One of the oldest and richest cities of heroic Greece, situated close by the village of Skripou (now Orchomenos) 13 km NE of Levadhia, at the E end of Mt. Akontion, which plunges like a javelin (whence its name) into the former Lake Kopais.
Inhabited from Neolithic times, the site became one of the most influential Mycenaean cities. It was the capital of the Minyans, a half-legendary people from the Thessalian seaboard, and its authority spread over the whole of the Kopaic basin and possibly as far as Thebes. The legends that sprang up about it (the buildings of Agamedes and Trophonios), its great engineering achievements (the first draining of the Kopais, erection of fortresses such as Gla), and its original pottery (the gray or yellow Minyan ware) all are proof that a brilliant civilization flourished there from the 15th to the 12th c. B.C. Its place was gradually won over by Thebes and it joined the Boiotian League in the 7th c. Allied with Sparta against Thebes at Koroneia (395) and Haliartos (394), it was destroyed by the Thebans in 364 B.C. Restored by the Phokaians in 353, again destroyed by Thebes in 349 Orchomenos was rebuilt by Philip II and Alexander and became one of the leading cities of the Boiotian League from 338 onward. Sulla fought Archelaos and Mithridates' army there in 86 B.C. Under the Empire the city rapidly fell into a decline.
The finds are divided between the Museum of Chaironeia and those of Thebes and Athens.
Throughout the centuries the different cities sprang up at the E foot of Mt. Akontion and on its E and NE slopes. On the E foothills of the hill Schliemann discovered the 'Treasury of Minyas,'; a Mycenaean cupola tomb with a dromos. In the arched tholos is the gateway to the funerary chamber. In the middle of the tholos are the remains of a great funerary monument of the Macedonian period. The Mycenaean city extended from the plain to the lowest terrace. A little to the N on remains of a pre-Mycenaean or Mycenaean building (about 1700-1450) are the foundations of a temple of the Geometric period. At the foot of the E slope of the acropolis, to the NE of the Treasure of Minyas, the theater of Orchomenos, probably built at the end of the 4th c. B.C., has been recently excavated. Twelve rows of seats are preserved; proedria seats have nice relief decoration. A number of bases of statues and of votive tripods have been discovered.
Four hundred m to the W on a second, higher terrace, a Temple of Asklepios was built in the Hellenistic period. A peripteral Doric structure (11.50 x 22 m, with six columns in front and 11 on each side), it is surrounded by remains of Classical buildings. On the terraces farther W, stretching to the top of the hill, was the Hellenistic city built by Philip II and Alexander. At the top, 230 m above the plain, is the acropolis; not much more than a large square tower, it was built after 335 B.C. In front of it is a large cistern.
The ramparts match the growth of the city. The oldest wall (7th c.), which is built around the bottom terrace, is in a poor state of preservation; in some places its masonry is polygonal, in others large blocks are arranged in irregular courses. Starting from the terrace of the Asklepieion, two ramparts, one to the N and the other to the S, climb up the steep slope, moving gradually closer together until they meet at the great tower on the top of the hill, which they fortify. About 2 m thick on an average, these walls have an outer facing in polygonal masonry dating from the 4th c. B.C. There are three gates, to the N and S and near the summit. Three transverse walls link the two outer ramparts: the first runs along the edge of the Asklepieion terrace to the E; the second, which has a square tower in the middle, overlooks this terrace to the W, while the third marked the upper city limit and the beginning of the hilltop fortress with its citadel. The third wall is on a level with the N and S gates.
At the N foot of the rocky spur below the Asklepieion and the Chapel of Hagioi Anargyroi, is the chief spring of the Melas river. This is the Akidalia or spring of the Charites, who were especially venerated at Orchomenos (the Charitesia festivals and contests). The Sanctuary and Temple of the Charites probably stood where the Convent of the Dormition (Kimisis tis Theotokou) is today; its church, built in 874 A.D., is on the site of the temple. Around the church are many inscriptions discovered at Orchomenos; the other inscribed stones have been removed to the Chaironeia and Thebes Museums. (P. ROESCH) Chronique des Fouilles linkWikidata ID: Q543895
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)