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Not to be confused with Graeae.
Map of ancient Boeotia,indicating the city Tanagra,which could be the place of Graia

Graea or Graia (Greek: Γραῖα Graîa) is a region, or a city of ancient Greece that is placed under Boeotia in Homer's Catalogue of Ships; it seems to have included the city of Oropos, though by the fifth century BC it was probably a kome (district) of that city.[1] According to Pausanias the name was a shortcut of the original name Tanagraia, who was daughter of Asopos. Graia was a greater area including Avlida, Mycalissos, Arma etc.[2] It is also described by some sources as a city; Fossey argues for its identification with the hill of Dhrámesi 8 km from Tanagra,[3] while others suggest it is identical with Oropos itself. [4] It may have been the source of the word "Greek"; the classicist Robin Lane Fox writes:

If men from Oropos-Graia were among the early Greek visitors to Capua or Veii and even early Rome, we can better understand an age-old puzzle: why Greeks were called "Greeks" in the Latin West. Such people told their first contacts in the Latin region that they were "Graikoi," that is, people from Graia. They were thus called "Graeci" by the people whom they met.[5]

There are various etymologies of the name. The most common is the connection with γραῖα graia "old woman", derived from the PIE root *ǵerh2-/*ǵreh2-, "to grow old" via Proto-Greek *gera-/grau-iu;[6] the same root later gave γέρας geras (/keras/), "gift of honour" in Mycenean Greek.[7]

Another possibility is the relation with a word for "gray". Graikos (Γραικός) may be interpreted "inhabitant of Graia". Aristotle uses Graikos as equivalent to Hellenes, and believes that it was the name originally used by Illyrians for the Dorians in Epirus.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ G. S. Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary: Volume 1, Books 1-4. Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-521-28171-7, p. 191.
  2. ^ Pausanias: Boeotica 20–24
  3. ^ John M. Fossey, "The Identification of Graia," Euphrosyne 4 (1970), pp. 3–22.
  4. ^ Simon Hornblower and Elaine Matthews, Greek Personal Names: Their Value as Evidence. Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-726216-3, p. 95; similarly Maria Stamatopoulou and Marina Yeroulanou, Excavating Classical Culture: Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Greece. Archaeopress, 2002, ISBN 1-84171-411-9, p. 151.
  5. ^ Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer. Random House, 2009: ISBN 0-679-44431-9, p. 61; see also John Nicolas Coldstream, Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC. Routledge, 2003, ISBN 0-415-29899-7, p. 403 (note 7).
  6. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 285.
  7. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 267.
  8. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary.
  9. ^ Aristotle, Meteorologica I.xiv