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Olynthus

Olynthus

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Olynthus was an ancient city of Chalcidice
Chalcidice
Chalkidiki, also Halkidiki, Chalcidice or Chalkidike , is a peninsula in northern Greece, and one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Macedonia. The autonomous Mount Athos region is part of the peninsula, but not of the regional unit...

, built mostly on two flat-topped hills 30–40m in height, in a fertile plain at the head of the Gulf of Torone, near the neck of the peninsula of Pallene
Pallene, Chalcidice
Pallene is the ancient name of the westernmost of the three headlands of Chalcidice, which run out into the Aegean Sea. Its modern name is Kassandra Peninsula . It is said to have anciently borne the name of Phlegra and to have witnessed the conflict between the gods and the earthborn Gigantes...

, about 2.5 kilometers from the sea, and about 60 stadia (c. 9–10 kilometers) from Poteidaea
Potidaea
Potidaea was a colony founded by the Corinthians around 600 BC in the narrowest point of the peninsula of Pallene, the westernmost of three peninsulas at the southern end of Chalcidice in northern Greece....

.

History


Olynthus
Olynthus (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Olynthus was a son of Heracles and Bolbe, from whom the ancient city of Olynthus, and the river Olynthus near Apollonia, were believed to have received their name according to Athenaeus. According to Conon and Stephanus of Byzantium Olynthus was son of king Strymon...

, son of Heracles, was considered the mythological founder of the town. The South Hill bore a small Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 settlement; was abandoned during the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

; and was resettled in the seventh century BC. Subsequently, the town was captured by the Bottiaea
Bottiaea
Bottiaea was a geographical region of ancient Macedonia and an administrative district of the Macedonian Kingdom. It was previously inhabited by the Bottiaeans, a people of uncertain origin, later expelled by the Macedonians into Bottike...

ns, a Thracian tribe ejected from Macedon by Alexander I
Alexander I of Macedon
- Biography :Alexander was the son of Amyntas I and Queen Eurydice.According to Herodotus, he was unfriendly to Persia, and had the envoys of Darius I killed when they arrived at the court of his father during the Ionian Revolt...

. The town of Olynthus remained in their possession until 479 BC
479 BC
Year 479 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vibulanus and Rutilus...

. In that year the Persian general Artabazus
Artabazus
Artabazus was the name of a satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia , under the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia....

, on his return from escorting Xerxes to the Hellespont, suspecting that a revolt from the Great King was meditated, handed the town over to Kritovoulos from Toroni
Toroni
Toroni is an ancient Greek city and a former municipality in the southwest edge of Sithonia peninsula in Chalkidiki, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sithonia, of which it is a municipal unit.-History:...

 and to a fresh population consisting of Greeks from the neighboring region of Chalcidice (Herod.
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 viii. 127). Though Herodotus reports that Artabazus slaughtered them, Boetiaeans continued to live in the area.

Olynthus became a Greek polis, but it remained insignificant (in the quota-lists of the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

 it appears as paying on the average 2 talents, as compared with 6 to 15 paid by Scione
Nea Skioni
Nea Skioni is a tourist-oriented village located in the peninsulas of Cassandreia and Halkidiki in Greece. The population in 2001 was 889 for the village and 910 for the municipal district, the elevation is 10 m. Nea Skioni is located around 110 km SE of Thessaloniki...

, 6 to 15 by Mende
Mende (Greece)
Mende was an ancient Greek city located in the western coast of Pallene peninsula in Chalkidiki facing the coast of Pieria across the narrow Thermaic Gulf near the modern town of Kalandra.- Ancient History :...

, 6 to 12 by Toroni
Toroni
Toroni is an ancient Greek city and a former municipality in the southwest edge of Sithonia peninsula in Chalkidiki, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sithonia, of which it is a municipal unit.-History:...

), and 3 to 6 by Sermylia
Ormylia
Ormylia is a town and a former municipality in Chalkidiki, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Polygyros, of which it is a municipal unit. In 2001 Ormylia had a population of 4,745....

 from 454 to 432 .

In 432 King Perdiccas II of Macedon
Perdiccas II of Macedon
Perdiccas II was a king of Macedonia from about 454 BC to about 413 BC. He was the son of Alexander I and had two brothers.-Background:After the death of Alexander in 452, Macedon began to fall apart. Macedonian tribes became almost completely autonomous, and were only loosely allied to the king...

 encouraged several nearby coastal towns to disband and remove their population to Olynthus, preparatory to a revolt to be led by Potidaea against Athens (Thuc.
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 1.58). This synoecism
Synoecism
Synoecism or synecism , also spelled synoikism , was originally the amalgamation of villages in Ancient Hellas into poleis, or city-states. Etymologically the word means "dwelling together in the same house ." Subsequently any act of civic union between polities of any size was described by the...

 (συνοικισμός) was effected, though against Perdiccas's wishes the contributing cities were preserved. This increase in population led to the settlement of the North Hill, which was developed on a grid plan. In 423 Olynthus became the head of a formal Chalkidian League
Chalkidian League
The Chalkidian League was a federal state that existed on the shores of the north west Aegean from around 430 BCE until it was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon in 348 BCE.-History:...

, occasioned by the synoecism or by the beginning of the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

 and fear of Athenian attack. During the Peloponnesian war it formed a base for Brasidas
Brasidas
Brasidas was a Spartan officer during the first decade of the Peloponnesian War.He was the son of Tellis and Argileonis, and won his first laurels by the relief of Methone, which was besieged by the Athenians . During the following year he seems to have been eponymous ephor Brasidas (died 422...

 in his expedition of 424 and refuge for the citizens of Mende and Poteidaea
Potidaea
Potidaea was a colony founded by the Corinthians around 600 BC in the narrowest point of the peninsula of Pallene, the westernmost of three peninsulas at the southern end of Chalcidice in northern Greece....

 that had rebelled against the Athenians (Thu.
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 ii, 70).

After the end of the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

 the development of the league was rapid and ended consisting of 32 cities. About 393 we find it concluding an important treaty with Amyntas III of Macedon
Amyntas III of Macedon
Amyntas III son of Arrhidaeus and father of Philip II, was king of Macedon in 393 BC, and again from 392 to 370 BC. He was also a paternal grandfather of Alexander the Great....

 (the father of Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

), and by 382 it had absorbed most of the Greek cities west of the Strymon, and had even got possession of Pella
Pella
Pella , an ancient Greek city located in Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Greece, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.-Etymology:...

, the chief city in Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

. (Xenophon, Hell. V. 2, 12).
In this year Sparta was induced by an embassy from Acanthus
Acanthus (Greece)
Ierissos Modern Greek: or Acanthus was an ancient Greek city on the Athos peninsula. It was located on the north-east side of Akti, on the most eastern peninsula of Chalcidice...

 and Apollonia
Apollonia (Chalcidice)
Apollonia was the ancient chief town of Chalcidice in Macedonia, situated north of Olynthus, and a little south of the Chalcidian mountains. That this Apollonia is a different place from Apollonia in Mygdonia, appears from Xenophon, who describes the Chalcidian Apollonia as distant 10 or 12 miles...

, which anticipated conquest by the league, to send an expedition against Olynthus. After three years of indecisive warfare Olynthus consented to dissolve the confederacy (379). It is clear, however, that the dissolution was little more than formal, as the Chalcidians ("Χαλκιδῆς ἀπò Θρᾴκης") appear, only a year or two later, among the members of the Athenian naval confederacy of 378-377. Twenty years later, in the reign of Philip, the power of Olynthus is asserted by Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 to have been much greater than before the Spartan expedition. The town itself at this period is spoken of as a city of the first rank (πóλις μuρἰανδρος), and the league included thirty-two cities.

When the Social War
Social War (357-355 BC)
The Social War, also known as the War of the Allies, was fought from 357 BC to 355 BC between Athens with its Second Athenian Empire and between the allies of Chios, Rhodes, and Cos as well as the independent Byzantion.-Origins:...

 broke out between Athens and its allies (357), Olynthus was at first in alliance with Philip. Subsequently, in alarm at the growth of his power, it concluded an alliance with Athens. Olynthus made three embassies to Athens, the occasions of Demosthenes's three Olynthiac Orations. On the third, the Athenians sent soldiers from among its citizens. After Philip had deprived Olynthus of the rest of the League, by force and by the treachery of sympathetic factions, he besieged Olynthus in 348. The siege was short; he bought Olynthus's two principal citizens, Euthycrates and Lasthenes, who betrayed the city to him. He then looted and razed the city and sold its population—including the Athenian garrison—into slavery. According to the latest researches only a small area of the North Hill was ever re-occupied, up to 318, before Cassander
Cassander
Cassander , King of Macedonia , was a son of Antipater, and founder of the Antipatrid dynasty...

 forced the population to move in his new city of Kassandreia
Kassandreia
Kassandreia It is the seat of the municipality of Kassandra, in the center of the peninsula. Relatively unknown because of its zero tourist attraction but full of life in winter. Known in Greece for being the smallest town with a football team playing for the Beta Ethniki and for the high debt...

.

Though the city was extinguished, through subsequent centuries there would be men scattered through the Hellenistic world who were called Olynthians.

Topography and archaeology


The city of Olynthus lies in the hill named Megale Toumba near the village of Myriophyto. The probable site of Olynthus was identified as early as 1902. Between 1914 and 1916 plans were made for an excavation by the British School at Athens, but these fell through.

The ancient city extends in two hills that detach from a small coulee and possess an area with 1500 m long and 400 m in width. Excavations began in 1928. Prof. D. M. Robinson of Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins was a wealthy American entrepreneur, philanthropist and abolitionist of 19th-century Baltimore, Maryland, now most noted for his philanthropic creation of the institutions that bear his name, namely the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Johns Hopkins University and its associated...

, under the American School for Classical Studies at Athens, conducted four seasons of work: in 1928, 1931, 1934, and 1939. The results of the excavations were digested into fourteen folio volumes. The excavation had uncovered more than five hectares of Olynthus and a portion of Mecyberna (the harbor of Olynthus). On the North Hill this hurried pace proved relatively harmless due to the simple stratigraphy of an area of the city occupied only for 84 years and subjected to a sudden, final destruction; but the data from the South Hill was badly muddled. Nonetheless the work was excellent for its time, and remains supremely valuable. Much of the stratigraphy of the North Hill has been reconstructed by Nicholas Cahill. The site is now in the charge of Dr. Julia Vokotopoulou, and the XVI Ephorate of Classical Antiquities.

The Neolithic settlement is located in the edge of the southern hill and was dated in the 3rd millennium BC. The houses were built by stone blocks and had one or two rooms. The pottery that was found was the typical of that period comprising monochrome ceramic vases. The end of this rural settlement was abrupt and is placed around the first millennium.

The archaic city was built under a provincially urban planning
Urban planning
Urban planning incorporates areas such as economics, design, ecology, sociology, geography, law, political science, and statistics to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities....

 and extended throughout the whole south hill. Two avenues were revealed along the eastern and western edges of the hill that intersected with crossing streets. Along the south avenue shops and small houses were found while the administrative part was located in the north part of the hill, where the agora
Agora
The Agora was an open "place of assembly" in ancient Greek city-states. Early in Greek history , free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the Agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Later, the Agora also served as a marketplace where...

 and a deanery
Deanery
A Deanery is an ecclesiastical entity in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. A deanery is either the jurisdiction or residence of a Dean.- Catholic usage :...

 were found.

The classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 city was established on the must larger north hill and to its eastern slope. The excavations, which cover only the 1/10 of the city's total area, have revealed a Hippodamian grid plan
Grid plan
The grid plan, grid street plan or gridiron plan is a type of city plan in which streets run at right angles to each other, forming a grid...

. Two large avenues were discovered, with an amplitude of 7 meters, along with vertical and horizontal streets that divided the urban area into city block
City block
A city block, urban block or simply block is a central element of urban planning and urban design. A city block is the smallest area that is surrounded by streets. City blocks are the space for buildings within the street pattern of a city, they form the basic unit of a city's urban fabric...

s. Each one had ten houses with two floors and a paved yard. Very important for the archaeological research are considered the rich villa
Villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

s that were excavated in the aristocratic suburb of the city located in the eastern part of the north hill since there was found some of the earliest floor mosaics
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 in Greek art
Greek art
Greek art began in the Cycladic and Minoan prehistorical civilization, and gave birth to Western classical art in the ancient period...

.

Both the archaic and classical city were protected by an extended land wall. Parts of the foundations of the wall were revealed in the north hill and elsewhere, but they are not enlightening on which method was followed for their construction. Archaeologists suppose that it was built with sun-dried bricks with a stone base, but it's difficult to tell, since the city was literally leveled by Phillip.

As it concerns the public buildings, the Agora
Agora
The Agora was an open "place of assembly" in ancient Greek city-states. Early in Greek history , free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the Agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Later, the Agora also served as a marketplace where...

 is placed in the south edge of the north hill, near the eastern gate, along with a public fountain, an arsenal
Arsenal
An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

 and the city's parliament building (Βουλευτήριον). There is a small museum featuring artifacts recovered from Olynthus, and the whole archaeological site is open to public tours during daylight hours.

Notable people

  • Callisthenes
    Callisthenes
    Callisthenes of Olynthus was a Greek historian. He was the son of Hero and Proxenus of Atarneus, which made him the great nephew of Aristotle by his sister Arimneste. They first met when Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great...

     (c. 360-328 BC), historian
  • Ephippus
    Ephippus of Olynthus
    For other uses, see EphippusEphippus of Olynthus was an Ancient Greek historian of Alexander the Great.It is commonly believed, though no reason is assigned, that Ephippus lived about or shortly after the time of Alexander...

     (4th century BC), historian
  • Euphantus
    Euphantus
    Euphantus of Olynthus was a philosopher of the Megarian school as well as an historian and tragic poet. He was the disciple of Eubulides of Miletus, and the instructor of Antigonus I Monophthalmus king of Macedonia. He wrote many tragedies, which were well received at the games...

     (4th century BC), philosopher

Modern Olynthos


The modern city, formerly Myriophyto, now called Olynthos or Nea Olynthos, sits on a small plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

on the western side of the river Olynthios or Resetenikia (in ancient times known as Sandanus), across from the ruins of the ancient city.

Sources


The chief passages in ancient literature are the Olynthiac Orations of Demosthenes, and Xenophon, Hell. v. 2.