor-cities to found the colony of Naucratis in ancient Egypt. Periander was considered one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. He was the first to attempt to cut across the Isthmus to create a seaway between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulfs. This venture was abandoned due to extreme technical difficulties, but Periander had the Diolkos (a stone-built overland ramp) built instead. In 581 BC, Periander’s nephew and successor was assassinated.

In Classical times, Corinth rivaled Athens and Thebai in wealth. Until the mid-6th century, Corinth was a major exporter of black-figure pottery to city-states around the Greek world. There was a temple of Aphrodite, employing some thousand hetairas (temple prostitutes). The city was also the host of the Isthmian Games. The third main style of classical architecture after the Doric and the Ionic, the Corinthian order was developed. The city had two main ports, Lechaion to the west, and Kenchreai to the east on the Saronic Gulf. During the years 481-480 BC, the Conference at the Isthmus of Corinth established the Hellenic League to fight the war against Persia. In 435 BC, Corinth and its colony Corcyra went to war over Epidamnus. In 433 BC, Athens allied with Corcyra against Corinth. In 395 BC after the end of the Peloponnesian War, Corinth and Thebai moved to support Athens against Sparta in the Corinthian War. The conflicts weakened the city-states in the Peloponnese, setting the stage for the conquests of Philip II of Macedon. Corinth eventually fell under the control of Alexander the Great. In 308 BC, the city was captured from the Antigonids by Ptolemy I. It was recaptured by Demetrius in 304 BC, remaining in Antigonid control for half a century. After Roman intervention in 197 BC, the city was permanently brought into the Achaean League. The Achaeans went on to take control of the entire Peloponnesus and made Corinth the capital of their confederation.

In 146 BC, Rome declared war on the Achaean League. The Romans led by Lucius Mummius besieged and captured Corinth. All the men were put to the sword and the women and children sold into slavery. The site remained largely deserted until Julius Caesar refounded the city as Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination. Corinth once again became a major city in Southern Greece or Achaea. Corinth was mentioned many times in the New Testament, largely in connection with Paul the Apostle’s mission there. Paul wrote at least two epistles to the Christian community. The city was largely destroyed in the earthquakes of 365 AD and 375 AD, followed by Alaric’s invasion in 396. The city was rebuilt, but covered a much smaller area than previously. Four churches were located in the city proper, another on the citadel of the Acrocorinth, and a monumental basilica at the port of Lechaion. During the reign of Justinian I, a large stone wall was erected from the Saronic to the Corinthian gulfs, named Hexamilion. Corinth declined from the 6th century on. It became the capital of the theme of Hellas and later the Peloponnese. In the 9th century, the city began to recover and reached its apogee in the 11th and 12th centuries, when it was the site of a flourishing silk industry. An earthquake struck the city in November 856. The Sicilian Normans plundered Corinth in 1147 and it never fully recovered. In 1210, the Acrocorinth fell to the Crusaders, becoming a part of the Principality of Achaea, governed by the Villehardouins from their capital in Andravida in Elis. It was captured by the Ottomans in 1395 and by the Byzantines of the Despotate of the Morea in 1403. In 1458, Corinth was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, who renamed it Gördes. The Venetians captured it in 1687 and it remained under their control until 1715. The city was officially liberated from the Ottomans in 1832. It was one of the candidates for the new capital city of the recently founded Kingdom of Greece. The ruins remain a tourist attraction today.

Delphi[]

Delphi was a city in central Greece, known for its oracle. It started to have a pan-Hellenic relevance as both a shrine and an oracle in the 7th century BC. The Delphic Oracle was consulted before major undertakings, such as wars, and the founding of colonies. Delphi was reclaimed by the Athenians during the First Sacred War (597-585 BC). This conflict resulted in the consolidated of the Amphictyonic League, which had both a military and a religious function centered around the protection of the Temple of Apollo. The shrine was destroyed by fire in 548 BC. The Second Sacred War (449-448 BC) resulted in the Phocians gaining control of Delphi and the management of the Pythian Games. In 356 BC, the Phocians, led by Philomelos, captured and sacked Delphi, leading to the Third Sacred War (356-346 BC). This conflict ended with the defeat of the Phocians, and the rise of Macedon under the reign of Philip II. In Delphi, Macedonian ruled was superseded by the Aetolians in 279 BC, and by the Romans in 191 BC. The site was sacked by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 86 BC, during the Mithridatic Wars, and by the Emperor Nero in 66 AD. A Thracian tribe also raided the sanctuary in 83 BC, stealing the “unquenchable fire” from the altar. The Oracle fell into decay and the surrounding area became impoverished. Roman Emperor Hadrian is believed to have visited Delphi twice, offering complete autonomy to the city. Constantine the Great looted several of the monuments to decorate his new capital, Constantinople. Despite the rise of Christianity across the Roman Empire, the oracle remained a religious center throughout the 4th century, and the Pythian Games continued to be held at least until 424 AD. A large three-aisled basilica was built in the city, in addition to a church building in the sanctuary’s former gymnasium. Delphi was abandoned in the 6th or 7th centuries, but a single bishop of Delphi is attested in an episcopal list of the late 8th/early 9th centuries. During the Ottoman period, the village of Kastri was founded on the site. Before a systematic excavation of the archeological site could be undertaken, the village had to be relocated. However, the residents resisted. An earthquake damaged the village, and the villagers were offered a completely new village in exchange for the old one. In 1893, the French Archaeological School removed substantial quantities of soil from numerous landslides to uncover the major buildings and structures of the sanctuary of Apollo and of Athena Pronoia, as well as numerous artifacts. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Delphi is popular with tourists.

Ephesus[]

Ephesus was a city located in Western Anatolia (modern day Turkey). The area surrounding it was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (circa 6000 BC). During the Bronze Age, it may have been called Apasa, the capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa mentioned in Hittite sources. In 1954, a burial ground dating from the Mycenaean era (1500-1400 BC) was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. Ephesus was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on the Ayasuluk Hill. The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens, Androklos, who had to leave his home city after the death of his father. According to legend, he founded Ephesus on the spot where the Delphian oracle’s pronouncement became reality. The Artemis worshipped at Ephesus was a fusion of the Greek goddess Artemis and the Anatolian goddess Kybele. Her statue was many-breasted and venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. Circa 650 BC, Ephesus was attacked by the Cimmerians. After they were driven away, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants. A council ruled it after a revolt. Notable figures who came from the city included the elegiac poet Callinus, the iambic poet Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius, the grammarian Zenodotos, and the physicians Soranus and Rufus. Around 560 BC, Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians led by King Croesus, who treated the people with respect and became a main contributor to the reconstruction of the temple of Artemis. After the defeat of Lydia by the Persians, the Ionians offered to make peace. Cyrus insisted they surrender and become part of the empire. They were defeated by the Persian general Harpagos in 547 BC, with the Greek cities of Asia Minor incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire. When taxes were raised under Cambyses II and Darius, the Ephesians participated in the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus (498 BC). In 479 BC, the Ionians, together with Athens, were able to oust the Persians from the shores of Asia Minor. The next year, the Ionian cities formed the Delian League with Athens against the Persians. During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens, but later sided with Sparta (which had received the support of the Persians). The cities of Ionia were ceded to Persia. In 356 BC, the temple of Artemis was burnt down, by an arsonist named Herostratus according to legend. An even larger and grander one was built in its place. After Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BC, the Greek cities in Asia Minor were liberated. Seeing that the temple of Artemis was not yet completed, he proposed to finance it and have his name inscribed on the front. The Ephesians did not accept his proposal, claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Ephesus came under the rule of one of his generals, Lysimachus in 290 BC. The river Cayster silted the harbor and the resulting marshes caused malaria among the people. They were forced to move to a new settlement two kilometres (1.2miles) away, officially named Arsinoea after Lysimachus’ second wife. Lysimachus was defeated and killed at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. The town was again named Ephesus and it became part of the Seleucid Empire. Ptolemy III invaded and Ephesus fell under Egyptian rule between 263 and 197 BC. When Seleucid King Antiochus III the Great tried to regain the Greek cities in Asia Minor, he came into conflict with Rome. He was eventually defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. Ephesus came under the rule of the Attalid King of Pergamon, Eumenes II. When his grandson Attalus III died without a male heir, he left his kingdom to the Roman Empire. Taxes rose considerably and the treasures of the city were plundered. In 88 BC, Ephesus welcomed Archelaus, a general of Mithridates the Great, king of Pontus, when he conquered Roman Asia. Around 80,000 Roman citizens were slaughtered. When the Ephesians saw how badly the people of Chios were treated by another of Mithridates’ general Zenobius, they refused entry to their city to his army. Ephesus became for a time, self-governing. After the defeat of Mithridates by Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Ephesus went back to Roman rule in 86 BC. Sulla imposed a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes. When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia. The city entered an era of prosperity, becoming the seat of the governor and a major center of commerce. Strabo claimed it was second in importance and size only to Rome. The population of Ephesus at this time is calculated to be between 138,000 and 172,500, with an alternate estimate giving the city a range of 33,600 to 56,000 inhabitants. The city was known for its Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and a theater capable of holding 25,000 spectators (later used for gladiatorial combat). Ephesus was sacked by the Goths in 263 AD, marking the decline of the city’s splendor. The Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. The Basilica of St. John was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. The importance of the city as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the river. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Sacks by the Arabs in the years 654-655 and in 700 and 716 hastened the city’s decline further. When the Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, it was but a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1097 and kept it until 1304. The town surrendered to a Turkish warlord, Sasa Bey. Contrary to the terms of the surrender, the Turks pillaged the church of St. John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea, Greece. The town experienced a short period of prosperity during the 14th century under the Seljuks. Ephesus was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. After the defeat of the Ottomans by Tamerlane in 1402, the region reverted back to the Anatolian beyliks. It was once more incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425. By the 15th century, Ephesus was completely abandoned. In 1863, the British architect John Turtle Wood, with the sponsorship of the British Museum, began to search for the Temple of Artemis. The pavement was discovered in 1869, but excavations stopped in 1874. In 1895, German archaeologist Otto Benndorf resumed excavations at Ephesus. In 1898, he founded the Austrian Archaeological Institute, which plays a leading role in Ephesus today. Finds from the site are exhibited in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in nearby Selçuk, and the British Museum. In 2015, Ephesus was declared a World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist attraction in the area.

Epidauros[]

Epidauros was a city in what is now modern day Greece. It formed a small territory called Epidauria. It was reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son, Asclepius the healer. The sanctuary was situated about five miles (8 km) from the town. Also present was a theatre. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC. The asclepeion at Epidauros was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, a place where the sick went in the hopes of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. The fame and prosperity of Epidauros continued throughout the Hellenistic period. In 87 BC, the sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla, and in 67 BC, it was plundered by pirates. In the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary enjoyed a new upsurge under the Romans, but the Goths raided it in 395 AD. Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidauros was still known as late as the mid-5th century, but as a Christian healing center. Now in ruins, Epidauros became a World Heritage site in 1988. Tourists still visit the site, especially its well preserved theatre.

Miletus[]

Miletus was a city located in southwestern Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The site of the city was originally inhabited by a Neolithic population in the period 3500-3000 BC. Miletus was first mentioned in the records of the Hittite Empire and the Mycenaean records of Pylos and Knossos, during the Late Bronze Age. Starting around 1900 BC, Minoan trade goods arrived at Miletus. There was legend claiming the city’s foundation by the Cretans, as recounted by Strabo. Miletus was a Mycenaean stronghold from ca. 1450 to 1100 BC. In c. 1320 BC, the city supported an anti-Hittite rebellion in nearby Arzawa. Hittite king Mursili ordered his generals to raid Millawanda (as Miletus was called at the time), and they proceeded to burn parts of it. During the collapse of Bronze Age civilization, Miletus was burnt again. Myths tell of Ionians killing the men of Miletus and marrying their widows, beginning an enduring alliance between Athens and Miletus. It ended up as one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Miletus is also known to have ties with Megara. In the late 7th century BC, the tyrant Thrasybulus preserved the independence of Miletus during a 12-year war fought against Lydia. The city was an important center of philosophy and science, producing men like Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. By the 6th century BC, Miletus had a maritime empire with colonies. It fell under Persian rule after Cyrus defeated Croesus of Lydia in the middle of the 6th century BC. In 499 BC, Milesian tyrant Aristagoras led the Ionian revolt against the Persians. It was quashed and Miletus was punished by Persia. The women and children were sold into slavery, and the men were either killed or turned into eunuchs. The intent was to make sure no Milesians were ever born again. In 334 BC, the city was liberated from Persian rule by Alexander the Great. During the Hellenistic period, Miletus reached its greatest extent. The city was mentioned in the New Testament as the site where the Apostle Paul met with the elders of the church of Ephesus, near the end of his third missionary journey in 57 AD. It seems like Paul made another visit to Miletus, perhaps as late as 65 or 66 AD. During the Byzantine period, the see of Miletus was raised to an archbishopric and later a metropolitan bishopric. A small castle was built on the hill next to the city. Seljuk Turks conquered the city during the 14th century, using it as a port for trade with Venice. As the harbor became silted up, Miletus was abandoned. The ruins of the city now lie some 10 km (6.2mi) from the sea. The first archaeological excavations at the site were conducted in 1873, and still continue today. The Market Gate of Miletus was transported piece by piece to Germany, currently residing at the Pergamon museum in Berlin. The main collection of artifacts from the site are in the Miletus Museum in Didim, Turkey.

Olympia[]

Olympia was a city located in the Northwestern Peloponnese peninsula of present-day Greece. Remains of food and burnt offerings dating back to the 10th century BC give evidence of a long history of religious activity at the site. No buildings survived from this early period. The first Olympic festival was organized on the site by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC, with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. Major changes were made to the site around 700 BC, including the levelling of land and the digging of new wells. Elis’ power diminished and at the beginning of the 7th century BC, the sanctuary went into the hands of the Pisatans in 676 BC. They organized the games until the late 7th century BC. The earliest evidence of building activity on the site dates from around 600 BC. The Skiloudians, allies of the Pisatans, built the Temple of Hera. The Treasuries and the Pelopion were built during the course of the 6th century BC. Secular structures and athletic arenas were also under construction during this period, including the Bouleuterion. The first stadium was constructed around 560 BC, consisting of just a simple track. It was remodeled around 500 BC with sloping sides for spectators and shifted slightly to the east. Over the course of the 6th century BC, a range of sporting events were added to the Olympic festival. In 580 BC, Elis, in an alliance with Sparta, occupied Pisa and regained control over the sanctuary.

The Classical period, between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, was the golden age of Olympia. A wide range of new religious and secular buildings and structures were constructed. The Temple of Zeus was built in the middle of the 5th century BC. Its size, scale and ornamentation was beyond anything previously constructed on the site. Its golden statue of Zeus was considered one of the seven wonders of the world by ancient writers. Sporting facilities, like the final iteration of the stadium, and the hippodrome were constructed. The Prytaneion was built at the northwest side of the site in 470 BC. In the late classical period, more structures were added to the site. The Metroon was built near the Treasuries circa 400 BC. The erection of the Echo Stoa, around 350 BC, separated off the sanctuary from the area of the games and stadium. The South Stoa was built at the southern edge of the sanctuary at approximately the same time. The late 4th century BC witnessed the erection of the Philippeion. Around 300 BC, the largest building on the site, the Leonidaion, was constructed to house important visitors. With the increasing importance of the games, further athletic buildings were constructed, including the Palaestra (3rd century BC), Gymnasion (2nd century BC), and bath houses (c.300 BC).

During the Roman period, the Olympic games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire. A program of new buildings and extensive repairs, especially for the Temple of Zeus, took place. In 150 AD, the Nympheum was built. New baths replaced the older Greek ones in 100 AD, and an aqueduct were erected in 160 AD. The 3rd century saw the site suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. Invading tribes in 267 AD led to the center of the site being fortified with robbed material from its monuments. The Olympic festival continued to be held at the site until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which the Christian emperor Theodosius I implemented a ban. The Temple of Zeus was apparently destroyed around 426 AD following an edict by Theodosius II enforcing the ban on pagan festivals. The workshop of Pheidias was turned into a basilica and the site was inhabited by a Christian community. Archaeological evidence suggests that small scale Olympic events (possibly in Christian guise) were still being held secretly until Justinian’s plague and two earthquakes devastated it by the mid-6th century. Repeated floods ensured that the settlement was finally abandoned in the early 7th century. The site was buried by ocean waters resulting from repeated tsunamis. Researchers figured this out due to the presence of mollusk, gastropod shells, and foraminifera at the site. The exact site was re-discovered in 1766 by the English antiquarian Richard Chandler. The first excavation of the sanctuary at Olympia was not carried out until 1829, by a French expedition. Since the 1870s, the excavation and preservation of Ancient Olympia has been the responsibility of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. The site was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1989. The legacy of the Olympic games lives on today.

Rodos[]

Rodos is a city located on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. The city of Rodos was formed by the cities of Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos in 408 BC, and prospered for three centuries during its Golden Age, when sea trade, skilled shipbuilders, and open-minded politicians of the city kept it prosperous until Roman times. The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built by the Lindian sculptor Chares between 304 and 293 BC, which took 12 years and was completed in 282 BC. The statue represented their sun god Helios, which stood at the harbor entrance. The ancient city had a well-constructed sewage system as well as a water supply network as designed by Hippodamus. A strong earthquake hit Rhodes about 226 BC, badly damaging the city and toppling the Colossus. In 164 BC, Rodos came under Roman control. It was able to keep its beauty and develop into a leading center of learning for arts and science. The Romans took from the Rhodians their maritime law and applied it to their shipping. Many traces of the Roman period still exist throughout the city and give an insight into the level of civilization at the time. According to Acts 21:1, the Apostle Paul stopped at Rodos near the end of his third missionary journey. In medieval times, Rodos was an important Byzantine trading post, as also a crossroads for ships sailing between Constantinople and Alexandria. In the early years of the divided Roman Empire, the Isaurians, a mountain tribe from Cilicia, invaded the island and burned the city. In the 7th century AD it was captured by the Arabs. The latter were the ones who removed the scattered pieces of the Colossus from the port and moved them to Syria where they destroyed them to make coins. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the native noble Leo Gabalas took control of the island, but after his death and succession by his brother John, the island was briefly occupied by the Genoese before being returned to the Emperor of Nicaea, though ushering in a new, but short-lived, Byzantine period. The Knights Hospitallers captured and established their headquarters on Rodos when they left Cyprus after the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307. Pope Clement V confirmed the Hospitallers possession of the Island in 1309. The Knights remained on the Island for the next two centuries. In 1444, the Mamluk fleet of Egypt laid a siege to Rodos, but the Knights aided by the Burgundian naval commander Geoffroy de Thoisy beat off the Muslim attack. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire began a rapid expansion and in 1480 Sultan Mehmet launched an invasion of Rodos commanded by Mesic Pasha. The defenders repelled Turkish attacks from both landward and seaward sides and the invaders left the Island in defeat. The defeat halted a concurrent invasion of the Italian peninsula by Ottoman forces and prevented possible Muslim incursion and control of Western Europe. After the Ottoman defeat in 1480 the Knights Grand Master, Pierre d'Aubusson, oversaw the strengthening of the cities over the next few decades. By the time of his death in 1521, Rodos possessed the strongest fortifications of any Christian Bastion in the World. The Knights continued naval attacks launched from Rhodes on Muslim merchants until 1522 when the newly enthroned Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent led a second Siege of Rhodes in 1522. The vastly outnumbered Knights made a spirited defense of the city and inflicted heavy casualties upon the Ottoman besiegers. In December 1522 the Knights and Suleiman came to terms and the Knights were allowed to leave the city with all the wealth they could carry, in return there would be no retribution upon the inhabitants of the city and they would be allowed to continue to freely practice Christianity. On January 1, 1523 the Knights departed from the island, leaving it to Ottoman control. In the Ottoman era, new buildings were constructed: mosques, public baths and mansions for the new patrons. The Greeks were forced to abandon the fortified city and move to new suburbs outside its walls. The city maintained its main economic function as a market for the agricultural products of the interior of the island and the surrounding small islands. After the establishment of their sovereignty on the island, the Ottoman Turks converted most of the churches into mosques and transformed the major houses into private mansions or public buildings. This transformation was a long-term process that aimed to adapt the buildings to the Ottoman way of living. The Knights period façades with their sculptured decorations, the arched gates and hewn stone walls were enriched with the random character of the Ottoman architecture adapted to the local climate and culture. In this process most of the architectural features of the existing buildings were preserved. The most characteristic additions were the baths (usually in the back of the buildings) and the enclosed wooden balconies on the façades over the narrow streets. In this way most of the buildings of the Hospitaliers' period in the Medieval Town were well preserved. The result was a mixture of oriental architecture with imposing western architectural remains and more recent buildings, which were characteristic of the local architecture of the time. In the 19th century, the city was the capital of the Eyalet of the Archipelago, but the decline of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the general neglect of the town and its buildings, which further deteriorated due to the strong earthquakes that often plague the area. In 1912 Italian troops took the island over with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, and established an Italian possession known as Italian Islands of the Aegean in 1923. The father of Italian Rhodes can be considered the Italian architect Florestano Di Fausto. He, in agreement with governor Mario Lago, was author of the city plan of 1923, choosing to respect almost totally the walled town, only demolishing the houses that were built on and around the city walls during the Ottoman era. He also turned the Jewish and Ottoman cemeteries into a green zone surrounding the Medieval Town. At the same time, he designed the new Italian Rodos in the zone of the Mandraki, planning a Garden City, and building along the main sea promenade the main edifices, as the Market, the Cathedral of Saint John of the Knights, the Palace of the governor. All these building were designed in an eclectic style, mixing Ottoman, Venetian, Renaissance and local elements. The Italians preserved what was left from the Knights' period, and destroyed all Ottoman buildings. They also reconstructed the Grand Master's Palace. Furthermore, an Institute for the study of the History and Culture of the region was established, and major infrastructure work was done to modernize Rodos. The British bombs that fell on the medieval city of Rodos in 1944 claimed human lives and destroyed a great number of buildings, leaving large gaps in the urban tissue. One of the first Decrees of the Greek administration designated those areas as reserved for future excavations and a number of edifices as safeguarded buildings. In July 1944 the Nazis ordered the deportation of over 1,600 Jews of Rodos including men, women, and children of which 1,200 were murdered at Auschwitz. In 1957, a new city plan was approved by a Decree and in 1960 the entire medieval town was designated as a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture. In 1961 and 1963 new Decrees were issued concerning the new city plan. They provided for the widening of existing streets and the opening of new ones. These were not implemented in the old city due to the resistance of the Archaeological Service. In 1988, the old town of Rodos was designated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO.

Thebai[]

Thebai was an ancient Greek city-state located in Boeotia, now central Greece. Many legends about the early days of Thebai were told among the Greeks. The foundation of the citadel Cadmeia was attributed to Cadmus, a Phoenician king from Tyre and the brother of Europa. Another famous mythical figure associated with Thebai is Oedipus, who murdered his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta. Excavations in Thebai have revealed graves dating to Mycenaean times containing weapons, ivory, and tablets written in Linear B. From the early days of its existence, the Thebans endeavored to establish a complete supremacy over their kinsmen in the outlying towns. In the late 6th century BC, the Thebans were brought for the first time into hostile contact with the Athenians, who helped the small village of Plataea to maintain its independence against them, and in 506 BC repelled an inroad into Attica. This enmity with Athens explains the unpatriotic attitude of Thebai during the Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BC). Although a contingent of 400 was sent to Thermopylae and remained there with Leonidas before being defeated alongside the Spartans, the governing aristocracy soon after joined King Xerxes I of Persia and fought zealously on his behalf at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. The victorious Greeks subsequently punished Thebai by depriving it of the presidency of the Boeotian league. An attempt by the Spartans to expel the city-state from the Delphic amphictyony was only frustrated by the intercession of Athens. In 457 BC, Sparta, needing a counterpoise against Athens in central Greece, reversed its policy and reinstated Thebai as the dominant power in Boeotia. In the Peloponnesian War, the Thebans, embittered by the support that Athens gave to the smaller Boeotian towns (especially Plataea), were firm allies of Sparta. They destroyed Plataea in 427 BC. In 424 BC, the Thebans inflicted a severe defeat on an invading force of Athenians at the Battle of Delium.

After the downfall of Athens, the Thebans, having learned that Sparta intended to protect the states that Thebes desired to annex, broke off the alliance. In 403 BC, Thebai secretly supported the restoration of Athens’s democracy in order to find in it a counterpoise against Sparta. A few years later, they formed the nucleus of the league against Sparta. At the Battle of Haliartus (395 BC) and the Battle of Coronea (394BC), the Thebans proved their rising military capacity by standing their ground against the Spartans. The result of the war was disastrous to Thebai, as the general settlement of 387 BC stipulated the complete autonomy of all Greek towns and so withdrew the other Boeotians from its political control. In 382 BC, a Spartan force occupied the citadel. It was expelled three years later, and a democratic constitution was set up in place of the traditional oligarchy. In the consequent wars with Sparta, the Theban army, trained and led by Epaminondas and Pelopidas, proved itself formidable. In 371 BC, the Thebans won a victory over the Spartans at Leuctra. They marched into the Peloponnesus and at the head of a large coalition, permanently crippled the power of Sparta. With the death of Epaminondas at the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC), the city sank again to the position of a secondary power. It invited Philip II of Macedon to crush the Phocians. In 338 BC, the orator Demosthenes persuaded Thebai to join Athens in a final attempt to bar Philip’s advance on Attica. They lost at the battle of Chaeronea. An unsuccessful revolt in 335 BC against his son Alexander the Great was punished with the destruction of the city, except, according to tradition, the house of the poet Pindar and the temples. The Thebans were mainly sold into slavery, with only the priests, leaders of the pro-Macedonian party and descendants of Pindar spared.

Thebes was re-established in 315 or 316 BC by Cassander. However, it never returned to its former prominence or power. It was besieged and taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes in 293 BC and again after a revolt in 292 BC. The city recovered its autonomy from Demetrios in 287 BC, and became allied with Lysimachus and the Aetolian League. During the early Byzantine period, it served as a place of refuge against foreign invaders. From the 10th century, Thebai became a center of the new silk trade. By the middle of the 12th century, the city had become the biggest producer of silks in the entire Byzantine empire. Though severely plundered by the Normans in 1146, Thebai quickly recovered its prosperity until its conquest by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. After 1240, the Saint Omer family controlled the city jointly with the de la Roche dukes. Latin hegemony in Thebai lasted to 1458, when the Ottomans captured it. It was under Ottoman control until the War of Independence, except for a brief Venetian occupation between 1687 and 1699. The present day Thebai is a bustling market town. Its proximity to other, more famous travel destinations and the undeveloped archaeological sites have kept the tourist numbers low.

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