Phocis (ancient region)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2010)|
|The ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Delphi|
|Major cities:||Delphi, Elatea|
|Key periods:||Third Sacred War
|Map showing location of ancient Phocis|
Phocis was an ancient region in the central part of Ancient Greece, which included Delphi. A modern administrative unit, also called Phocis is named after the ancient region, although the modern region is substantially larger than the ancient one.
Ancient Phocis was about 1,619 km² (625 mi²) in area, bounded on the west by Ozolian Locris and Doris, on the north by Opuntian Locris, on the east by Boeotia, and on the south by the Gulf of Corinth. The massive ridge of Parnassus (2,459 m/8,068 ft), which traverses the heart of the country, divides it into two distinct portions.
Being neither rich in material resources nor well placed for commercial enterprise, Phocis was mainly pastoral. No large cities grew up within its territory, and its chief places, such as Delphi and Elatea, were mainly of strategic or cultural importance.
The early history of Phocis remains quite obscure. During the Persian invasion of 480 BC the Phocians at first joined in the national defence, but, by their irresolute conduct at the Battle of Thermopylae lost that position for the Greeks; at the Battle of Plataea they were enrolled on the Persian side. In 457 BC an attempt to extend their influence to the headwaters of the Cephissus in the territory of Doris brought a Spartan army into Phocis in defence of the "metropolis of the Dorians". A similar enterprise against Delphi in 448 BC was again frustrated by Sparta, but not long afterwards the Phocians recaptured the sanctuary with the help of the Athenians, with whom they had entered into alliance in 454 BC. The subsequent decline of Athenian land power had the effect of weakening this new connection; at the time of the Peloponnesian War Phocis was nominally an ally and dependent of Sparta, and had lost control of Delphi.
In the 4th century BC Phocis was constantly endangered by its Boeotian neighbours. After helping the Spartans to invade Boeotia during the Corinthian War (395–94 BC), the Phocians were placed on the defensive. They received assistance from Sparta in 380 BC, but were afterwards compelled to submit to the growing power of Thebes. The Phocian levy took part in the inroads of Epaminondas into Peloponnesus, except in the final campaign of Mantinea (370–362 BC), from which their contingent was withheld. In return for this negligence the Thebans fastened a religious quarrel upon their neighbours, and secured a penal decree against them from the Amphictyonic synod (356 BC). The Phocians participated in two important battles: the Battle of Crocus Field and the Battle of Thermopylae (353 BC). The Phocians, led by two capable generals, Philomelus and Onomarchus, replied by seizing Delphi and using its riches to hire a mercenary army. With the help of these troops the Phocian League at first carried the war into Boeotia and Thessaly, and though driven out of the latter country by Philip of Macedon, maintained itself for ten years, until the exhaustion of the temple treasures and the treachery of its leaders placed it at Philip's mercy. The conditions which he imposed – the obligation to restore the temple funds, and the dispersion of the population into open villages – were soon disregarded. In 339 BC the Phocians began to rebuild their cities; in the following year they fought against Philip at Chaeronea. Again in 323 BC they took part in the Lamian War against Antipater, and in 279 BC helped to defend Thermopylae against the Gauls.
Henceforth little more is heard of Phocis. During the 3rd century BC it passed into the power of Macedonia and of the Aetolian League, to which in 196 BC it was definitely annexed. Under the dominion of the Roman republic its national league was dissolved, but was revived by Augustus, who also restored to Phocis the votes in the Delphic Amphictyony which it had lost in 346 BC and enrolled it in the new Achaean synod. The Phocian League is last heard of under Trajan.