Sunday, December 6, 2020

Tithorea and Neon: A Small Town in Phocis

 Ano Tithorea (hereinafter Tithorea) is a town in Phocis which sits under the foot of the north face of Parnassos.  In the Mycenaean Atlas it is defined as C5152 and it is located at 38.583985° N, 22.668176° E.   It has always been a small town of shepherds and farmers and of no particular importance although in Pausanias' time it was the location of the most significant Isis temple in Greece.   Nor does it seem to have been of any great antiquity.  It was thought to have been founded after the Trojan war but the finds exhibited in the town don't go further back than the Archaic.[1]  In modern times it bore the name of Velitza until 1926[2].  More recently it has been eclipsed in significance by the growth of Kato Tithorea which is about 4.5 km. to the NE  on the right bank of the Cephissos River.

And yet, for all its obscurity, Tithorea was for a while the center of a knotty controversy involving another town called Neo.  The controversy was just the question of whether Neo was an earlier name for Tithorea  or whether Neo was a completely separate town located somewhere else.
The earliest mention of these names that we have is in Herodotus. [3]  He describes what happens as Xerxes’ army approaches the Cephisos valley in the summer of 480 BC. 
“When the barbarians marched out of Doris and invaded Phocis, they did not take any Phocians themselves, because a number of the Phocians had climbed to the heights of Parnassus, where there is a suitable haven for many people on an isolated peak called Tithorea, overlooking the city of Neon.  Those who climbed this peak brought their belongings along with them.”
Six hundred years later Pausanias visited the area and reported this:
“I know more than one version of the name of the city as Herodotos in his Persian Invasion say one thing, and Bakis in his prophecies another.  Bakis calls the people here Tithoreans, but Herodotos’s account is that when the barbarians came in, the people fled to the crest of the mountain, and the city was called Neon, while Tithorea was on the peak of Pamassos.  In the course of time ‘Tithorea’ seems to have crept in for the whole countryside and then, when a city arose from the villages, it came to be Tithorea, and is not now called Neon.”[4]
So the combined account of Pausanias and Herodotus suggests that there was a settlement at the location of present-day Ano Tithorea (until 1926 'Velitsa') and which was called ‘Neon’.   When Xerxes invaded in 480 BC he destroyed the towns in Phocis including Neon(?) but the inhabitants had fled into the adjoining hills and cliffs of Parnassos and so saved themselves.  Both Pausanias and Herodotus seem to support the idea that Neon was a precursor to Tithorea.  When the town was rebuilt it was named for the immediate area which was, in turn, referred to from the name of a peak of Parnassos called ‘Tithorea’.  Although I would just like to put forward the hypothesis here that Xerxes must have destroyed the town so completely that, afterwards, the old name of Neon seemed to apply to nothing and that a new name seemed natural to the inhabitants.[5]
In the nineteenth century E.D. Clarke made the identification of Velitza with Tithorea.  He described the finding of a spolia inscription in a local church which listed some citizens of ‘Tithorea’.[6]  Clarke had no difficulty accepting the idea that Tithorea was the later name of a settlement called ‘Neo’; he repeats Pausanias’ account with no additional comment.[7]
During the nineteenth century doubts arose about the identification of Neon with Tithorea.   H.N. Ulrichs finds grounds for doubting the traditional understanding in his reading of Plutarch's Sulla.   Plutarch’s account is as follows [8]
“[3] For these reasons Sulla transferred his army into Boeotia. But Hortensius was rescued by Caphis, a countryman of mine, and conducted by different routes, of which the Barbarians were ignorant, past Parnassus to a spot just below Tithora. [9]
[4] This was not so large a city then as it is now, but a fortress surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs, into which those of the Phocians who in ancient times fled before the advance of Xerxes [10] betook themselves and were saved. Having encamped here, Hortensius repulsed the enemy by day, and at night descended to Patronis by difficult paths and made a junction with Sulla, who came to meet him with his army." (emphasis is mine) [11]
So Plutarch, describing events in the first century B.C. describes Tithorea as a fortress ‘φρούριον’.  And this, combined with Herodotus’ report that people fled FROM Neon TO Tithora, suggested to Ulrichs that Tithora was NOT a peak of Parnassos but was the actual town.  Therefore Neon had to be somewhere else.[12]  And that this happened in the same way as in ancient times (‘πάλαι’) when the Phocians fled Xerxes’ advancing horde. 
Ah, problem.  There is no evidence at all that Tithora was fortified during the fifth century B.C.  At that time it was just a small town under an overhanging cliff, perched on the edge of the Cachales on the east but completely open to invasion from the west and the north.  At that time no one would have fled TO the town for refuge.[13]
Ulrichs tries to bolster his argument by suggesting that the Phocians would never have fled into the foothills of  Parnassos because Parnassos offers no safe or comfortable place of refuge.[14]
This argument, too, is difficult to accept.  The first problem is that refugees are not looking for absolutely safe or comfortable places in which to dwell.   They   are fleeing for their lives and are willing to make strenuous efforts and put up with considerable discomfort in the attempt.  We must remember that Thessalians were coming along with Xerxes and, due to the long-standing hatred between the two peoples, no Phocian would  have felt safe in their path. [15]   Nor can we judge the idea of Parnassos as a refuge from our perspective but from theirs (or as nearly as we can imagine it).    We must keep always in mind that Parnassos was not something foreign to the Phocians but part of their lived, everyday, experience.  For the Phocians Parnassos was rich in resources, and riddled with sheltering caves.  Many Phocaeans were intimately familiar with it and quite up to its physical challenges.[16]
We should remember that an important part of the Phocian economy was to take flocks up the slopes of Parnassos in the summer.  We should remember that Xerxes traversed this valley in August of 480 BC - full summer.  At that time some (indeterminate) number of Phocians would have already been on the slopes of Parnassos with their flocks.[17] 
There is a large number of places on the N side of Parnassos that would furnish temporary refuge for those fleeing an approaching hostile army.  The heights above Ano Tithorea rise in a series of small plateaus and the cliff faces that separate them are studded with caves as can be plainly seen in the following photograph from Grigory Palierakes. [18]

In this photo (taken from the church at 38.582526° N, 22.669754° E) the town of Tithorea is in the foreground. The photo faces S towards the first ramparts of Parnassos. The 4th century fortifications of the town are on the slope in the right center of the picture; more fortifications are out of sight to the right and behind the photographer. The deep ravine of the Cachales is to the left. On the hill itself (higher peaks are lost to sight in the clouds) we can make out at least three levels that could hold refugees. Level 3 is the lowest, a small flat area on the steepest part of the hill. Level 1 is a large flattened area in which the elevations vary by about 200 m. By my measurement it is just over a hectare in area. Behind the arrow marked level 2 is a larger flat area which is at least 25 hectares in area. Any of these areas would shelter people - not comfortably but in relative safety. And what we see in this photograph is just the beginning of all those areas on Parnassos which could shelter people.   Parnassos is also the location of many caves of which one can be seen in this picture. Another large cave, that of Odysseus Androutsou, is located just behind the arrow labelled ‘Level 2’ (On the M.A.P. it is F6229).  For more about these caves you can see the article by Sporn and Laufer [2019].

Ulrich’s idea that sheltering on the slopes of Parnassos would not have been practical is an argument with little basis. Shelter was to be found in many places on the slopes and as far as the forage line which is at about 1600 m.

Here we see the same area from directly above in Google Earth.  The labels label the same  phenomena.  The photograph was taken from the yellow pin indicated by the red arrow.

In this picture, taken from the Topoguide ( web site we see the modern trails leading up from Tithorea and into the slopes above the town.  I suspect that it would have been little different in antiquity.
Palaio Thiva

If Ulrichs thought that the town of Neo was separate and somewhere else then where did he think it was?  It happens that Clarke had already identified the ruins of another town which was in his time called Palaio Thiva.  Clarke actually saw these ruins about which he says: "There is nothing to be seen upon the spot, but the traces of some walls, almost indiscernible; every other vestige having been long ago erased, to make way for the plough.  It is situate on the s. s. w. side of the CEPHISSUS, at an hour's distance from Turco-Chorio,  ... "[19]

Before proceeding I should say something about Palaio Thiva's location.  Only a few stone blocks are left to mark where it was and so its location is not precisely established.  Topoguide gives a region name of 'Palafiva' which I have placed in the Mycenaean Atlas at F6217.  If Palaio Thiva was located near the confluence of the Cachales and the Cephissos then it may have been located at F6245 which is where these two streams come together.  The following photo shows the region just north of Tithorea along the Cephissos (blue).  Here we see the much-channeled and depleted Cachales (green) where it meets the Cephissos.  It is here, approximately, that Palaio-Thiva was located.

A little later Ulrichs himself saw the site and describes it this way: "At a short distance of no more than an hour and a half, 25-30 stadia, from Velitza in a northbound direction, on the flat plain on the right bank of the Cephissus, lie the remains of an extensive old city which is now called he palaia Theba, i.e. Old Thebes. The walls formed a regular square. You can see the ditch all around, and next to it the whole line of the walls is raised like an earth wall. In many places, the basic structure appears, which consists of large ashlar stones. As in Mantinea, Thespiae and many other cities, a structure of unfired adobe bricks probably rose above this, the weathering of which forms the current mound, which hides the foundation in most places. One recognizes in the remains individual, partly square, partly round towers. Inside there are many large and small cuboid structures and the floor is mixed with broken bricks. "   It is this town of Palaio-Thiva that Ulrichs suggested as the real Neon.  As he says: "Because of the close proximity of Tithora, I believe that Herodotus' Neon should be added here."[20]

Frazer had more to say about the area when he visited it in the 1890's. "Now three or four miles to the north of Velitsa, in the plain on the right bank of the Cephisus, there exist the remains of an ancient city of considerable size.  The walls formed an irregular quadrangle.  In many places the foundation or socle of large squared blocks is to be seen, and the remains of towers, some square, some round, may also be recognised.  Inside the circuit of the walls are many foundations of various sizes, and the ground is littered with potsherds."[21]

Leake describes both arguments but seems to agree that Tithorea and Neon were the same place.  He points out that the walls of Tithorea have existed only from the beginning of the Roman period and he hints that Plutarch’s description of the  place as a fortress must have been mistaken.[22]
Thirty years later J.G. Frazer gives both sides of the argument: "H. N. Ulrichs conjectured that these ruins, which are now called Palaia Pheva ('Old Thebes') by the natives, are the remains of Neon.  That Neon was distinct from Tithorea and continued to subsist even after Tithorea was built seems to be indicated by the statement of Pausanias (x. 2. 4) that a battle was fought at Neon in the Sacred War of 355-346 B.C.  Yet on the other hand it has sometimes been held, as by Pausanias himself, that Neon and Tithorea were identical, Neon being the earlier, Tithorea the later name of the town.  On this view the peak to which Herodotus gave the name of Tithorea must have been one of the higher summits of Parnassus."[23]

In this passage Pausanias does seem to be naming Neon separately from Tithorea but Frazer has left out the most important part.  Pausanias continues: " ... at the city of Neon where the Phokians were routed, and in the panic Philomelos threw himself down from a steep high rock and was killed."[24]   A steep high rock is entirely consistent with Tithorea but there is no such thing at Palaia Thiva.  I would say that Pausanias has no reason to make up this story but remember that he is interested in the topos that being hurled from a cliff is the prescribed punishment for violating the sanctuary of Delphi (something which Philomelos had actually done). 

By the twentieth century the identification of Neon with Tithorea seems to have been established as the scholarly consensus.  Tillard, in an article of 1910, firmly establishes the equivalence of Neon and Tithorea.[25]

The truth is that both arguments are correct.  People living in the location of modern Tithorea would have taken refuge in the foothills of Parnassos at the approach of a hostile army.  But so would residents of communities out on the plain and closer to the Cephissos.    But none of those communities on the plain was called 'Neon'.
[1]  Strabo ix.5.  "But Demetrius the Scepsian says, that there is no such place on Parnassus as Eleon, but Neon, which was built after the Trojan war, "
[2]  The name 'Velitsa' is encountered in the older literature.  The name change record is here.

[3]  Herodotus (viii, 32).
[4] Pausanias (x, 32), p. 491.  And see Levi’s footnote 208.
[5] And determining which peak of Parnassos was called ‘Tithorea’ would be a nice exercise.  A good candidate might be the ridge-end at  38.569158°,  22.638735° which rises about 1400 m. above the town of Ano Tithoreia.  Perhaps the ridge end lower down at  38.579536° N,   22.665737° E would also be a plausible choice.
[6]  Clarke [1805], 155.
[7] Ibid., 154-5.  Clarke has the highest confidence in Pausanias.  On page 153 we read: “Too much attention cannot be paid to his text.  In all the district of Parnassus, every word he utters is a treasure.” 
[8] Plutarch. Sulla, 15.3-4.
[9]  Plutarch.  Sulla, 15.3:  διὰ τοῦ Παρνασσοῦ κατῆγεν ὑπ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν Τιθόραν,
[10]  Plutarch.  Sulla, 15.4: οὔπω τοσαύτην πόλιν οὖσαν ὅση νῦν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ φρούριον ἀπορρῶγι κρημνῷ περικοπτόμενον, εἰς ὃ καὶ πάλαι ποτὲ Φωκέων οἱ Ξέρξην ἐπιόντα φεύγοντες ἀνεσκευάσαντο καὶ διεσώθησαν, ...
[11] Plutarch makes another error here.  He suggests that Tithorea (‘Tithora’) is surrounded by steep cliffs.  (‘ … ἀπορρῶγι κρημνῷ περικοπτόμενον … )  It isn’t.  It is quite open to the surrounding  plain of the Cephissos from north and west.
[12] Ulrichs [1863], II, 118.  " ..., während Tithora, wenn es nach Plutarchs Zeugniß schon damals befestigt war, sich wegen seiner vorzüglichen lage leicht vertheidigen ließ."  "While Tithora, if it was fortified according to Plutarch's testimony, was easy to defend because of its excellent location."

[13] For the date of the walls of Tithorea see Tillard [1910/1911] 54.  He dates the walls to after 338 B.C.  “… of a uniform type and date from the restoration after the battle of Chaironea in 338 B.C.” and, p. 60, “There is no reason  to believe that the enceinte of Tithorea is subsequent to the last years of the fourth century B.C.”. 
Also J.G. Frazer [1898] xxxii, p. 405: " ...; but their fine style leaves little room to doubt that they belong to the best period of Greek military architecture, namely to the fourth century B.C."  Frazer summarily dismisses Ulrich’s idea that the walls can be no earlier than the second century B.C.  Nor does he give any credence, nor should we, to the idea that they were a product of the Roman period.
[14] Ulrichs [1863], II, 118.  " ... denn die Gipfel und Bergflächen oberhalb Velitza bieten weder einen bequemen noch sicheren Zufluchtsort dar, ... "
[15] And there were other times when the Phocians sought shelter from invading armies on the slopes of Parnassos.  Herodotus tells us that at the time of the famous ‘Chalk Raid’ of 490, just ten years previously: “The Phocians had taken refuge on Mount Parnassus, and they had with them the prophet Tellias of Elis who had devised a clever stratagem for them … ”, “ἐπείτε γὰρ κατειλήθησαν ἐς τὸν Παρνησὸν  … ”. Herodotus viii, 27.3.   For more on the Chalk Raid and a discussion of where it was fought see Blome [2015] 29 ff.
[16] To remind us of this is, I believe, the purpose of this remark of Frazer's:  He is mounting the slope just behind (S of) Tithorea and inspecting the remains of the 4th century BC wall: "The antiquary who picks his way painfully among these obstacles is mortified by the contrast between his own slow progress and that of the village urchins who accompany him; for they climb and skip like goats on the top of the walls, now appearing suddenly on the highest pinnacles and then again leaping from stone to stone with wonderful confidence and agility." Frazer [1898] 404.
[17] For transhumance (or its absence) in Greece see Chandezon [2003].  Also  the review by Emily Mackil in Bryn Mawr Review, July 2004.  Also Stella Georgoudi, (1974) “Quelques problèmes de la transhumance dans la Grèce ancienne”, Revue des etudes Grecques (87) 153-185.

[18] A user-submitted photograph from Google  Earth signed ΓΡΗΓΟΡΗΣ ΠΑΛΙΕΡΑΚΗΣ.  No copyright notice visible.

[19] Clarke [1818] 285-286.

[20] Ulrichs [1863] II, 118.

[21] Frazer [1898] 32.9, pp. 406-7.  And see Dr. Karin Braun's article 'Palaio Thiva' in Lauffer [1999].

[22] The walls are not Roman but he is correct in spirit if not in fact.  Leake [1835], II, 80.

[23] Frazer [1898] 32.9, p. 407.

[25] Tillard [1910/1911], 'Tithorea', 56 ff.

Blome [2015] : Blome, David Andrew.  Defense and Strategy Among the Upland People of the Classical Greek World 490-362 BC.  Ph.D. Dissertation.  Cornell University. 2015.  It is online here.

Chandezon [2003] :  Chandezon, Christophe.  L’élevage en Grèce (fin Ve-fin Ier s. a.C.). L’apport des sources épigraphiques : fin Ve-fin Ier s. a.C. : l'apport des sources épigraphiques.  Scripta antiqua, 5. Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2003. ISBN 2910023346   It is online here.

Clarke [1805] : Clarke, E.D., The Tomb of Alexander, London, 1805.  This is online here.
Clarke [1818] :  Clarke, E.D. Travels in Various Countries of Europe Asia and Africa,  Greece Egypt and the Holy Land.  Section III, (Volume 7).  London, 1818.  Online here.

Frazer [1898]:  Frazer, J.G., Pausanias’ Description of Greece; Translated with a commentary by J.G. Frazer.  Volume 5; Commentary on Books IX., X. Addenda.  London, Macmillan.  1898.  It is online here.
Georgoudi [1974] : Georgoudi, Stella.  “Quelques problèmes de la transhumance dans la Grèce ancienne”, Revue des etudes Grecques (87) 153-185.  1974.  It is online here.

Herodotus:  The Landmark Herodotus; The Histories.  Robert B. Strassler (ed.).  Andrea L. Purvis (trans.).  Anchor Books.  2007.
Lauffer [1999] : Lauffer, Siegfried (ed.)  Griechenland; Lexikon der historischen Stätten.  Augsburg.  1999.  ISBN: 3-8289-4144-3.

Leake [1835] : Leake, William Martin.  Travels in Northern Greece, J. Rodwell, London. 1835.  It is online here.
Luraghi and Alcock [2003] : Luraghi, Nino and Susan E. Alcock (edd.), Helots and Their Masters in Laconia and Messenia: Histories, Ideologies, Structures. Hellenic Studies Series 4. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. 2003. It is online here.

Pausanias : Pausanias.   Guide to Greece I: Central Greece. Translated with an Introduction by Peter Levi. 1971.
Plutarch Sulla : Plutarch, Sulla.  Online here.  The Greek text is here.
Sporn and Laufer [2019] : Sporn, Katja and Eric Laufer.  'Tithorea, Griechenland. Topographische Untersuchungen im Stadtgebiet. Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2016 und 2017'   This is an e-publication of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and is online here.  I am grateful to Brady Kiesling of Topostext for bringing this article to my attention.

Tillard [1910/1911] : Tillard, Laurence B., “The Fortifications of Phokis”, The Annual of the British School at Athens (17), 54-75.  1910/1911.  It is online here.
Ulrichs [1863]:  Ulrichs, Heinrich N.  Reisen und Forschungen in Griechenland.   Passow, Berlin.  1863.  Online here.

van Wees [2003] : van Wees, Hans.  'Conquerors and Serfs: Wars of Conquest and Forced Labour in Archaic Greece'. Chapt. 3 in Luraghi and Alcock [2003]. pp. 33-74.  It is online here