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Culture History Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Xanthi Municipality of Avdera

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Folklore -Customs
Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
Municipality of Avdera
Municipality of Alexandroupolis
Municipality of Vistonida
Municipality of Drama
Municipality of Thasos
Municipality of Iasmos
Municipality of Kavala
Municipality of Komotini
Municipality of Maronia
Municipality of Xanthi
Municipality of Samothraki
Municipality of Stavroupolis
Prefecture of Drama
Prefecture of Evros
Prefecture of Kavala
Prefecture of Xanthi
Prefecture of Rodopi
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Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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Abdera was one of the most powerful city-states in Thrace. In the mid- 7th century BC, Ionian colonists from Clazomenae, a city in Asia Minor, built it at the location of Bouloustra cape, between the estuary of Nestos river and Porto Lagos. About a hundred years later, in 545 BC, a new group of numerous colonists from Teos, another city in Asia Minor, joined the existing population. Greek mythology attributes the foundation of the city to Hercules who built it to honour his companion Abderus, after the latter was devoured by the man-eating horses of Diomides, king of the Thracian tribe of Bistonians.

The ancient sources and the archaeological research provide information on the history of Abdera. The privileged location of the city together with the rich fertile areas and the two harbours made Abdera one of the most flourishing cities in the northern Aegean. During the Persian wars, the presence of Persians in the area, already accountable by 512 BC, was intense and decisive for the city’s future. After the Persian wars, Abdera enjoyed a long period of peace and great economical and cultural prosperity. According to the excavation finds, Abdera developed in an important commercial and cultural centre in the area. The city became member of the First Athenian League, paying especially high taxes. It also maintained strong ties with the independent Thracian kingdom of Odrisoi. Later on, the city participated in the Second Athenian League and remained under the power of the Athenians until the mid- 4h century BC. During this period a new urban complex was constructed in the Hippodamian system, further south than the already existing settlement, and contained well-built walls, acropolis, two harbours and workshops.

During this time, Phillip II expanded his dominance over the city of Abdera as well as over other coastal Thracian cities. After Alexander the Great died, the kingdom was divided and as a result, the city experienced the successive domination of Macedonians, Seleucids and Ptolemies. Conflicts between Macedonians and Romans occurred constantly in the late 3rd and early 2nd centuries. When the Romans prevailed, they took rule over Macedonia and Thrace in 167 BC. Abdera maintained the condition of a “free city”; yet, the time of prosperity had already disappeared. The city became less important and its walls were demolished. During the Byzantine times, the city dwindled to the walled acropolis of Abdera, which was renamed Polystylon, while the surrounding area was converted into a cemetery.

The council and the deme constituted the highest bodies of power in the democracy of Abdera. The priest of the city’s patron god (Apollo) was also the head ruler, or eponym. Other high rank rulers were the Timouchi and later on the Nomophylaxes (first half of the 2nd century BC)

The griffin was the emblem of the city and Apollo the patron god. According to philological and inscriptional sources, other deities were also worshiped like Dionysus, Aphrodite, Athena, Demeter, as well as heroes such as Hercules, Abderus and Jason. The most famous festivals celebrated in the city were Dionysia (the most significant) and Thesmophoria, a three-day women’s festival in honour of the goddess Demeter.

Important testimony on the social organization as well as the public and private life of the Abderites has been found. Agriculture, farming, fishery, trade and handicraft activities seem to have been their main occupations. The existence of the royal mint, where coins of Alexander the Great were cut, bear witness to the great mercantile activity of the city. From the last decades of the 6th century, the coins of Abdera depict the griffin on the obverse (emblem of the city) and a great variety of symbols on the reverse. All coins bear the national origin of the “ABDERITES”, and the name of whoever ruler was responsible for minting. The discovery of big silver octadrachma and tetradrachma from Abdera in remote areas such as Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia confirms the existence of an expanded and dynamic mercantile activity.
The prosperous city of Abdera was significantly influenced by the intellectual life of Ionia. Abdera was the birthplace of many famous poets, sophists, and philosophers like Leucippus and Anaxarchus, the grammarian Hecataeus and the poet Nicaenetus. The sophist Protagoras (one of the most illustrious sophists in antiquity) was born here although he spent most of his life in Athens. The mathematician Bion, who lived in the 4th century BC, and Democritus, the great philosopher and founder of the atomic theory (born near 470 BC) and others also lived in this city.

Although there is scarce evidence regarding the population, Abdera was definitely a populous city inhabited not only by colonists but also by native Thracians and Greeks from other regions.

Despite what people said in antiquity about the stupidity of the inhabitants of Abdera, the so-called abderitism, the information found in ancient sources and the numerous excavation finds point out the significantly high cultural level of the city in respect to material and intellectual progress.