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28/11/2007
Strymi

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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The ancient city of Strymi is placed between Maroneia and Porto-Lagos, almost 25 km SW of Komotini. Historical evidence on the identification of the city is found in Herodotus. In his description of Xerxes’ campaign against Greece in 480 BC, he mentioned that Mesembria was the westernmost city of the “peraia” of Samothrace and he placed it exactly to the east of Strymi. Despite the fact that information provided by Herodotus on the exact location of Strymi is confused, most scholars place the city to the west of Maroneia. Professor G. Bakalakis was the first to claim that the city of Strymi was located in the peninsula of Molyvoti. The excavations during 1957-1959 brought to light remnants of an ancient fortified settlement and, although there were never found any inscriptions to verify Bakalakis’ theory, most scholars agree with him.

The city of Strymi extended to the south and to the east of the fortifications; archaeological excavations revealed house remnants attesting that the city was built in the Hippodamian system.

Strymi was founded around the mid- 7th century by Thasian colonists who aspired to control and exploit the fertile plain that extended from the north of Strymi towards the rich wheat fields of Ismarida lake. On account of its geographical position, the city seems to have been the scene of constant conflicts between the Thasians and the Maronites even from the archaic times. The city is believed that it was completely destroyed by the Maronites around 350 BC, probably with the assistance of King Phillip II of Macedon.

An inscription of the times of Septimius Severus records the restoration of the Via Egnatia in the end of the 2nd century AD and also mentions a small town named Strymi. However, this small town was, amongst others, under the administrative authority of Traianoupolis and it cannot be identified as the ancient city of Strymi, as many scholars claimed in the past. In addition, there is no testimony confirming that the city existed after the mid- 4th century BC; all the archaeological finds and the inscriptions uncovered in Molyvoti or the surrounding area that originate from Strymi date basically to the 4th century BC.
A fortification wall protected the settlement on the north and west sides. A rectangular tower was found that probably had plinth-made superstructure. According to professor Bakalakis, the towers probably stood almost every 30 metres. Excavations at the site of the walls revealed bronze coins from Maroneia and Thasos that date back to the 4th century. According to the archaeological finds and the masonry, the wall dates from the first half of the 4th century BC.
Traces of a breakwater were found south of the city.
Three underground galleries or tunnels were found in the region of Strymi. Perhaps, they were common benefit works, something like a subterranean aqueduct used for the storage of potable water. The construction dates to the late 6th or the early 5th centuries BC, before the appearance of the Persians in the area.
Two Ionic columns bases in the Asia Minor style were uncovered in Strymi and in the neighbouring areas together with several fragmentized architectural members of the classical times (clay acroterion, clay sime with painted decoration, and clay helix). All the above probably belonged to public buildings.
Excavations in private houses in Stryme revealed a stone doorstep, a bronze compass (box) containing 28 silver tetradrachma from Maroneia. 14 coins from the above-mentioned tetradrachma date from 410 to 350 BC. Some black-figure painted kantharoi (wine cups) dating to the first half of the 4th century were found along with an altar from a courtyard. The sparse house remnants lead to the conclusion that Strymi was built in the Hippodamian system.
In the wider area of the peninsula of Molyvoti, a great number of noteworthy sculptures were found, some of them coming from Ionic workshops and dating to the late Archaic and Classical times. A marble funerary stele of the second quarter of the 5th century BC depicts the figures of a woman on the left and a servant standing in front of her and holding up a mirror in her right hand. A relief funerary stele was also found in Xylagani dating to the second half of the 5th century BC and probably belonging to Strymi. It displays a deceased man dressed in short chiton and chlamys, and standing with his raised right hand in a farewell gesture. On his left, a servant dressed in himation is facing the deceased man. A marble tombstone dating back to the second half of the 4th century BC was also uncovered probably originating from the location of Pagouria or Dikaia. It depicts a woman and a servant standing in front of her and holding a baby in her arms. A palmette-shaped Ionic funerary stele dating from the last quarter of the 6th century BC was also revealed. It is made of local sand tufa stone and only a few fragmentized members of the kore are preserved like the head, the neck and the raised left arm. The stele is considered to be the oldest sculpture found in the region of Thrace and one of the oldest examples of palmette-shaped Ionic steles decorated in relief. According to G. Bakalakis, the stele can be compared in style with the works of the Ionic period and, more precisely, with those of the Chian plastic art.
In the area of Strymi and Molyvoti, some pedestals were also unearthed, on which sculptures used to stand, as well as simple undecorated marble funerary steles. Numerous clay figurines dating back to the Archaic and Classical times were also found. The most important are two figurines of an old man and an old woman found during the excavations in the tombs north of Strymi and two parts of a clay Attic figurine of a woman dressed in himation dating to the second half of the 4th century BC.
Sparse pottery sherds dating to the last quarter of the 6th century BC were found in Strymi as well as many classical vessels. It is worth mentioning that black and red figure vessels were imported from Attica with the exception of a fragmentized Clazomenian amphora dating to the last quarter of the 6th century BC. Several parts of pointed-bottom amphorae from Thasos and stamped handles were also found in the area.
Several coins were found in the excavations in Strymi like a silver drachma form Maroneia or another silver drachma from Abdera and Thasos, and a bronze coin from Timnos at Aiolis. An inscription dating from the first half of the 4th century attests the cult of Podalirius and Machaon, sons of Asclepius and perhaps of Athena.
Bakalakis claimed that the city’s cemetery extended outside the walls, towards the western low parts of the peninsula. A burial site was traced containing five monuments that most likely belonged to a family; these monuments were constructed in a twenty-year period, from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter of the 5th century BC. The remains of spearheads and spears uncovered in the monuments indicate that these three burials and the two cremations probably belonged to warriors. In the neighbouring area (Mitriko, Xylagani), many inscribed and relief funerary monuments were found possibly originating from Strymi.