Name and Mycenaean past
Until the early 20th century it was called "Aspra Spitia" (Ἄσπρα Σπίτια), a name given after 1960 to a wholly new adjacent settlement, 3 km to the East; in Phocis, on the bay of Anticyra, in the Corinthian gulf; some remains are still visible. It was a town of considerable importance in ancient times.
It is identified with the Homeric Kyparissos, appearing in the Catalogue of Ships, from where the Phokian fleet sailed to Aulis and then to Troy. In Roman times still existed in Antikyra the grave of Schedios and Epistrophos, the admirals of the Phokian fleet. The name Kyparissos was due to the city's mythical founder, Kyparissos, who was son of Orchomenus and brother of the king Minyas.
According to a different tradition the city was named Antikyra after another mythical hero, Antikyreus, who cured Herakles' mania with hellebore.
Hellebore was the main reason for Antikyras' fame all over the ancient world. The city was famous for its black hellebore (helleborus niger), and for a drug elaborated from the base of white hellebore (veratrum album). Both species of hellebore are herbs which grew in the vicinity of Antikyra and were regarded as a cure for insanity. This circumstance gave rise to a number of proverbial expressions, like Αντικυρας σε δει or "naviget Anticyram," and to frequent allusions in the Greek and Latin writers. Hellebore was likewise considered beneficial in cases of gout and epilepsy.
Classical and Hellenistic periods
Antikyra was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon during the Third Sacred War, in 346 BC. It recovered however quickly its prosperity, as one can judge by the construction of an Artemis temple and the commissioning of the cult statue to the famous sculptor Praxiteles, already by 330 BC. Later Antikyra has been besieged and destroyed several times during the Roman-Macedonian conflict. In 198 BC was captured by Titus Quinctius Flamininus, who choose it as winter base for his army. During the 2nd century BC Antikyra struck autonomous bronze coins with the head of Poseidon on the obverse and Artemis bearing a torch and an arch on the reverse.
Pausanias, who visited the city during the third quarter of the 2nd century AD, gives a detailed account of it: a temple of Poseidon in the city with a bronze statue of the god in the familiar “Lateran type”, two gymnasia, one with a statue of the Olympic winner Xenodamos (winner in pangration during the delayed Olympic games of 67 AD, due to the participation of emperor Nero), an agora with many bronze statues, a sheltered well, the grave of Schedios and Epistrophos, and two temples of Artemis extra muros, one dedicated to Artemis Diktynna and the other (with the Praxiteles sculpture) to Artemis Eileithyia (according to a recently found inscription).
In early Byzantine period the city was a bishopric, and a large five-nave basilica with mosaic floor has been unearthed during the 1980s. It seems that major destruction of the city and its buildings occurred around 620 AD by a mighty earthquake. During the 14th century the city was a fortified port of the Catalans, named Port de Arago and probably belonging to the dominium of the county of Salona (mod. Amphissa).
The city was identified with the ancient Antikyra in 1806 by William Martin Leake, who found the first among the several known inscriptions mentioning its name. Latter investigations by Lolling, Dittenberger, Fossey, the 10th Archaeological Ephorate and the 1st Byzantine Ephorate brought to light several testimonies of Antikyra’s glorious past. Among the most noteworthy remains is an Archaic temple of Athena, in which a fine bronze late Archaic / Sever style statuette of the goddess has been found, a large part of the 4th century BC isodomic ashlar fortification walls of the city with two rectangular towers, and an early Christian bath with hypocaustum, as part of a large house.
Other cities of the same name
In Thessaly, on the right bank of the river Spercheus, near its mouth. It is called usually "Mallian Antikyra" after the Mallian gulf, on the shores of which it was located.
For a long time it was believed that a third Antikyra existed somewhere in Locris, on the north side of the entrance to the Corinthian gulf, near Naupactus. This view has been proven to be a misunderstanding of Titus Livius, who did not know the area.
- Iliad 2, 519
- Pausanias Χ 3.1, 36.5. Ptolemaeus, Geogr. Hyph. ΙΙ 184. 12. Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. «Aντίκυρα»
- Theophrastus, HP ΙΧ 10.2-4; Dioscorides, De materia medica IV 148-152, 162; Plinius, HN XXV 48-52
- Diodorus Siculus XVI 59-60; Pausanias Χ 3.1-3.
- Rizzo G.-E., Prassitele (Milan – Rome 1932), p. 13. Lacroix L., Les reproductions de statues sur les monnaies grecques (Liége 1949), pp. 309-310; Corso A., Prassitele. Fonti Εpigrafiche e letterarie. Vita et opere, vol. 1 (Roma 1988), pp. 182-184. Rolley C., La Sculpture Grecque 2, La période classique (Paris 1999), p. 244.
- Polybius XVIII 28, 45.7, XXVII 14, 16.6.
- Sideris 2001, pp.122-3.
- RE, s.v. “Diktynna”, col. 584-588. Dasios F., Antikyra, ADelt 52 (1997) , p. 450.
- Sideris 2001, pp. 114-120
- Lerat L., Les Locriens de l’Ouest I, (Paris 1952), pp. 54-59.
- Sideris Α., "Antikyra: An ancient Phokian City", Emvolimo 43–44 (Spring–Summer 2001), pp. 110–125 (in Greek)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.