Kirra (Greek: Κίρρα) is a village in Phocis, central Greece. It is part of the municipal unit of Itea. It is also sometimes called Adrastea. Kirra is part of a Trifecta starting in the north with Delphi, descending south to the Gulf of Corinth to Itea, which is the main city on the water in that area, and then down the coast a few miles to Kirra.
In ancient times Kirra existed as a heavily fortified city that controlled access to Delphi from the Corinthian Gulf. This strategic location of Kirra allowed its citizens to rob pilgrims on their way to the Delphic Oracle, and to collect taxes and annex sacred lands from Delphi. This behavior prompted many of the other polei to form the Amphictionic League, a military alliance dedicated to protecting Delphi, c. 600 BC. The League consulted the oracle for advise on dealing with Kirra, and the reply was a call for total war. The members of the League vowed to completely destroy Kirra and ravage the surrounding areas. To this they added a curse in the name of Apollo: that the soil should bring forth no crops, that the children of the women and livestock should be deformed, and that the entire ethnic group that inhabited the city should be eradicated. The ensuing war lasted for ten years (595 BC-585 BC) and became known as the First Sacred War.
The leader of the attack was the Tyrant Cleisthenes of Sicyon, who used his powerful navy to blockade the city's port before using an allied Amphictionic army to besiege Kirra. What transpired after this is a matter of debate. The earliest, and therefore probably most reliable, account is that of the medical writer Thessalos, who in the 5th century BC wrote that the attackers discovered a secret water pipe leading into the city after it was broken by a horse's hoof. An asclepiad named Nebros advised the allies to poison the water with hellebore. The hellebore soon rendered the defenders so weak with diarrhea that they were unable to continue resisting the assault. Kirra was captured and the entire population was slaughtered. Nebros was an ancestor of Hippocrates of Kos, so this story has caused many to wonder whether it might not have been guilt over his ancestor's use of poison that drove Hippocrates to establish the Hippocratic Oath.
Later historians told different stories. According to Frontinus (Strat. III.7.6) who wrote in the 1st century AD, after discovering the pipe, the Amphictionic cut it, leading to great thirst within the city. After a while, they restored the pipe, allowing water to flow into the city. The desperate Kirrans immediately began drinking the water, unaware that Kleisthenes had poisoned it with hellebore. According to Polyaenus, a writer of the 2nd century AD, after the pipe was discovered, the attackers added the hellebore to the spring from which the water came, without ever actually depriving the Kirrans of water. Polyaenus also gave credit for the strategy not to Kleisthenes but to general Eurylochos, who he claimed advised his allies to gather a large amount of hellebore from Anticyra, where it was abundant. The stories of Frontinus and Polyaenus both have the same result as Thessalos's tale: the defeat of Kirra.
The last major historian to advance a new story of the siege was Pausanias, who was active in the 3rd century AD. In his version of events Solon of Athens diverted the course of the River Pleistos so that it didn't run through Kirra. Solon had hoped to thus defeat the Kirrans by thirst, but the enemy were able to get enough water from their wells and rainwater collection. Solon then added a great quantity of hellebore to the water of the Pleistos and let it flow into Kirra. The poisoning then allowed the allies to destroy the city.
Kirra is down the road from Delphi, it is a beach community, used to be very much a pirate village in the past, with townsfolk ripping off people headed for Delphi, who had to come ashore around Kirra. This gave the town a not-to-popular image. But that was long ago, now it has some nice beaches and is quite popular in the April thru September summer time months. Has the usual hotel buildup and the beaches are soft and sandy, with a treeline set back from the beach 50 metres.
- On the popular TV series Xena: Warrior Princess, the character Callisto was born in this city and Xena's army burned it when Callisto was a small girl killing her family, giving her the reason to be Xena's worst enemy.
- Cirrha (Kirra) was a nymph from whom the town of Cirrha in Phocis was believed to have derived its name.
- Kirra is another name for the nymph Adrasteia. At Cirrha, the port that served Delphi, Pausanias noted "a temple of Apollo, Artemis and Leto, with very large images of Attica workmanship. Adrasteia has been set up by the Cirrhaeans in the same place, but she is not so large as the other images. She was sometimes called Nemesis_(mythology), probably meaning "one from whom there is no escape"; her epithet Erinys ("implacable") is specially applied to Demeter and the Phrygian mother goddess, Cybele.
- The village of Kirra is featured in the 2013 PlayStation 3 game, God of War: Ascension.
- Mayor, Andrienne. Greek fire, poison arrows, and scorpion bombs: Biological and chemical warfare in the ancient world. The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., 2003. ISBN 1-58567-348-X. pages 100–101
- We should here note that a 'tyrant' was simply an aristocrat who gained absolute power by gaining the support of the people. The word did not necessarily mean a despot.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.37.8.
- Travel Information at PlanetWare
- Travel information at Greek Travel Pages
- Encyclopedic information at Greek Travel Pages
- Around Greece - Parnassos