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Culture History Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Rodopi Municipality of Maronia

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Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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28/11/2007
Maroneia

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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According to archaeological data, there were numerous settlements in Thrace during the end of the second millennium. The area extending from Maroneia towards the southeast of Komotini was inhabited already from the Neolithic Age.

The Homeric epic poems are the earliest written sources referring to Maroneia. The city is mentioned as the homeland of Maron, priest of Apollo, who lived in the city of Ismaro and was the first to settle in this site. According to the Greek mythology, Maron met Ulysses after the Trojan War and offered him seven talents of gold, a silver crater and twelve amphorae with wine that Ulysses used for blinding Cyclops Polyphemus. At present times, the locals believe that the cave lying between the villages of Proskynites and Maroneia was the Cyclops’ cave. Systematic excavations brought to light pottery dating from the Neolithic to the Byzantine times.

In the Odyssey, the region appears to have been inhabited by the Thracian tribe of the Ciconians during the Trojan War, while Strabo mentions that the Ciconians sided with Troy against the Greeks.

During the 7th century BC, the 2nd Greek colonization took place. The search for new sources of wealth and the trade expansion led the Greek cities of central and insular Greece to the Thracian coasts. The new sources of wealth (wood, shipbuilding material, precious metals and slaves) led to the foundation of new cities, including Maroneia. Inhabitants from Chios island appear to be the first to establish a colony in the geographically prestigious and fertile region on the southwest foot of Ismaros who founded the city of Maroneia in the first half of the 7th century BC.

According to the silver coins that began to circulate before 500 BC, the city rapidly flourished and became one of the most important Thracian cities. During the Persian Wars, the city apparently shared the same fate with the rest Greek cities in Thrace; it was subjugated to Persians and only after the latter were defeated, the city of Maroneia formed part of the Athenian League. The city experienced a heyday in the 4th century BC. An artificial harbour seems to have been constructed in the same period for the protection of the military and the merchant fleet.

During the 4th century BC, a new power made its appearance in Northern Greece: the Macedonians. They gradually spread over the region and attempted to conquer Maroneia in 353 BC, yet unsuccessfully. A few years later, however, Philip II managed to beat Maroneia that finally lost its independence and became part of the Macedonian kingdom. As a result, the already existing golden coins of Maroneia were replaced exclusively by the silver coins. The excavations in the city of the 4th and 3rd centuries uncovered a theatre, a sanctuary and houses.

In the Hellenistic times, Maroneia was disputed by many kings, and therefore the city’s ruler constantly altered. In the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the inhabitants of Maroneia asked Rome for help in order to get liberated from the occupation of Antiochus II of Syria. After the battle of Pydna (168 BC) and the final conquest of the Macedonian state by the Romans, Maroneia was declared an independent city. In the course of the peaceful years that followed, Maroneia obtained significant commercial and economic power. All the commercial routes from the north Thracian hinterland ended to the city harbour. The silver tetradracma of the city that appear to circulate during that time denote a new period of economic development and welfare.

The history of the city continued throughout the Byzantine era, when it became bishopric seat. During the medieval times, fear of pirate attacks obliged its inhabitants to withdraw in the hinterland, who then founded the village bearing the name of Maroneia.