Taenarum

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Tae´narum (Ταίναρον, Herod. Strab. et alii; ἡ Ταιναρία ἄκρα, Ptol. 3.16.9), a promontory at the extremity of Laconia, and the most southerly point of Europe, now called C. Matapán. The name of Taenarum, however, was not confined to the extreme point bearing the name of Matapán. It has been shown by Leake that it was the name given to the peninsula of circular form about seven miles in circumference, which is connected with the end of the great Taÿgetic promontory by an isthmus about half a mile wide in a direct distance. Hence Taenarum is correctly described by Strabo as an ἀκτὴ ἐκκειμένη (viii. p. 363). Leake conjectures with great probability that Matapán is merely another form of Μέτωπον, which may bave been the name given by the ancients to the southern extremity of the peninsula. (Morea, vol. i. p. 301.) On either side of the isthmus, which connects the promontory of Taenarum with that of Taÿgetus, is a bay, of which the one on the east is called Porto Quaglio, corrupted into Kaio, and the one on the west Marinári or Marmári. The name of Quaglio was given to the eastern bay by the Venetians, because it was the last place in Europe at which the quails rested in the autumn before crossing over to Crete and Cyrene. Porto Quaglio is one of the best harbours in Laconia, being sheltered from the S. and SE.; it is nearly circular, with a narrow entrance, a fine sandy bottom, and depth of water for large ships. Porto Marmári is described as only a dangerous creek. In the Taenarian peninsula there are also two ports on its eastern side, of which the northern, called Vathý, is a long narrow inlet of the sea, while the southern, called Asómato or Kistérnes, is very small and ill sheltered. A quarter of a mile southward of the inner extremity of the last-mentioned port, a low point of rock projects into the sea from the foot of the mountain, which, according to the inhabitants of the peninsula, is the real C. Matapán. The western side of the peninsula is rocky and harbourless.

The whole of the Taenarian peninsula was sacred to Poseidon, who appears to have succeeded to the place of Helios, the more ancient god of the locality. (Hom Hymn. in Apoll. 411.) At the extremity of this peninsula was the temple of Poseidon, with an asylum, which enjoyed great celebrity down to a late period. It seems to have been an ancient Achaean sanctuary before the Dorian conquest, and to have continued to be the chief sacred place of the Perioeci and Helots. The great earthquake, which reduced Sparta to a heap of ruins in B.C. 464, was supposed to have been owing to the Lacedaemonians having torn away some suppliant Helots from this sanctuary. (Thuc. 1.128, 133; Paus. 3.25.4; Strab. viii. p. 363; Eur. Cycl. 292.) Near the sanctuary was a cavern, through which Hercules is said to have dragged Cerberus to the upper regions. (Paus. Strab. ll. cc.; Pind. P. 4.77; Taenariae fauces, Verg. G. 4.467; [p. 2.1084]Taenarus aperta umbris, Lucan 9.36.) There is a slight difference between Strabo and Pausanias in the position of the cave; the former placing it near the temple, which agrees with present appearances (see below); the latter describing the cave itself as the temple, before which stood a statue of Poseidon. Among the many dedicatory offerings to Poseidon the most celebrated was the brazen statue of Arion seated on a dolphin, which was still extant in the time of Pausanias. (Hdt. 1.23, 24.) The temple was plundered for the first time by the Aetolians. (Plb. 9.34.)

Taenarum is said to have taken its name from Taenarus, a son either of Zeus or Icarius or Elatus. (Paus. 3.14.2; Steph. B. sub voce Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 1.102.) Bochart derives the word from the Phoenician tinar “rupes” (Geograph. Sacra, p. 459); and it is not improbable that the Phoenicians may have had a settlement on the promontory at an early period.

Pausanias (3.25.4) mentions two harbours in connection with the Taenarian promontory, called respectively PSAMATHUS (Ψαμαθοῦς) and the HARBOUR OF ACHILLES (ὁ λιμὴν Ἀχίλλειος). ἄμαθος cf. ἄμμος. sandy soil, opp. to sea-sand (ψάμαθος),

Scylax (p. 17) also mentions these two harbours, and describes them as situated back to back (ἀντίπυλος). Strabo (viii. p. 373) speaks of the former of these two harbours under the name of AMATHUS (Ἀμαθοῦς), but omits to mention the Harbour of Achilles. It would appear that these two harbours are the Porto Quaglio and the port of Vathý mentioned above, as these are the two most important in the peninsula. Leake identifies Psamathus with Quaglio, and the Harbour of Achilles with Vathý, but the French Commission reverse these positions. However, the ancient remains above the Porto Quaglio, the monastery on the heights, and the cultivated slopes and levels, show that the Taenarian population has in all ages been chiefly collected here. Moreover, no ancient writers speak of a town in connection with the Harbour of Achilles, while Strabo and others describe Amathus or Psamathus as a πόλις. (Steph. B. sub voce Ψαμαθοῦς; cf. Aeschin. Ep. 1; Plin. Nat. 4.5. s. 8.) If we were to take the description of Scylax literally, Psamathus would be Porto Quaglio, and the Harbour of Achilles Porto Marmári; and accordingly, they are so identified by Curtius.

The remains of the celebrated temple of Poseidon still exist at Asómato, or Kistérnes, close to C. Matapán on the eastern side. They now form part of a ruined church; and the ancient Hellenic wall may be traced on one side of the church. Leake observes that the church, instead of facing to the east, as Greek churches usually do, faces southeastward, towards the head of the port, which is likely to have been the aspect of the temple. No remains of columns have been found. A few paces north-east of the church is a large grotto in the rock, which appears to be the cave through which Hercules was supposed to have dragged Cerberus; but there is no appearance of any subterranean descent, as had been already remarked by Pausanias. In the neighbourhood there are several ancient cisterns and other remains of antiquity.

There were celebrated marble quarries in the Taenarian peninsula. (Strab. viii. p. 367.) Pliny describes the Taenarian marble as black (36.18. s. 29, 22. s. 43); but Sextus Empiricus (Pyrrh. Hypot. 1.130) speaks of a species that was white when broken to pieces, though it appeared yellow in the mass. Leake inquired in vain for these quarries.

At the distance of 40 stadia, or 5 English miles, north of the isthmus of the Taenarian peninsula, was the town TAENARUM or TAENARuS, subsequently called CAENEPOLIS (Καινήπολις, Paus. 3.25.9; Καινή, Ptol. 3.16.9; Plin. Nat. 4.15. s. 16; Steph. B. sub voce Ταίναρος; the same town is probably mentioned by Strab. viii. p. 360, under the corrupt form Κιναίδιον.) It contained a temple of Demeter and another of Aphrodite, the latter near the sea. The modern village of Kypárisso stands on the site of this town. Some ancient remains and inscriptions of the time of the Antonines and their successors have been found here. On the door-posts of a small ruined church are two inscribed quadrangular στῆλαι, decorated with mouldings above and below. One of the inscriptions is a decree of the Taenarii, and the other is by the community of the Eleuthero-Lacones (τὸ κοινὸν τῶν Ἐλευθερολακώνων). We have the testimony of Pausanias (3.21.7) that Caenepolis was one of the Eleuthero-Laconian cities; and it would appear from the above-mentioned inscription that the maritime Laconians, when they were delivered from the Spartan yoke, formed a confederation and founded as their capital a city in the neighbourhood of the revered sanctuary of Poseidon. The place was called the New Town (Caenepolis); but, as we learn from the inscriptions, it continued to be also called by its ancient name. For the inscriptions relating to Taenarum, see Böckh, Inscr. no. 1315–1317, 1321, 1322, 1389, 1393, 1483. (On the topography of the Taenarian peninsula, see Leake, Morea, vol. i. p 290, seq., Peloponnesiaca, p. 175, seq.; Boblaye, Recherches, &c., p. 89, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 277, seq.)