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Municipalities of Boeotia

Boeotia within Greece

Coordinates: 38°25′N 23°05′E / 38.417°N 23.083°E / 38.417; 23.083Coordinates: 38°25′N 23°05′E / 38.417°N 23.083°E / 38.417; 23.083

Country Greece
Region Central Greece
Capital Livadeia
 • Total 2,952 km2 (1,140 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 117,920
 • Density 40/km2 (100/sq mi)
Postal codes 32x xx, 190 12
Area codes 226x0
ISO 3166 code GR-03
Car plates ΒΙ

Boeotia, also spelled Beotia (/bˈʃiə/ or /bˈʃə/; Greek: Βοιωτία, Modern Greek: [vi.oˈti.a], Ancient Greek: [bojɔːtía]; modern transliteration Voiotía, also Viotía, formerly Cadmeis), is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the largest city being Thebes.


Boeotia lies to the north of the eastern part of the Gulf of Corinth. It also has a short coastline on the Gulf of Euboea. It bordered on Megaris (now West Attica) in the south, Attica in the southeast, Chalcis (now part of the regional unit Euboea) in the northeast, Opuntian Locris (now part of Phthiotis) in the north and Phocis in the west.

The main mountain ranges of Boeotia are Mount Parnassus in the west, Mount Helicon in the southwest, Kithairon in the south and Parnitha in the east. Its longest river, the Cephissus (Kifisos), flows in the central part, where most of the low-lying areas of Boeotia are found. Lake Copais was a large lake in the center of Boeotia. It was drained in the 19th century. Lake Yliki is a large lake near Thebes.

Boeotia has a Mediterranean climate.


Boeotia was one of the earliest inhabited regions in prehistoric Greece. Many Greek ancient legends, including a number related to the aboriginal population, originate in this region. The Muses of Mount Helicon, the myths of Oedipus and the sphinx, of Dionysos and Semele, of Amphion and Antiope, the myth of King Kadmus as bringer of the alphabet, the mythic king Ogyges related to the first mentioned great deluge, and many other legends became part of the Greek culture. The older myths took their final form during the Mycenean age (1600-1200 BC) when the Mycenean Greeks established themselves in Boeotia and the city of Thebes became an important centre. Many of these legends are related to the myths of Argos in southern Greece which is close to Mycenae, the most powerful Mycenean kingdom. Some of them indicate connections with Phoenicia, where the Mycenean Greeks and later the Euboean Greeks established trading posts.

Hesiod, the ancient poet of Theogony who included many legends of the first Greek cosmogony and in the genealogy of the gods, was born in Boeotia. Later Pindar, the great Greek poet born in Thebes, was influenced by an older religion different from the Olympic pantheon. In Lebadea was the ancient oracular shrine of Trophonius, related to the old chthonic religion. Many of these legends were used as themes by the tragic Greek poets, in their masterpieces Oedipus the King, Antigone, Seven Against Thebes, Antiope and also in the lost play Niobe.


Boeotia plays a prominent part in Greek mythology. Of the two great centres of legends, Thebes, with its Cadmean population, figures as a military stronghold, and Orchomenus, the home of the Minyae, as an enterprising commercial city. The mythical aboriginal king Ogyges is best known as king of the Ectenes or Hectenes who were the autochthones or earliest inhabitants of Boeotia, where the city of Thebes would later be founded.[1] As such, he became the first ruler of Thebes, which was at that time named Ogygia (Ὠγυγία) after him. Subsequently, poets referred to the Thebans as Ogygidae (Ὠγυγίδαι).[2] The first worldwide deluge of Greek mythology, named Ogygian, is mentioned during his reign. The name is related to Okeanos (Ocean), the great river which was believed to surround the earth. This word is derived from a Phoenecian root meaning "to encircle". Later Ogygian came to mean "from earliest days".

John Chadwick speculatively relates the name of Perse, daughter of Okeanos, with the name of the vegetation goddess Persephone,[3] who in some versions appears as Persephione, daughter of Minyas. Aeschylus distinguishes Boeotian Thebes from Ogygian Thebes (Egyptian),[4] indicating the relation of Ogyges with the East.

Amphion and Antiope

The myth of Amphion, the legendary founder of Thebes, and Antiope inspired a lot of other similar myths in several areas of Greece. Amphion was son of Zeus and of Antiope, daughter of the Boeotian river god Asopus.[5] The myth took a Dionysiac colour because Zeus was transformed into a satyr in a sole mythic event and Antiope into a maenad. After this she was carried off by Epopeus in Sicyon, where he was venerated later as a hero in the temenos of Athena.[6] Burkert notices the similarity with the myth of Athena Polias and Erechtheus in Athens.[7] Returning to Thebes, on Mount Kithairon she gave birth to the twins Amphion, son of the god, and Zethus, son of the mortal Epopeus. The story is mentioned in fragments of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (frr. 182, 183) and Asius of Samos (fr. 1).[8] Other twins of similar dual parentage are the Greek Dioscuri who often appear as snakes, protecting the temples.[9] Amphion, the founder of Thebes, became a great singer and musician with a golden lyre, and huge blocks of stone formed themselves into the walls of Thebes, the city with the seven gates. His brother Zethus became a hunter and a herdsman and the two brothers represent the contrast between two different lifestyles. In Euripides' tragedy Antiope they contrasted in debate their active and contemplative lives.[10]

Dionysos, to whose worship Antiope was devoted, visited her with madness, causing her to wander restlessly all over Greece until she was cured.[11] This myth is similar to that of Io, a priestess of the goddess Hera in Argos who was stung by a gadfly and wandered in madness to Egypt.[12] Her sons Cadmus and Danaos returned to Greece, where they became kings of Thebes and Argos.

Semele and Dionysos

Semele, in Greek mythology was daughter of Cadmus,an autochthonous Boeotian hero,and Harmonia.She was the mortal mother of Dionysus by Zeus in one of his many origin myths mentioned by Hesiod.[13] Greeks in Crete preserved a tradition that Zagreus who was identified with Dionysos was the son of Zeus and Persephone.[14] The name Semele, like other elements of Dionysiac cult (e.g., thyrsus and dithyramb)[15] are of Thraco-Phrygian origin.[16] The myth of Cadmus the builder of the walls of Thebes (Cadmeia) indicates like many other Mycenean myths the relations with Phoenecia, however the original character of Semele as an earth goddess is transparently evident.[17]Julius Pokorny reconstructs her name from a PIE root meaning "earth" and relates it with Thracian Zemele,"mother earth".[18]

According to the Greek tradition the cult of Dionysos was introduced later from Thrace,however Pausanias is referring to the temple of Ariadne (Minoan vegetation goddess) and the Cretan Dionysos in Peloponnesus.The name appears also in the Linear B (Mycenean Greek) tablets,and there are some parallels with the cult of the "divine child" (goettliches Kind) in Minoan Crete.[19] In that regard an indigenous cult of Dionysos existed in Greece which was mixed with the cult of Zagreus, with Thracian origin,who was devoured by the Titans, the ancestors of the humankind. In Greek a hunter who catches living animals is called zagreus, Karl Kerenyi notes, and the Ionian word zagre signifies a "pit for the capture of live animals"[20]

The most usual setting for the story of Semele is the palace that occupied the Cadmeia,the acropolis of Thebes.When Pausanias visited Thebes in the 2nd century AD, he was shown the very bridal chamber where Zeus visited her and begat Dionysus. Since an Oriental inscribed cylindrical seal found at the palace can be dated 14th-13th centuries BC,[21] the myth of Semele must be Mycenaean or earlier. Though the Greek myth of Semele was localized in Thebes, the fragmentary Homeric Hymn to Dionysus makes, the distant and mythically vague mountain Nysa the place where Zeus gave a second birth to the god.[22]

Niobe and Chloris

In a myth Amphion married the Phrygian princess Niobe and killed himself after the loss of his wife and children. Niobe had fourteen children, seven male and seven female and boasted of them to Leto, because the nymph had only two children, the twins Artemis and Apollo.[23] In his archaic role as bringer of diseases and death, Apollo with his arrows killed Niobe's sons and Artemis with her arrows killed Niobe's daughters.[24] This is related to the myth of the seven youths and seven maidens who were sent every year to the king Minos of Crete as an offering sacrifice to the Minotaur. Niobe was transformed into a stone on Mount Sipylus in her homeland of Phrygia, where she brooded over the sorrows sent by the gods.[25] In Sophocles' Antigone the heroine believes that she will have a similar death.[26] The iconic number "seven" often appears in Greek legends, and represents an ancient tradition because it appears as a lyre with seven strings in the Hagia Triada sarcophagus in Crete during the Mycenean age.[27] Apollo's lyre had also seven strings.

The only Niobid spared stayed greenish pale from horror for the rest of her life, and for that reason she was called Chloris (the pale one).[28] Chloris was a nymph associated with springs, flowers and new growth. In Homer's Odyssey[29] the mythical vegetation goddess Persephone is daughter of Minyas and mother of Chloris.[30] In that regard the myth of the abduction of the vegetation goddess from Hades and her return,[31] representing the dying and regeneration of nature which is mentioned by Hesiod and appears in many ancient agricultural societies can be related with the Minyans, the first inhabitants of Boeotia.John Chadwick speculatively relates the name of Persephone with the name of Perse, daughter of Oceanus.[32]

Graia: Hellenes and Greeks

Graia (Γραία), which means "old woman" (Proto-Greek language,grau-j),[33] was a city on the coast of Boeotia and was said to be the oldest city of Greece. The word Γραικός (Graekos, Greek) is interpreted as "inhabitant of Graia" by some authors.[34] The German historian George Bussolt suggested that the name Graeci was given initially by the Romans to the colonists from Graia who helped the Euboeans to establish Cumae in southern Italy, and was then used for all Greeks.[35] Aristotle said that this city was created before the deluge. The same assertion about the origins of Graia city is found in an ancient marble, the Parian Chronicle, discovered in 1687 and dated to 267-263 BC, that is currently kept in Oxford and on Paros. Reports about this ancient city can be also found in Homer, in Pausanias, in Thucydides, etc.


The name Pelasgians was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to the populations who preceded the Greeks in Greece.[36] In the Iliad, Homer uses this name for the inhabitants of Epirus around Dodona, and the inhabitants of Thessaly. The earliest inhabitants of Boeotia associated with the city of Orchomenus, were called Minyans and the Greeks did not clearly distinguish the Minyan from the Pelasgian culture. Pausanias mentions that they established the maritime Ionian city of Teos,[37] and occupied the islands of Lemnos and Thera. The Argonauts were sometimes referred to as Minyans, and according to legend the citizens of Thebes paid an annual tribute to their king Erginus.[38] The Minyans may have been Proto Greek speaking people; but although most scholars today agree that the Mycenean Greeks descended from the Minyans of the Middle Helladic period, they believe that the progenitors and founders of Minyan culture were an autochthonous group.[39] The early wealth and power of Boeotia is shown by the reputation and visible Mycenean remains of several of its cities, especially Orchomenus and Thebes.

The origin of Boeotians lies in the mountain Boeon[40] in the region of Epirus-West Macedonia, where Aristotle believed that Ancient Hellas existed. In the same region around Dodona, Homer refers to Zeus, god of Pelasgi who ruled over the oracular shrine, and to his prophets the Selloi. Aristotle in his Meteorologica connects the name Graecus with Graii, the native name of a Dorian tribe in Epirus which was used for the Greeks by the Illyrians. However it is more likely that the original homeland of the Greeks was in central Greece.

Some toponyms and the common Aeolic dialect indicate that the Boeotians were related to the Thessalians. The Boeotians originally occupied Thessaly, the largest fertile plain in Greece, and were dispossessed by the north-western Thessalians traditionally two generations after the fall of Troy (1200 BC). They moved south and settled in another rich plain. Others filtered across the Aegean and settled on Lesbos extending from there to the adjacent Aeolis in Asia Minor. Others also stayed but formed an extending populace (perioikis) round the new-comers (perioikoi,"living around"),by withdrawing in the surrounding hill country that is Perrhaebia, Magnesia and Achaea Phthiotis which has been Achilleus country on the south.[41] The name Hellenes was firstly used by Homer for a tribe in this region.

The first Amphictyony

Though far from Anthela, which lay on the coast of Malis south of Thessaly in the locality of Thermopylae ("hot gates", that is the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades), Boeotia was an early member of the oldest religious Amphictyonic League (Anthelian)[42] because her people had originally lived in Thessaly.[43]

Certainly Thessaly had a share in this association of Greek states, the ancient Amphictiony ("dwellers-round') centered on the cult of the chthonic goddess Demeter at Anthela. The twelve delegates were entitled Pylagorai (gate- assemblers), perhaps a reference to the local Gates of Hades, since Demeter was a chthonic goddess in her older local cults. The immediate dwellers-round were some small states and also Achaea-Phthiotis that probably paved the way for the entry of the body of the rest Boeotian tribes which were living around Thessaly (perioikoi).Boeotia and Phokis the remotest may have joined only during or after the "First Sacred War",which led to the defeat of the old priesthood and to a new control of the prosperity of the oracle at Delphi.[44]

As a result of the war the Anthelan body was known thenceforth as the Delphic Amphictyony and became the official overseer and military defender of the Delphic cult. A strange and revealing anti-Thessalian feeling appeared and a wall was built across the narrow defile at Thermopylae to keep the Thessalians out. This feeling is reflected in the short Boeotian epic The shield of Heracles.A local Thessalian hero interfering with the Phocian sanctuary is killed by the Boeotian hero Heracles,son of Zeus and Alcmene, whose mortal father had for allies Locrians and Phocians. This is a pastiche made to be sung at a Boeotian festival at midsummer at the hottest time of the dogstar Sirios.[45]

The name Hellenes, which was originally the name of a Boeotian tribe in Phthia, may be related to the members of the league and may have been broadened to refer to all Greeks when the myth of their patriarch Hellen was invented. In Greek mythology Amphictyon was brother of Hellen, and Graecus was son of his sister Pandora. According to the Parian Chronicle, the previously named Graeces were named Hellenes.[46]


Boeotia had significant political importance, owing to its position on the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth, the strategic strength of its frontiers, and the ease of communication within its extensive area. On the other hand, the lack of good harbours hindered its maritime development. The Boeotian people, although they included great men like Pindar, Hesiod, Epaminondas, Pelopidas and Plutarch, were portrayed as proverbially dull by the Athenians (cf. Boeotian ears incapable of appreciating music or poetry and Hog-Boeotians, Cratinus.310).

The importance of the legendary Minyae has been confirmed by archaeological remains (notably the "Treasury of Minyas"). The Boeotian population entered the land from the north possibly before the Dorian invasion. With the exception of the Minyae, the original peoples were soon absorbed by these immigrants, and the Boeotians henceforth appear as a homogeneous nation. Aeolic Greek was spoken in Boeotia.

In historical times, the leading city of Boeotia was Thebes, whose central position and military strength made it a suitable capital; other major towns were Orchomenus, Plataea, and Thespiae. It was the constant ambition of the Thebans to absorb the other townships into a single state, just as Athens had annexed the Attic communities. But the outlying cities successfully resisted this policy, and only allowed the formation of a loose federation which, initially, was merely religious.

While the Boeotians, unlike the Arcadians, generally acted as a united whole against foreign enemies, the constant struggle between the cities was a serious check on the nation's development. Boeotia hardly figures in history before the late 6th century BC. Previous to this, its people are chiefly known as the makers of a type of geometric pottery, similar to the Dipylon ware of Athens. In about 519 BC, the resistance of Plataea to the federating policy of Thebes led to the interference of Athens on behalf of the former; on this occasion, and again in 507 BC, the Athenians defeated the Boeotian levy.

During the Persian invasion of 480 BC, Thebes assisted the invaders. In consequence, for a time, the presidency of the Boeotian League was taken from Thebes, but in 457 BC the Spartans reinstated that city as a bulwark against Athenian aggression after the Battle of Tanagra. Athens retaliated with a sudden advance upon Boeotia, and after the victory at the Battle of Oenophyta took control of the whole country, taking down the wall the Spartans had built. With the victory the Athenians also occupied Phocis, the original source of the conflict, and Opuntian Locris.[47] For ten years the land remained under Athenian control, which was exercised through the newly installed democracies; but in 447 BC the people revolted, and after a victory at the Battle of Coronea regained their independence.

In the Peloponnesian War the Boeotians fought zealously against Athens. Though slightly estranged from Sparta after the peace of Nicias, they never abated their enmity against their neighbours. They rendered good service at Syracuse and at the Battle of Arginusae in the closing years of the Pelopennesian War; but their greatest achievement was the decisive victory at the Battle of Delium over the Athenian army (424 BC) in which both their heavy infantry and their cavalry displayed unusual efficiency. About this time the Boeotian League comprised eleven groups of sovereign cities and associated townships, each of which elected one Boeotarch or minister of war and foreign affairs, contributed sixty delegates to the federal council at Thebes, and supplied a contingent of about 1000 infantry and 100 cavalry to the federal army. A safeguard against undue encroachment on the part of the central government was provided in the councils of the individual cities, to which all important questions of policy had to be submitted for ratification. These local councils, to which the propertied classes alone were eligible, were subdivided into four sections, resembling the prytaneis of the Athenian council, which took it in turns to vote on all new measures.

Two Boeotarchs were provided by Thebes, but by 395 BC Thebes was providing four Boeotarchs, including two who had represented places now conquered by Thebes such as Plataea, Scolus, Erythrae, and Scaphae. Orchomenus, Hysiae, and Tanagra each supplied one Boeotarch. Thespiae, Thisbe, and Eutresis supplied two between them. Haliartus, Lebadea and Coronea supplied one in turn, and so did Acraephnium, Copia, and Chaeronea.[48]

Boeotia took a prominent part in the war of the Corinthian League against Sparta, especially in the battles of Haliartus and Coronea (395-394 BC). This change of policy was mainly due to the national resentment against foreign interference. Yet disaffection against Thebes was now growing rife, and Sparta fostered this feeling by insisting on the complete independence of all the cities in the peace of Antalcidas (387 BC). In 374, Pelopidas restored Theban dominion and their control was never significantly challenged again.

Boeotian contingents fought in all the campaigns of Epaminondas against the Spartans, most notably at the Battle of Leuctra in 371, and in the later wars against Phocis (356-346); while in the dealings with Philip of Macedon the cities merely followed Thebes. The federal constitution was also brought into accord with the democratic governments now prevalent throughout the land. Sovereign power was vested in the popular assembly, which elected the Boeotarchs (between seven and twelve in number), and sanctioned all laws. After the Battle of Chaeroneia, in which the Boeotian heavy infantry once again distinguished itself, the land never again rose to prosperity.

The destruction of Thebes by Alexander the Great (335) destroyed the political energy of the Boeotians. They never again pursued an independent policy, but followed the lead of protecting powers. Though military training and organization continued, the people proved unable to defend the frontiers, and the land became more than ever the "dancing-ground of Ares". Though enrolled for a short time in the Aetolian League (about 245 BC) Boeotia was generally loyal to Macedon, and supported its later kings against Rome. Rome dissolved the league, but it was revived under Augustus, and merged with the other central Greek federations in the Achaean synod. The death-blow to the country's prosperity was dealt by the devastations during the First Mithridatic War.

Archaeological sites

Orchomenus (Boeotia)

In 1880-1886, Heinrich Schliemann's excavations (H. Schliemann, Orchomenos, Leipzig 1881) revealed the tholos tomb he called the "Tomb of Minyas", a Mycenaean monument that equalled the "Tomb of Atreus" at Mycenae itself. In 1893, A. de Ridder excavated the temple of Asklepios and some burials in the Roman necropolis. In 1903-1905, a Bavarian archaeological mission under Heinrich Bulle and Adolf Furtwängler conducted successful excavations at the site. Research continued in 1970-1973 by the Archaeological Service under Theodore Spyropoulos, uncovering the Mycenaean palace, a prehistoric cemetery, the ancient amphitheatre, and other structures.

Pejorative term

Boeotia came to be proverbial for the stupidity of its inhabitants (OED), probably because of Athens' proud assertion of its cultural superiority compared to its rural neighbours.


The regional unit Boeotia is subdivided into 6 municipalities. These are (number as in the map in the infobox):[49]


Boeotia was created as a prefecture in 1899 (Greek: Νομός Βοιωτίας), and again in 1943 out of the Attica and Boeotia Prefecture. As a part of the 2011 Kallikratis government reform, the regional unit Boeotia was created out of the former prefecture Boeotia. The prefecture had the same territory as the present regional unit. At the same time, the municipalities were reorganised, according to the table below.[49]

New municipality Old municipalities & communities Seat
Aliartos Aliartos Aliartos
Distomo-Arachova-Antikyra Distomo Distomo
Livadeia Livadeia Livadeia
Orchomenus Orchomenus Orchomenus
Tanagra Tanagra Schimatari
Thebes (Thiva) Thebes Thebes


The provinces were:


Boeotia is the home of the third largest pasta factory in Europe, built by Misko, a member of Barilla Group.[50]


Natives of Boeotia

See also


  • Larson, Stephanie L. Tales of epic ancestry: Boiotian collective identity in the late archaic and early classical periods (Historia Einzelschriften, 197). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2007. 238 p.


  • Template:1911

Victor Davis Hanson: "The Soul of Battle", Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999

External links

Template:NIE Poster

Template:Kallikratis-Central Greece

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