Sites & cities that bear the name of Olynthus


Today in : Greece
First trace of activity : ca. 30th century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Ὄλυνθος Olynthos, Sandanos, Myriophyto, Nea Olynthos

Description : Olynthus (Ancient Greek: Ὄλυνθος Olynthos, named for the ὄλυνθος olunthos, "the fruit of the wild fig tree") was an ancient city of Chalcidice, built mostly on two flat-topped hills 30–40m in height, in a fertile plain at the head of the Gulf of Torone, near the neck of the peninsula of Pallene, about 2.5 kilometers from the sea, and about 60 stadia (c. 9–10 kilometers) from Poteidaea. Artefacts found during the excavations of the site are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Olynthos. Olynthus, son of Heracles, or the river god Strymon, was considered the mythological founder of the town. The South Hill bore a small Neolithic settlement; was abandoned during the Bronze Age; and was resettled in the 7th century BC. Subsequently, the town was captured by the Bottiaeans, a Thracian tribe ejected from Macedon by Alexander I. Following the Persian defeat at Salamis (480 BC) and with Xerxes having been escorted to the Hellespont by his general Artabazus, the Persian army spent the winter of the same year in Thessaly and Macedonia. The Persian authority in the Balkans must have significantly decreased at the time, which encouraged the inhabitants of the Pallene peninsula to break away. Suspecting that a revolt against the Great King was meditated, in order to control the situation, Artabazus captured Olynthus, which was thought to be disloyal, and killed its inhabitants. The town had priorly been given to Kritovoulos from Toroni and to a fresh population consisting of Greeks from the neighboring region of Chalcidice, who had been exiled by the Macedonians (Herod. viii. 127). Though Herodotus reports that Artabazus slaughtered them, Boetiaeans continued to live in the area. Olynthus became a Greek polis, but it remained insignificant (in the quota-lists of the Delian League it appears as paying on the average 2 talents, as compared with 6 to 15 paid by Scione, 6 to 15 by Mende, 6 to 12 by Toroni, and 3 to 6 by Sermylia from 454 to 432). In 432 King Perdiccas II of Macedon encouraged several nearby coastal towns to disband and remove their population to Olynthus, preparatory to a revolt to be led by Potidaea against Athens (Thuc. 1.58). This synoecism (συνοικισμός) was effected, though against Perdiccas's wishes the contributing cities were preserved. This increase in population led to the settlement of the North Hill, which was developed on a Hippodamian grid plan. In 423 Olynthus became the head of a formal Chalkidian League, occasioned by the synoecism or by the beginning of the Peloponnesian War and fear of Athenian attack. During the Peloponnesian war it formed a base for Brasidas in his expedition of 424 and refuge for the citizens of Mende and Poteidaea that had rebelled against the Athenians (Thu. ii, 70). After the end of the Peloponnesian War the development of the league was rapid and ended consisting of 32 cities. About 393 we find it concluding an important treaty with Amyntas III of Macedon (the father of Philip II), and by 382 it had absorbed most of the Greek cities west of the Strymon, and had even got possession of Pella, the chief city in Macedon. (Xenophon, Hell. V. 2, 12). In this year Sparta was induced by an embassy from Acanthus and Apollonia, which anticipated conquest by the league, to send an expedition against Olynthus. After three years of indecisive warfare Olynthus consented to dissolve the confederacy (379). It is clear, however, that the dissolution was little more than formal, as the Chalcidians ("Χαλκιδῆς ἀπò Θρᾴκης") appear, only a year or two later, among the members of the Athenian naval confederacy of 378–377. Twenty years later, in the reign of Philip, the power of Olynthus is asserted by Demosthenes to have been much greater than before the Spartan expedition. The town itself at this period is spoken of as a city of the first rank (πóλις μuρἰανδρος), and the league included thirty-two cities. When the Social War broke out between Athens and its allies (357), Olynthus was at first in alliance with Philip. Subsequently, in alarm at the growth of his power, it concluded an alliance with Athens. Olynthus made three embassies to Athens, the occasions of Demosthenes's three Olynthiac Orations. On the third, the Athenians sent soldiers from among its citizens. After Philip had deprived Olynthus of the rest of the League, by force and by the treachery of sympathetic factions, he besieged Olynthus in 348. The siege was short; he bought Olynthus's two principal citizens, Euthycrates and Lasthenes, who betrayed the city to him. He then looted and razed the city and sold its population—including the Athenian garrison—into slavery. According to the latest researches only a small area of the North Hill was ever re-occupied, up to 318, before Cassander forced the population to move in his new city of Cassandreia. Though the city was extinguished, through subsequent centuries there would be men scattered through the Hellenistic world who were called Olynthians.

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