country valley thebes lake
BCEOTIA (BotoeTio.) a country of Central Greece, bounded on the S. by the Gulf of Corinth, Megaris, and Attica ; on the E. by Attica and the Euripus, which separates it from Eubwa ; on the N. by the territory of the Locri Opuntii ; and on the W. by Phoeis. Its surface is estimated at 1119 English square miles. Surrounded nearly on all sides by mountains, it divides itself naturally into three parts, the low country about Lake Copais, or, as it is now called, the Lake of Topolias, the valley of the River Asopus (now Oropo), and the coast district, between Mount Helicon and the Corinthian Gulf. The country about the lake is a large valley, so completely surrounded by hills that it is connected with the Eubman Sea by subterranean passages only. The natural passages, or katavothra, not being sufficient to carry off the great masses of water accumulating in the valley, which is traversed by the Cephisus, the principal river in the country, the early inhabitants often suffered severely from inundations ; and at a very remote period large artificial drains were constructed, probably by the Minyans of Orchomenos, to supplement the natural outlets. Remains of these works, as stupendous as any that were executed in antiquity, still excite the admiration of the traveller. They formerly rendered that part of Bceotia one of the most fertile districts of Greece, but being neglected for centuries, the shores of the lake became an extensive marsh. A large stretch of country is still often under water during the winter, but it begins to dry up in spring, and in summer forms fine wheat-fields and meadows. Between this valley of the Copais and the basin of the Asopus is situated the Theban plain, which is still distinguished for its fertility, especially in grain. The lowlands and valleys of Bceotia were notorious in antiquity for their moist and thick atmosphere, which was believed to render the inhabitants dull and stupid. For these characteristics the Bceotians are frequently satirized by the Attic writers ; and it is certain that comparatively few names were added to the long roll of Greek literature from this portion of the Greek soil. One writer alone, perhaps, the poet Pindar, stands out in striking contrast to the national character ; the two others who alone of his fellow-countrymen can claim to be also his intellectual kinsmen, Hesiod and Plutarch, bear no small trace of a Boeotian origin. The dialect spoken by the Bceotians was a broad /Eolic. In the earliest times of history Bceotia was inhabited by various tribes, such as the Aonians, Temmicians, Thracians, Leleges, Phlegyans, and the Minyans of Orchomenos. Of these we know almost nothing, hut the last-mentioned appear to have formed a great centre of civilization at a very remote period. All these tribes were gradually expelled or absorbed by the Boeotian /Eolians, who immigrated from Thessaly about sixty years after the destruction of Troy, according to the ordinary chronology. The country, which had previously possessed no common name, henceforth is always spoken of as Bceotia, and the several cities and towns, with Thebes at their head, formed a sort of confederation, in which, however, the Thebans and the other Bceotians frequently came into hostile collision, Thebes claiming the supremacy of the whole country, and the other cities insisting on their independence. The confederation was administered by a number of officers called Bmotarchs, of whom two were chosen by Thebes and one by each of the remaining confederate communities. The federal temple was that of Athene Itonica at Coronea, and there a religious festival was held. The political history of the country is inseparable from that of ORCHOMENOS, THEBES, PLATES, and THESPLE, to which the reader must be referred for details. The confederacy continued its nominal existence even under the Roman emperors, although the country was so. reduced that, about the time of Augustus, Tanagra and Thespim alone could be considered towns, the other cities having either been entirely destroyed, or existincrb only as villages. The more important of the towns which had formerly existed, besides those already mentioned, were Tegyra, Arne, Haliartus, Alalcomenre, and Lebadea in the Copaic valley ; Anthedon, Mycalessus, and Oropus along the Euripus ; Thisbe and Creusis on the Corinthian Gulf ; Ascra and Leuctra further inland ; and Sides, Tanagra, and Pherm in the valley of the Asopus. During the Middle Ages and under the Turkish domination, Livadia, the ancient Lebadea, was the capital of the country, which indeed was frequently called after that city. The district is now united in one Nomos with Attica (Attikoviotia), and is divided into two eparchies that take their names from Thebes and Livadia. The population in the eastern part is largely Albanian, and is engaged in the growing of grain and culture of the vine. See the Travels of Clarke, Wheeler, Doclwell, Sir W. Gell, Hobhouse, Holland, Leake, and _lure ; Thiersch, Etat actuel de la Gr&T, 1833 ; Forchhammer, Hellenikct, 1837 ; Kruse, 'Hellas 1825--2S ; Klfitz, De ,fcedere Boeotico 1S21 ; Ten Breujel, De feedere RcEotico, 1834 ; Fraucke, :Der Riotische Bend, 1843; and Bursian's Geographic von Griechenland, 1863.