Province of Magnesia Prefecture in Thessaly
which is the archaic Achaia Fthiotida and Fthia
in archaic Greek mythology
Mythology is a mixture of factionary and real facts. In this mixture one can detect old memories of the inhabitants of a particular region con-cerning very old historical incidents that very often overlap with fiction.
Myths are a human spiritual need. The primitive man had to subdue myths within his own interpretative capability so as to be able to survive. He also had the feeling of being in familiar surroundings. Hadn’t he come up with satisfactory interpretation of what he saw around him, he wouldn’t have been able to go on undistracted with his daily chores. Without the help of a scientific explanation of any kind his only resort was the construction of myths.
This being a universal trait makes it obvious that all human beings mythecized in the initial stage of their spiritual development. Yet, the myths of different nations differ in charm and the elaboration of their plot.
Greek mythology surpasses all others in charm and naturalness. It’s widely acceptable as it is wonderfully and sensibly structured with char-acters well within the margins of human thought The real myths, that is the pure creatures of imagination and the real facts, historically confer-ment overlap in Greek mythology, they are so tightly interwoven thus mak-ing clear distinction between them intentionally hard. Homer’s, Hesiodus’ and the tragic poets contribution to this point is fundamental.
This wonderful mixture necessitates a very careful examination of mythology by historians as well as mythologists, so that they can make distinctions and extract each one of them what is of great significance of them.
Many times in the past through various myths the rulers of a particu-lar region tried to interpret and justify sovereign rights and also claim land that didn’t belong to them. Thus they invented or modified myths that served the purpose. For he same reasons they adopted appropriate myths of other regions. Therefore, besides the myths, which were locally invent-ed, there are spurious myths intentionally constructed.
This was only possible in powerful developed and rich countries. It couldn’t have occurred in insignificant regions. Thus, in those years when myths were taking shape the more underdeveloped a region was the purer their myths were. The myths of those regions were not inten-tionally constructed.
Although myth making was a basic need of the primitive man in Greece there are certain areas, which seem to lack myths of their own. This, however, should be attributed to the fact there was been no particu-lar interest in recording their myths due to their insignificance. But the myths from those regions that have been preserved are undoubtedly the purest of all.
One such region that seems to lack myths is Achaia Fthiotida. That was the name, in archaic years, of the region which today constitutes the province of Almyros of the Magnesia Prefecture. It is the geographical re-gion where the Othris mountain range prevails extending at its foot as far as the neighbouring Prefectures of Pthiotida, Karditsa and Larissa.
In this report we will try to detect and present the forgotten and seg-mental forms of the myths of that region.
The mythology of the Achaia Pthiotida region has a significant im-portance. That region had never had an important role in the Greek histo-ry, which means that in that region pure unconstructed myths can be de-tected. Moreover that region was the original birthplace of many Greek tribes as well as the starting of many others. This means that in the myths of the new countries of those tribe’s mythical elements of their birthplace, the Achaia Fthiotida, can be detected.
The first godly dynasty, the Titans that were worshipped before the Olympian gods had its throne in Othris, the only mountain nearby. The conflict that leads the popular religion from the infernal and chthonic di-vinities worship to the worship of a higher conception gods, the Olympi-ans, is known in mythology as the battle of the Titans. According to Hesi-odus’ «Theology», the Titans had their throne in Othris during the Battle of the Titans. From this mountain the Titans were fighting for ten years with the Olympian gods until the last ones finally prevailed. The cultural retorted Achaia Pthiotida was one of the last regions that was resisting as much as it could to the dominance of the «new» Olympian gods by wor-shipping the «former ones».
The Defkalion’s cataclysm. according to many testimonies of ancient Greek literature, took place in Thessaly. The ark in which Defkalion and Pyrra were, sat on Othris after the cataclysm. From all the other versions as to the place where the ark stopped after the cataclysm (Parnassos, Do-doni, Mount Athos etc.) the one of Othris seems to be the most authentic and ancient one in mythology. This is also confirmed by the most ancient testimony found, by Hellanikos. The other versions are just inventions in-spired by the will of the people to have in their region the honour of the beginning, after the cataclysm, of the new world. This way the roots of their sovereigns and their people would be ensured as old as possible in time.
There are many facts that support this theory. The names of Defkalion and Pyrra are mentioned very often in this region. The tomb of Hellin, the son of Defkalion and Pyrra, is reported to be also in that re-gion. According to many testimonies in ancient Greek literature, Defkalion was supposed to reign in that region. According to some mythological versions, Keramvos, the grand son of Poseidon, although he wasn’t in the ark, was rescued and lived in Othris. But the fact that Hellin, the son of Defkalion, or according to another mythological version the son of Zeus, after the cataclysm was married to Othriis, a nymph of Othris, is the greatest of our theory.
Aeolus, Doros and Xouthos were Hellin’s and Othriis’ children. Ion and Acheos were Xouthos’ children. The Hellenes (Greeks) took their name after Hellin. The descendants of Aeolus were named Aeolis. The descendants of Doros were named Doriis. The descendants of Ion were called Iones and the descendants of Acheos, Acxei. Aeolis, Doriis, Iones and Achei are the main four Hellenic tribes. These tribes were named af-ter the names of Hellin’s and Othriis children Cities all over Greece are named after the names of heroes who are their descendants. All those myths verify the above mentioned Theory.
Many cities, regions, rivers and mountains are named after a de-scendant of that genealogy that begun with Hellin and his wife, the nymph of Othris, Othriis. Othriis is the nymph, whose the obvious place of birth, which comes up from the etymological examination of this form of her name, fainted because another name came up which has the same root but is more remote etymologically. Orsiis. Orsiis, who is mentioned in other sources as the nymph – Hellin’s wife, is just another form of Othriis’ name. But even in the case we accept that this is another nymph’s name, even then the etymological examination of her name leads us in Orthris or Othris, the central mountain of Achaia Fthiotida, where the province of Almiros lies now.
The regions of Othris, Achaia Fthiotida and Fthia are the regions where, according to the existing myths, pro-olympic divinities and other divine shepherds lived and pastured their herds. They are in their majority primeval infernal and chthonic divinities that were worshipped in that re-gion, whose worship lived through the myths.
When god Apollo was punished from Zeus and was obliged to be the servant of a mortal, he was sent to the king of Feres, Admitos. His duty there was to pasture the herds of king Admitos and his «strong» wife Al-kistis. Arollo drove the herds to Amfrissos riversides in Othris’ foothill. This way the religious leaders helped the political leaders to stabilise and increase their leadership. Many celebrations were taking in Achaia Fthio-tida to honour Apollo.
The famous oxen of Iphiklos, the king of Philaki, also pastured on Othris. Everyone was envious of them and wanted to have them. But the King of Pylos, Nileas, wanted them very badly and he was also claiming that they belonged to him and he obstinately asserted them. Nileas had a beautiful daughter, Piro, who had many candidate spouses, so he took the chance to give her hand to the one who would bring to his daughter as a bridal gift the oxen of Iphiklos from Philaki to Pylos. So the augur Melabodas left Peloponnese and went to Philaki. After many adventures, with his magical abilities, he cured the impotent Iphiklos. As a reward to his action he asked and took the famous oxen. He drove them to Ilia and he offered them to his brother, Viantas, who was very ill by his love for Pi-ro. Viantas took the oxen to Nileas and so he married his beloved Piro.
Erisichthonas also pastured his herds on Othris. He was the son of the mythical King of Thessaly, Triopas. Erisichthonas needed wood to build a palace where he could live and eat with his friends. But it spite of the inhibition and the warnings, he cut out of the park, that was devoted to the goddess Dimitra, for that purpose the goddess’ holly tree. For his disrespect he was punished by the goddess not to be able to saturate never in his life. So after he spent all his fortune, he came to the point that he ate his own flesh.
Aristaeos, an ancient pro-olympic divine substance of Apollo. also pastured his herds on Othris. Aristaeos left Fthia, where he pastured the herds of Nymphs, and he went to Cyclades to relieve the inhabitants of the drought that overrun the islands. Aristaeos was a great and very an-cient pro-olympic divinity. But after the dominance all over Greece of the Olympian gods, the obligatory amalgamation led the people who wor-shipped him to mythesize and make him the son of his younger god Apol-lo
Alos in Achaia Fthiotida was built by Athamandas, in the place where «animals took him in», just as it was predicted by the Oracle, in which asking for its advice. Frixos and Elli started their journey to Kolchis from Alos with many others. This journey made by the prince of Alos is the first Hellenic nautic expedition to Asia Minor. coastline, long before Jason’s Argonautic expedition. The residents of Alos were the first Greeks who made ships with sails and so they were the first ones who travelled in the sea.
Many heroes from Achaia Fthiotida took part in Argonautic expedi-tion under Iason’s leadership. Aethalidis, who was born in the banks of the holly river, Amfrissos, was one of the best of them and Hermes’s fa-vourite son. Aethalidis had the gift to be able to live one day on Earth and one day in the Under World.
The Argonauts Echion and Evritos were also Hermes’ children and they came from the same region. Idmon the augur and also the grandfa-ther of the great augur Kalchas, was also born in the banks of the holly river Amfrissos and he was also one of the Argonauts. Another Argonaut from the same region was the king o Rhilaki, Iphiklos.
The participation of heroes and kings from Achaia Fthiotida in the Trojan War was also very significant. Protesilaos, Podarkis and Medon left Philaki to ask for the hand of Fair Helen. Bounded with their vows they travelled with their ships to Troy. So Philaki was the only city all over Greece, which deployed three leaders in the army that besieged Troy. The most famous hero of this war, Achilles, and after his death his son Neoptolemos, were from the same region as the heads of the Myrmidons, Phoenix, Patroklos and Philoktitis were also from the same region.
In Neoptolemos’ kingdom after the end of the Trojan War, the beau-tiful and proud princess Andromachi came as a prisoner of war. Ermioni, the daughter of Fair Hellen also came in the same palace and became the wife of the distinguished Neoptolemos
However there is another view which says that Andromachi, daugh-ter of king Ietion and wife of the Trojan hero Hector, for whom Homer re-ports that she was the Princess of Kilikia in Asia Minor, was just a prin-cess of the Alos neighbouring, Fthiotides Thebes. It was Andromachis’ grab one of the great achievements that followed Achilles’ reputation when he arrived in Troy. Homer heard this myth for the great Achilles and hymning his achievements in Troy felt that it was appropriate to put it among his other achievements by changing the places that the grabbing took place.
In Achaia Fthiotida there are many epigraphs, monuments and tes-timonies that speak about the cult of many gods in that region.
The sanctuary of Lafistios Zeus was one of the most famous ones. In that sanctuary sacrifices were taking place. The voracious pro-olympic god Lafistios needed humans as an exchange to send the divine rain to them. Frixos escaped from such a sacrifice and he took refuge in Kolchis on the «golden» rum. Nefeli, the goddess of the rain and the clouds was to be attenuated with his sacrifice. The Rum who rescued Frixos could have been his tutor or the treasurer of Athamas, who left with Frixos and the royal treasures. His children, however, came back later and claimed the throne of Alos. This same treasure, the «golden leather», was also asserted by Iason.
In the Lafistion sanctuary, which was also the deanery, the «Liiton», of the city of Alos, a very strange habit dominated. The entry of the Atha-mantindes was forbidden. If they were caught trying to enter in the sanc-tuary they were to be Killed. But in spite of the forbiddance the Athaman-tindes were trying to enter in the sanctuary. They just wanted to take back in their hands the power by ensuring the gods’ favour. When Xerxes heard all these habits, maybe out of respect or out of fear for the revenge of the cruel god Lafistios, ordered his army to stay away from the sanctu-ary.
Very well known all over Thessaly was also the sanctuary of Itonia Athena. Itonia used to be a very respected pro-olympic divinity who was worshipped earlier in that region. But after the dominance of the «new» gods, the ones who had their palaces on Mount Olympus, the order known and dear gods should be put aside. So the inhabitants who had no other choice created Itonia Athena, by amalgamating their goddess, Itonia, with the new goddess, Athena, and this way they could compro-mise what their hearts wanted with what was necessary.
Other sanctuaries which were very well Known in the region, were the sanctuary of Panachaea Artemis in the city of Alos and the Protesilaio in which the nude athletic games were taking place to honour the god. The Dimitrion sanctuary was also very respected by all the residents of the region.
Honoured and respected sanctuaries by the inhabitants were those of Poliada Athena in Fthiotides Thebes, the Lochia Artemis, the Mega-lartos Dimitra, the Saviour Zeus, the Thavlios Zeus, the Gadinos Apollo, the Ichnaea Themis, the sanctuary of Asclipios and many others.
There also many testimonies for the worship of Dimitra, Persephoni, Artemis, Athena, Ino, Lefkathea, Themis, Enodia, Ekati, Enyo, Aphrodite, Hermes, Arollo, Zeus, Poseidon, Aristaeos, Dioskouri, Asclipios and many other minor gods and demigods such as Fagros, Palaemon, Dionysus, Otos and many other pro-olympic divinities.
The same region was the place of Nymphs’ cult in their pro-olympic divine substance, since they were believed to be the wives of the first gods, the Titans. The wonderful Nymfaeon sanctuary, which was lately traced on Tragovouni, is a very significant evidence. The Nymfaeon is right next to the inactive volcano «Hyperion», which carries the name of a well known Titan. All the surrounding area is called «Krounia» or «Kro-nia: name that leads our minds to the name of the Titans leader, Kronos (Saturn). This is a proof that support our point of view that the inhabitants of the region mythesized a lot about the pro-olympic divinities, which are now forgotten.
In that region where we see very strong features of a folkish form of cult and devoutness, the significant part that the worship of the Nymphs had is testified by the existence of many names of Nymphs in the myths of the region, such as Antianira, Arni, Idothea, Eupolemia, Diopatri, Iphimedia, Kirini, Laothoi, Lefkothea, Melia, Meliti, Melanippi, Othriis, Orsi-is, Polydora, Polymnia, Hyperia, Pherea, Fthia.
However, the thought that, even now, in current fables of this re-gion, we could detect small gleams of these myths, is a very exciting chal-lenge for research.