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Τρίτη, 8 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Ancient Poliochni, Kaviria, Hephaestia

Poliochni (Greek: Πολιόχνη) is a ancient settlement in the Greek island of Lemnos near to Livadochori village and is thought to be the oldest Neolithic city on Europe!
There is a rectangular building with a double row of stepped seats on the long sides, at the southwest side of the hill of Poliochni. It dates back to prehistoric times (Early Bronze Age), around 3000 and 2100 BC. It was presumably used as a kind of "Vouleuterion". According to italian archaeologists, who were in charge of the excavations in the area, the "Vouleuterion" at Poliochni served as a meeting-place for the "notables", the representatives of the families of the settlement. They got together to work on the problems of this early community. According to the archaeologists mentioned above, the "Vouleuterion" of Poliochni represents theearliest evidence of Democracy on european ground!

According to mythological accounts, Lemnos was said to have been inhabited and reined over by Amazon-like female warriors. Legend tells that when Jason and hisArgonauts made a stopover at Lemnos on their way to Colchis in pursuit of the Golden Fleece, they received a warm welcome from the ladies and their queenHypsipyle. This myth is regarded as pointing to the matriarchal character of society then prevalent on the island.

The settlement of Poliochni was built in the Final Neolithic period (4th millenium BC) on a low hill of the eastern coast of Lemnos, in the cove of the protected bay of Vroskopos. The location of the settlement in the vast breadbasket of the island brought about the development of the agrarian economy and the ensuring of surplus which could cover the nutritional needs of several hundreds of inhabitants. Furthermore, the location of Poliochni in one of the most safe anchorages of sea trade routes from and to the Black Sea and opposite Troas quickly resulted in its excessive economic development and its evolution into one of the earliest and most significant early urban centres of the Early Bronze Age (3rd millenium BC) in the Aegean which competed with the powerful settlements of the neighbouring coast of Asia Minor, Troy and Liman Tepe (Klazomenai).

Seven building phases are distinguished in the architectural remains of Poliochni. These verify the habitation of the settlement from the Final Neolithic until the Late Bronze Age. The so-called Poliochni Black belongs to the Final Neolithic. The Poliochni Blue, Green, Red and Yellow periods belong to the Early Bronze Age (3000-2300 BC), Poliochni Brown covers the Middle Bronze Age while Poliochni Violet corresponds to part of the Late Bronze Age. There are two gaps in occupation: one at the end of the Early and one during Late Bronze Age.

The settlement of the Early Bronze Age was gradually extended on an area of 13.500-15.000 square metres. It was comprised of entirely stone-built buildings with rectangular or irregular rooms and yards, organized in building insulae of various sizes. The basic building unit was the long and narrow rectangular tripartite building (megaroid), on the long sides of which one or two rows of narrow supplementary rooms were attached, these being mainly storerooms or workshops. A central road, parallel to the shoreline, runs the settlement from south to north and is crossed vertically by smaller roads, thus ensuring communication with the most isolated insulae. This is the earliest known example of the "linear" building system in the Aegean and the Balkans which is later applied in Thermi V on Lesbos and Troy IIg. Poliochni is fortified from the Blue period with a monumental fortification wall, built of rectangular or polygonal building blocks which is preserved 4,5 high. The stone wall is constantly extended until the Yellow period toward the side of the land and it includes gates reinforced with rectangular or trapezoid towers. The objective of these works is protection against sudden flooding of the stream that flows in the south part of the settlement and the defense of the communal goods from probable external claims.

The exemplary town planning of the settlement -which offered shelter to at least 1500 inhabitants during the last phase-, the existence of a fortification wall, the functional roads, the two squares with public wells, the extensive sewage system under the carefully paved streets, the squares and courts, all give the picture of a well-organized town, already from the beginning of the 3rd millenium BC, which is rightfully determined as the first town of Europe. The coordination and realization of works of public interest, such as the fortification system, the roads, the wells, suggest the existence of a coordinating body as well as the consent and participation of all the inhabitants in matters of public interest. The "Communal storehouse", which is known as "Granary", and the oldest in Europe "Communal assembly room", known as "Vouleuterion" around the south gate of the wall, as well as the monumental megaron 317 dominating over the north and largest square of the settlement, constitute irrefutable evidence of the political organization of Poliochni in the beginning of the 3rd millenium BC.

The economic organization and social composition of the community is traced, not only in the architecture, but also in the quantity and the distribution of the finds in the different architectural periods. All the families without exception contributed to the agrarian economy. Textile manufacture, the products of which were exchangeable commercial goods, was an activity of most households.

Metalworking was a specialized activity which however did not constitute the monopole of one family. The acquirement of the indispensable raw materials and the promotion of bronze, either as a raw material or as in the form of end products gave an impetus to the commercial contacts with Troy and particularly the Cyclades and mainland Greece. At this point we should underline the role of Poliochni in marine trade and its contribution to the diffusion of bronze metalworking in the central and south Aegean. The diffusion of this know-how and of the pottery types of the northeastern Aegean are likely to have resulted from population movement from the islands of the north Aegean to the south during the phase Lefkandi I-Kastri.

The intensive practice of trade effected the concentration of wealth in the hands of skilled workers and merchants already from the 3rd millenium. This is expressed by the presence of marble vases and bone tubes (chromatothikes) from the Cyclades, Cycladic and mainland pottery but also by the treasuring up of bronze tools and weapons (treasure of Red Poliochni) and gold jewellery (Yellow Poliochni), similar to those of the so-called "Prian's treasure" which were found in Troy IIg. The economic prosperity of Poliochni was interrupted in the Red period by an unexpected strong earthquake which made the inhabitants abandon the town.

The Kavirian Mysteries

The temple of Kaviria on Lemnos is situated three kilometers from the archaeological site of Hephaestia, just opposite to Tigani Bay. It is an ancient sanctuary dedicated to the gods Kaviri, mythical god of northern Aegean with mystic ceremonies.

The religious ceremonies performed to honour theKavirians, were called “Kavirian Mysteries” (KavirianSacraments). They took place in the holy sanctuary of the Kavirians, which was built on the cape of Chloe, opposite Hephaestia in Limnos. During the Hellenistic period the Kavirian worship was spread internationally and people from all over the world thronged in its worship centers, as in Lemnos, Samothrace and in Thebes. In opposition to the Eleusinian mysteries the initiation was free for men women and children of all nationalities, free or slaves. The initiation would begin, when the group or a person decided to show themselves before the gods, not just during the festival season. It was something similar to the Christian baptism. The public ceremonies were almost the same with those of the other sanctuaries. They included animal sacrifices, libations, prayers and dedications.

The most important event was the celebration of porfiria, where they revived the discovery of fire, which happened in Lemnos according to tradition. The metalworker guilds played an important role. They would go up the Mount Mosichlo where they would light the clean and pure flame with a forge, a bronze reflector they would hold opposite the sun, something like today’s lighting of the Olympic Flame. After 175 BC, when Lemnos became a part of the Delian league, the new light was taken from the holy sanctuary of Delos. For nine days they would put out all the fires in the island and they’d send a ship to Delos to bring the new light. During the wait, the inhabitants would invoke the chthonic gods until the ship arrived and Hephaestus was triumphed.

The archeological excavations made by the Italian Archeological School, brought to light the Sanctuary of the Kavirians, which was active from the 8th century BC until late antiquity. The buildings outside the walls of theSanctuary of Hephaestia are built on two small terraces, created on the side of the low hill, which descend steeply to the sea, creating cape Chloe. From the side of the land, the enclosure of the Sanctuary runs across the ridge, while from the side of the sea the Sanctuary is protected by strong embankments. In the southern plateau, there was recently discovered a Telesterion of archaic times. It is a building with an irregular rectangular floor plan with a circular protrusion, like some kind of an altar. The shape of the building and the findings consolidate the theory that this is the earliest phase of the Telesterion, built possibly in the beginning of the 7th century BC and destroyed on the second half of the same century. The north plateau is occupied by the Telesterion of the Hellenistic era. This is a prostyle building with twelve Doric columns, with no open space in front of its entrance. The Telesterion, dating around 200 BC, was looted and burned during the Roman Empire time, between the 2nd and the 3rd century AD, when the area was abandoned and it was used as a large “quarry” for the construction of the subsequent buildings. The after-roman Telesterion (the so-called Basilica), found in the north plateau, is founded on the archaic one. Its configuration shows an attempt to repeat, in general terms but smaller dimensions, the layout of the old damaged Hellenistic building. Its ruins represent the last period of existence of the temple and witness the long survival of the Kavirian worship in Lemnos.

There is no evidence of this worship being replaced by the Christian. Maybe the destruction of the building and the final ending of the temple were due to the destructive obsession of the first Christians at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century BC. Ruins of residential buildings are preserved from this period.

Hephaestia  Ancient Theater Hephaestia
Ifestia theatre

Galen, during his transition to Lemnos, expressed his admiration for it, because in this island there was not only one city, which was the case in the rest areas of the Aegean Sea, but it had two. More specifically there was Myrina in the west and Hephaestia in the east. One of the most famous epithets of Lemnos is “Dipolis”, the island with the two powerful cities during the time of the Athenian domination, Myrina and Hephaestia.

Hephaestia was the capital of the Pelasgians, in thenorth-east side of the island, near today’s village Kontopouli. Its life lasted from 1000 BC until 1200 AD, while it flourished especially during the 5th and 4th century BC. There are ancient ruins of a complex city in an area of almost 10 layers, which included splendid buildings, palaces, baths, Christian churches, an Hellenistic-Roman theatre and an 8th to 6th century BC Sanctuary, dedicated to the Great Goddess Lemnos, who is identified to Goddess Artemis. In the continuous rooms of the Sanctuary, remarkable works of art have been discovered, like an entire line of stoneware statues depicting Sirens and sphinxes. The Necropolis of Hephaestia and findings were discovered at the south-west of the city, and next to it three cemeteries of subsequent times.

Hephaestia was set on fire by the Persians in 511 BC but it was built again by the Athenians, it gained strong walls and it maintained its role as the capital or co-capital of the island until the Middle Ages. It was the economic centre of the island until the 11th century AD, when its harbor was gradually embanked and the establishment of the Venetians in neighboring Kotzino begun.

Αρχαίο Θέατρο Ηφαιστείας - Ancient Theater Hephaestia
Αρχαίο Θέατρο Ηφαιστία - Ancient Theater Hephaestia

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