Heraclea in Trachis

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Heraclea (Herakleia) in Trachis, also called Heraclea Trachinia, was a colony founded by the Spartans[1] in 426 BC, the sixth year of the Peloponnesian War.[2]

It was located on a rocky plateau above the left bank of the Asopos River, at the point where it leaves Mount Oeta for the plain of Lamia.[3] The object of this colony was to assist the Trachinians (a tribe of the Malians) in their struggle against the Oetaeans. Thucydides also tells us that the Spartans thought the town would "lie conveniently for the purposes of the war with Athens." From Heraclea the Spartans could ready a fleet to threaten Euboea, and the town would be "a useful station on the road to Thrace." Accordingly, the Spartans sent Leon, Alcidas, and Damagon to found the town, and invited any other Dorians that wished to come and settle.

However, soon after the town was founded, things began to go quite badly. The Thessalians, fearful that the new colony would grow powerful and begin to usurp their influence in the area, began to make continuous sorties upon the settlement. This, combined with the harsh and unjust rule of the Spartan governors, soon depleted the town of inhabitants, and discouraged others from joining.

Six years after its founding a battle took place between the inhabitants of Heraclea and the assembled forces of the Aenianes, Dolopes, Malians, and Thessalians who were directly menaced by the colony. The Heracleots were defeated, and the town so reduced that the Boeotians occupied it to prevent it falling into Athenian hands. However, Thucydides tells us that the Spartans were "nevertheless offended at the Boeotians for what they had done."[4]

The city is attested at least until the 6th century, when Procopius of Caesarea mentions it as part of Justinian I's efforts to fortify the nearby pass of Thermopylae. According to Procopius, a wall was erected across the valley of the Asopos, and the town was strengthened with an other wise unidentified fortress called Myropoles. Traces of Byzantine fortifications, as well as a cistern, survive on the site.[3] The town was apparently abandoned in the following decades. Some modern scholars have tried to identify it with the later medieval settlements of Ravennika or Siderokastron, but these identifications are generally rejected as incompatible with the literary evidence.[3]


  1. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Forgotten Books. p. 174. ISBN 1-60620-995-7. 
  2. ^ Speusippus (2004). Natoli, Anthony Francis, ed. The Letter of Speusippus to Philip II. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 88. ISBN 3-515-08396-0. 
  3. ^ a b c Koder, Johannes; Hild, Friedrich (1976). Tabula Imperii Byzantini, Band 1: Hellas und Thessalia (in German). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p. 172. ISBN 3-7001-0182-1. 
  4. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Forgotten Books. p. 282. ISBN 1-60620-995-7.