17.4.15

Abdera

Abdera, in ancient Greece, town on the coast of Thrace near the mouth of the Néstos River. The people of Teos, evacuating Ionia when it was overrun by the Persians under Cyrus (c. 540 bc), succeeded in establishing a colony there that developed a brisk trade with the Thracian interior. Abdera was a prosperous member of the Delian League in the 5th century but was crippled early in the 4th century bc by Thracian incursions and declined sharply in importance. The philosophers Protagoras and Democritus were citizens of Abdera. The site is occupied by the modern town of Ávdhira, Greece.
Overall view of city gate from outside, from NW, Abdera

The city had two harbors, the larger one protected by a mole and city fortification walls. The walls extended ca. 5.5 km and enclosed a city designed on the Hippodamian grid system in the 4th century B.C. Houses of the Hellenistic and Roman period survive, as do the theater, Roman baths and a terracotta figurine workshop. Byzantine fortifications have obscured earlier remains on the acropolis.

The foundation of the city goes back in myth. It is alluded that it was built to honor Abderos, who was devoured by the horses of Geriones. Ionians settled there round the 7th c BC. The city gained great renown and became a very important commercial and agricultural center. Its democratic regime and its important mint gave her impetus in the creation of a fleet to serve its commercial traffic. During the Persian Wars the city possesses a harbour capable of sheltering the fleet of the Thasians following the command of Dareios as is reported by Herodotus. Abdera among other things is the home country of Democretos.

History

The site of Abdera was settled in the middle of the 7th century B.C. by colonists from Clazomenae and in 545 B.C. by the inhabitants of Teos. It soon grew to a prosperous city, with a fortification wall, harbour, dockyards and sanctuaries. 
In 513 BC and 512 BC, the Persians conquered Abdera. In 492 BC, the Persians again conquered Abdera, this time under Darius I. It later became part of the Delian League and fought on the side of Athens in the Peloponnesian war.
Abdera was a wealthy city, the third richest in the League, due to its status as a prime port for trade with the interior of Thrace and the Odrysian kingdom.
ABDERA, Tetradrachm 473/70–449/8 BC

This was the city of Democritos, and was host to the army of Xerxes. In the middle of the 4th century B.C. a new section was added to city on the south side, built in the Hippodamian system, with strong fortification walls, an acropolis, two harbours and workshop areas. 
 A valuable prize, the city was repeatedly sacked: by the Triballi in 376 BC, Philip II of Macedon in 350 BC; later by Lysimachos of Thrace, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, and again by the Macedonians. In 170 BC the Roman armies and those of Eumenes II of Pergamon besieged and sacked it.
The town seems to have declined in importance after the middle of the 4th century BC. Cicero ridicules the city in his letters to Atticus, "Hic, Abdera non tacente me"  but the city counted among its citizens the philosophers Democritus, Protagoras  and Anaxarchus, historian and philosopher Hecataeus of Abdera, and the lyric poet Anacreon.
View to W and Mt. Pangaion, Abdera

Abdera had flourished especially in ancient times mainly for two reasons : because of the large area of their territory and their highly strategic position. The city controlled two great road passages (one of Nestos river and other through the mountains north of Xanthi). Furthermore, from their ports passed the sea road, which from Troas led to the Thracian and then the Macedonian coast.
 The city flourished until the Roman period, when it lost its importance and the defensive walls were abolished. During the Byzantine period the site was used as a cemetery.

Sketch plan of the two building phases of the mole of the south harbour of Abdera.


Polystylon (Abdera)
Polystylon was the name of the city founded in the Middle Byzantine period on the site of the acropolis of ancient Abdera, on a low hill by the harbour. The name is probably owed to the numerous ancient columns ("stylos" means column in Greek), which were transported from this area.
  Excavations began in 1982 and were continued until 1984; work was resumed in 1991 and is still in progress.


Abdera   - in ancient sources
300/8 eneral comments on the career of the grammarian Hecataeus of Abdera.
170/13 Hortensius sacks Abdera.
170/17 The Roman senate restores the freedom of Abdera.
166/19 to Rome to oppose the claims of Cotys on the territory of Abdera.
85/5 Mithridates' garrison abandons Abdera.
    Within translations:
Apollod:Fr_36 ocritus) & Democritus of Abdera, who was a pupil of Leucip
Apollod:Fr_71 (Protagoras) & Protagoras of Abdera. [72] & DiogLaert_9'
Aristeas_32 and religious, as Hecataeus of Abdera says. If it please
Athen_04.168 the citizens of Abdera brought Democritus to trial, on
Athen_05.206 "Diocles, a citizen of Abdera, speaks with great admirat
Athen_08.349 & Once Stratonicus to Abdera went, & To see some games
Athen_13.590 Nicaenetus of Samos or Abdera (whichever was really his
Cic:Brut_30 cedonian, Protagoras the Abderite, and Hippias the Elean,
Diod_40.3 This is what Hecataeus of (?) Abdera has related about
GranLic_26 king's garrison at Abdera slipped away after the capture
Joseph:AJ_12.38 it is, as Hecataeus of Abdera says, that the poets and
Lucian:Macr_18 ers. Democritus of Abdera starved himself to death at the
 

Description
Traditionally founded by Herakles, Abdera was in fact a 7th century B.C. colony of Klazomenai which was reestablished in the 6th century by Ionians refugees from Teos. It fell under Persian control in 490 B.C. and later became a member of the Delian League. Philip II conquered the city in ca. 350 B.C. and in 196 B.C. Rome declared it a free city. The city suffered two major destructions: in 376 B.C. at the hands of the Thracian tribe of the Triballi and in 170 B.C. by a Roman force. Abdera was famed for the beauty of its coinage and as the birthplace of Democritus and Protagoras. Although occupied into the Byzantine period it had lost all political importance during the Roman Imperial period.



Site Monuments
 
The most important monuments of the site are the following:
  Area of the West Gate. The wall of the 4th century B.C. was reinforced with towers and a gate on the west side, quite well preserved. Remains of houses have also survived in the enclosed area.
  Roman house. The rooms are organized around a central, paved, peristyle courtyard with a well.
  Clay figurine workshop. Complex of four houses which were also used for the manufacture of terracotta figurines.
  Roman houses on the hill of Aghios Panteleimon.
  The Archaic city. Remains of an Archaic establishment have been uncovered at the NE corner of the north fortification wall. Excavations have brought to light two successive phases of the defensive wall, dockyards, a sanctuary and private houses.
  "House of the Dolphins". Private house of the Classical period, inside which was found a mosaic with a representation of dolphins.

  Single-aisled domed church dated to the 12th-13th century. The ruined church and the cemetery around it were discovered inside the walled area, near the gate.
  Post-Byzantine three-aisled church with an earlier, octagonal baptistery. It was located on the top of the hill where the tower of the Byzantine acropolis stood, and is considered to be the Episcopal church of the city. It was founded in the 9th-10th century and was repaired in the 11th century. A built tomb with an arcosolium was brought to light next to the baptistery.
  Cemetery of the 9th-11th centuries. It lies outside the walls of the Byzantine city, in front of the west gate of Abdera, on the site of the ancient cemetery. A three-aisled basilica was also located in the area.
  Middle-Byzantine fortification wall of Polystylon. It is founded either on the Classical or on the Roman-Late Roman walls. The central gate is located on the north side of the fortification.
  Ruins of a small bath in the vicinity of the SW tower of the Byzantine walls.
 View from highest point on the promontory toward N, Abdera 

 Irregular block on S side of city gate, from N-NE, Abdera 

 Stairs at rear of city gate, from NW, Abdera 

 Detail of main city gate, from NW, Abdera 

 Detail of city gate construction from inside, Abdera 
 


Sources / Bibliography / Photos

L. Loukopoulou and M.-G. Parissaki, “Teos and Abdera: the Epigraphic evidence,” in Klazomenai, Teos and Abdera: Metropoleis and Colony, Proceedings of the International Symposium held at the Archaeological Museum of Abdera, Abdera, 2004, pp. 305-310
Κουκούλη-Χρυσανθάκη, Χ., 1991,
Ανασκαφή αρχαίων Αβδήρων”, Πρακτικά Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας Κουκούλη-Χρυσανθάκη, Χ., 1992, (Koukouli-Ghrysanthaki, Ch., 1991, "Anaskaphe Abderon", Praktika Archeologikes Etaireias
”Ανασκαφή αρχαίων Αβδήρων”, Πρακτικά Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας, 1996. "Anaskaphe archaion Abderon", Praktika Archaiologikes Etaireias, 1996
Detailed census results 2011" (in Greek).
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, ed. Wagner, R. Leipzig: Teubner, 1894; Mythographi Graeci 1, Chapter 2, section 97, line 7ff.
Hornblower, Simon (1996). "Abdera". The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1.
"Abdera". Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica, ed. Vogel, F., Fischer, K.T. (post I. Bekker & L. Dindorf), Leipzig: Teubner, 1:1888; 2:1890; 3:1893; 4–5:1906, Repr. 1964. Book 13, chapter 72, section 2, line 2.
Grant, Michael. A Guide to the Ancient World. Michael Grant Publications, 1986
Cicero. Epistulae ad Atticum, 4.17.3, 7.7.4.
D. C. Samsaris, Historical Geography of Western Thrace during the Roman Antiquity (in Greek), Thessaloniki 2005, p. 91-96
http://www.wikipedia.org/
Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
http://odysseus.culture.gr
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abdera". Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 33. Endnotes: 
Mittheil. d. deutsch. Inst. Athens, xii. (1887), p. 161 (Regel);
Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, xxxix. 211;
K. F. Hermann, Ges. Abh. 90-111, 370 ff.
http://www.attalus.org
Beth McIntosh and Sebastian Heath, August 1990
http://www.avdera.gr
ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΣ ΟΔΗΓΟΣ "ΑΒΔΗΡΑ ΠΟΛΥΣΤΥΛΟ"
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu
Σαμίου, Χ., 1993/8 "Άβδηρα",(Samiou, Chr., 1993/8, "Abdera"1993/8
"Ancient Ports of Abdera in Aegean Thrace", TROPIS V, [1999], 363-368.
http://www.britannica.com
http://www.gtp.gr

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