Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Thespiæ

THESPIÆ, an ancient Greek city of Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes. In the Persian invasion the Thespian con tingent of 700 men voluntarily stayed with the Spartans at Thermopylae, and shared their fate. For its resistance to the Persians, the city was burned by Xerxes (480 B.C.). Nevertheless, in the next year 1800 Thespians shared in the great victory of Plataea. At the battle of Delium (424) the flower of the Thespians fell fighting against Athens on the side of Thebes, and in the following year the jealous Thebans availed themselves of the weakness of their gallant confederate to pull down the walls of Thespise. The walls were restored by the Spartans under Agesilaus in 378, but were again destroyed by the The bans, apparently before the battle of Leuctra (371).[1] After the battle the Thespians, who had taken no part in it, withdrew to a strong place, Ceressus, from which, however, they were expelled by the Thebans. In 343 the city was not yet restored; but it must have been sub sequently, for it is mentioned in the Roman wars.

In the 2d century Pausanias mentions that Thespite contained a theatre, a market-place (agora), and sanctuaries of Aphrodite, the Muses, and Hercules. Love (Eros) was the deity most vener ated by the Thespians; they possessed a very ancient image of him in the shape of an unhewn block of stoue. The marble statue of Love by Praxiteles was the great sight at Thespise, and drew crowds to the place. It was carried off to Rome by Caligula, re stored by Claudius, and again carried off by Nero. There was also a bronze statue of Love by Lysippus. From an inscription we learn that one of the deities worshipped was Demeter Achea, the " Mater Dolorosa." The Thespians also worshipped the Muses, and celebrated a festival in their honour in the sacred grove on Mount Helicon. Remains of what was probably the ancient citadel are still to be seen, consisting of an oblong or oval line of fortification, solidly and regularly built. The adjacent ground to the east and south is covered with foundations, bearing witness to the extent of the ancient city. The neighbouring village Eremokastro, on higher ground, was thought by Ulrichs to be probably the site of the ancient Ceressus. In 1882 there were discovered, about 1200 yards east of Eremokastro, on the road to Arkopodi (Leuctra), the remains of a polyandrion, including a colossal stone lion. The tomb dates from the 5th century B.C., and is probably that of the Thespians who fell at Plataea, for those who fell at Thermopylffi were buried on the field.

See Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, ii. 479 tq.; Dodwell, Tour through Greece, i. 253; Bursian, Geogr. von Griechenland, i. 237 sq.; Ulrichs, Reisen u. Forschungen in Griechenland, ii. 84 sq.; Mittheil. d. deutsch. archaol. Inst. in Athen, 1879, pp. 190 sq., 273 sq.; npcucnxa rrjs iv eraipt apx<uoo-yi<crjs as, 1882, pp. 65-74.


  1. Xenophon (Hellen., vi. 3. 1 and 5) and Diodorus (xv. 46) speak of Thespiæ as if it had been destroyed and its inhabitants driven away before the battle of Leuctra; but, as the Thespian troops were present with the Thebans immediately before the battle (Paus., ix. 13, 8), it would seem that only the walls, not the city itself, had been previously destroyed. See Grote, Hist. of Greece, ix. p. 379.