Eretria (Euboea) 223 Eretria - Ερέτρια

Ἐρέτρια - Eretria, important Archaic to Late Antique polis at Eretria in Euboia Central Greece
Hits: 223
Works: 72
Latitude: 38.398200
Longitude: 23.790500
Confidence: High

Greek name: Ἐρέτρια
Place ID: 384238PEre
Time period: ACHRL
Region: Central Greece
Country: Greece
Department: Evvoia
Mod: Eretria

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- Pleiades
- IDAI gazetteer ID

Read summary reports on the recent excavations at Eretria in Chronique des fouilles en ligne – Archaeology in Greece Online.
Search for inscriptions mentioning Eretria (Ερετρ...) in the PHI Epigraphy database.

Modern Description: From Lefkandi the coast road soon leads to Erétria (23 km), site of the most important ancient city on Euboea after Chalcis. The modern settlement was founded as ‘Nea Psará' in 1824 by refugees from the island of Psará. The new town overlies much of the ancient city, whose ruins are the most extensive on Euboea. 3 km to the north of the town are the ancient quarries (now reactivated) of the beautiful maroon-red and white decorative marble, known as marmor chalcidicum or ‘Chalcidian marble' to the ancients, and as Fior di pesco (‘peach flower') during the Renaissance. Traces of Mycenaean, Proto-Geometric and Geometric occupation have been found on the acropolis above the site, suggest a pre-existing occupation. The city of Miletus had come to the aid of Eretria in the Lelantine struggle, and it was perhaps for this reason that Eretria in turn joined Athens in supporting the Ionian revolt led by Miletus in the first years of the 5th century BC. In the revolt, Sardis, the local Persian capital, was razed by the Greeks. That conspicuous support cost Eretria dearly: when Darius invaded Greece is 490 BC, almost his first objective was the destruction of Eretria and the enslavement of its people.
The city recovered from the devastation and sent significant contingents to both the battles of Salamis in 480 and Plataea in 479 BC. Thereafter, in spite of a rebellion in 446 BC, the city was largely under Athenian control until it broke free in 411 BC, when Athens's attentions were elsewhere in the aftermath of the Sicilian debacle. In 377 BC it joined the Second Athenian Confederacy. Caught up in the intrigues between Athens and Macedonia, and subsequently between Macedonia and Rome, it was sacked by the Romans 198 BC. After a second destruction in 87 BC during the Mithridatic wars, the ancient city was never rebuilt.
The principal archaeological sites lie scattered to both sides of the main highway. To the north of the highway are the West Walls and West Gate; a circuit of nearly 4 km of walls surrounded and protected the city, joining the acropolis hill in the northeast with the harbour in the southeast corner. The first enceinte was built (further to the east) in the 8th century BC. The one visible here dates from c. 400 BC and is well-preserved, with the moat and the bases of external bastions extant along the western section of the excavated area, north of the highway. At the point where the ancient road from Chalcis entered the city is the West Gate and Barbican, constructed with a wide variety of kinds of masonry. The base of the walls in a tightly interlocking trapezoidal system is particularly impressive; the ample vaulted passage beneath that drained off the torrent is also finely constructed with a round arch at one end and a corbelled support at the other.
Directly inside and to the southeast of the West Gate are the remains of a small Heroön in which were incorprated some noble-family tombs containing weapons and grave goods dating from the 8th century BC. At that time the Heroön would have been outside the city walls which were only enlarged and moved further west in the late 5th century BC. In reaching this point on the site from the entrance to the archaeological area, you will have traversed an excavated area of large residences or so-called ‘Palaces', some contiguous with the West Wall. There are several superimposed layers of construction in this area, but the houses at the highest level, mostly built around a central peristyle court, date from the late 5th and 4th centuries BC. A well-preserved clay bath remains in situ in one. Many different colours and types of stone were used for the threshold blocks.
To the northeast of the West Gate is the base of a 4th century BC Temple of Dionysos, which was a Doric, peripteral structure with an altar which stood a short distance to the east. As is appropriate for Dionysos, the presiding divinity of drama, the precinct of his temple abuts the 5th century BC Theatre, whose form is clear although it has largely been left covered by earth. It is curious that the natural slope of the acropolis hill to the east was not used to create the theatre, and that massive terracing had therefore to be undertaken to support its cavea on this flatter site. It retains its seven lower rows of seats, much defaced; the upper tiers, which were exposed to view, have nearly all been removed, block by block, to build the modern village. A semicircular drainage channel almost 2m wide runs in front of the lowest row. The design has unusual innovations: from the orchestra, steps descend through a square opening into an underground vaulted passage, leading to the hyposkenion; this was used for the sudden appearance and disappearance of agents of the underworld, as well as for the facilitating of special sound effects. The high stage is raised on seven or eight courses of masonry.
Further east, at the foot of the acropolis and above an area identified as the Stadium, is a Gymnasium which was first excavated in 1895. By its west end was found an inscribed stele set up in honour of a gymnasiarch and benefactor. At the eastern extremity is an extensive series of water conduits which supplied the bathing troughs, still clearly visible along the side of a room with plain mosaic floor.
Above the Gymnasium, paths lead up to the acropolis where the late 5th century BC enceinte and its well-preserved towers in isodomic masonry are visible, especially to the east side. On the way up are (left) remains of a Thesmophoreion (Sanctuary to Kore and Demeter) and (right) the sanctuary of a female deity, perhaps Artemis Olympia. In returning once again towards the highway, you pass the ‘House of the Mosaics', recognisable because it is partly covered by a modern building and roof. This is a large and important residence – sometimes attributed to the philosopher Menedemos – constructed around 370 BC with a private area and an ample public area. Much of the furniture and small objects, including the exceptional terracotta Gorgon's head, which were found here are exhibited in the Museum. The figurative mosaics – especially those in the middle reception room on the north side – are preserved in situ. They are executed mostly in black and white, and soberly highlighted with colour. The house appears to have been destroyed by fire a hundred years after it was built.
On a hill 1 km west of the theatre, a tumulus encloses a Macedonian Tomb. (Key held by Museum. Not signed. Take asphalt road parallel to west side of the archaeological area; then first fork left. Road climbs; as it turns sharply right, the tomb is at the summit of the hill crowned with pines.) The neatly cut dromos on the north side leads to a square vaulted chamber, containing two funeral couches in marble, with their pillows and draperies, two thrones and a table, all once coloured. A funerary sculpture – a lion or a sphinx – would have marked the grave from above.
Three other points of interest lie further to the southeast. A meticulously cut, circular base with a central circular pit is visible in an area occupied by the ancient agora. This tholos dates from the 4th century BC and is possibly also the sanctuary of, or monument to, a hero. Beyond it, on what was the edge of the harbour in ancient times are the baths of the 4th century BC, probably belonging to a gymnasium complex. To the east of these are the ruins of a Temple of Isis, whose cult was introduced into the Greek world by mariners and merchants returning from Egypt. The broken cult statue in terracotta was found in situ when the building was excavated in 1917.
Wikidata ID: Q16562724
Trismegistos Geo: 659
Manto: 9718699

Info: McGilchrist's Greek Islands

(From McGilchrist’s Greek Islands, © Nigel McGilchrist 2010, excerpted with his gracious permission. Click for the books)

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