Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens — 6.1890-1897 (1897)

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The recent excavations at Eretria justify an attempt to make a pic-
ture as full as possible of the rise, the continuance, and the decay of that
important city, with the help of scattered literary notices and of infer-
ences from the somewhat impressive remains.

We find Eretria1 existing at the time of the composition of the Cata-
logue of the Ships, the Domesday Book of Greece. It appears with-
out epithet or description in Iliad, ii. 537. Perhaps not without some
significance is it named second among the Eubcean cities, Chalcis being
mentioned first. "When it emerges into the light or rather into the twi-
light of history (Thuc, I. 15), it is engaged in disputing with Chalcis
the right to the first place. The boldness with which it reached out and
laid claim to the Lelantine Plain, which lay so much nearer to Chal-
cis, argues a long period of prosperity in which it had developed opu-
lence and power. But it is idle to hope for more than here and there a
suggestion, throwing a little light on that period. One such sugges-
tion is found in Herod., v. 57, where it is said that the ancestors of
Harmodios and Aristogiton claimed to have come from Eretria origi-
nally, but that closer investigation led to the belief that they were Phoe-
nicians, who, coming to Boeotia with Cadmus, settled at Tanagra. Any-
one who sails up the Euripus on a clear day will be impressed with the
nearness of the plain around Tanagra to the shore of Euboea. Con-
sidering that waterways are bonds and not divisions, one may say that
Tanagra and Eretria belong to the same great natural amphitheatre
surrounded by mountains.2 This close connection being realized, it
seems probable in advance that any Phoenician immigration which
reached Boeotia (and this is the only side of Boeotia open to Phoenician
immigration) would have included also the Euboean shore. The passage
in Herodotus comes in to give almost a certainty to a reasonable con-
jecture. Both reports between which Herodotus felt bound to choose
were very likely correct. We may put the Gephyrseans down as Phoe-
nicians from the region of Eretria and Tanagra.

1 In spite of its maritime associations, the name, in view of other inland Eretrias
and the variant 'Aporpia (Strabo, p. 447), means probably not "oar-town," but " plow-
town." Tozer, Oeogr. of Greece, p. 250.

2 It is in fact one of the most striking signs of the humiliation of Boeotia that Athens
reached across or around these mountain barriers and exercised a controlling influ-
ence in the affairs of Chalcis and Eretria.

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