ΠΑΡΑΛΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΜΕΣΟΓΕΙΑ: "Coastalness" and "Inlandness" in the Ancient Greek World

Citation with persistent identifier:

Bultrighini, Ilaria. “Παραλία καì Μεσόγεια: ‘Coastalness’ and ‘Inlandness’ in the Ancient Greek World.” CHS Research Bulletin 1, no. 2 (2013). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:BultrighiniI.Paralia_kai_Mesogeia_Coastalness_and_Inlandness.2013

Παραλία καì Μεσόγεια: Coastalness and Inlandness in the Ancient Greek World[1]

§1  In the past few years scholarship has dealt more systematically with connectivity and interaction in the ancient Mediterranean and in the Greek world, especially in terms of exchange and networks within the framework of maritime connectivity.[2]

§2  Through the study of the occurrence and employment of the terms paralia and mesogeia, as well as of other words expressing the ideas of “coastal” and “inland” in literary and epigraphic sources, this paper explores ancient Greek reflections about these two concepts[3]. In particular, it concentrates on the typological distinction between coastal and inland territories and inhabitants and their distinctive features. Within this framework, a special emphasis is placed on Attica, which forms the focus of my ongoing broader research on the topic.

§3  The paper comprises three parts: the first part briefly illustrates the peculiar case of Attica, with the territorial divisions that the region underwent over time and the different meanings attached to the words paralia and mesogeia. The second part focuses on the study of the vocabulary of “coastalness” and “inlandness” in ancient Greek authors. Finally, the third part deals with a few aspects and questions that emerged from my research on these two concepts.

Paralia and Mesogeia in Attica

§4  Even though ancient Greek sources show that paralia normally identified the coast and seaside areas and mesogeia commonly referred to the hinterland and to inland areas, the same words acquired different meanings at different times with regard to Attica: from the time of the reform by Cleisthenes (508/7), mesogeia designated the inland trittues and paralia the coastal trittues: each one of the ten Attic phulai or tribes of Athens consisted of demes belonging to one trittus (“third”) of the astu (“city-center”), one trittus of the mesogeia or mesogeios (“inland”), and one trittus of the paralia (“coast”)[4]. The astu included both the city-center and the plain of Athens with its coast up to the deme of Halimous to the south, which coincides approximately to the area of the modern towns of Alimos and Helliniko; it was bounded by mount Aegaleus on the north-west and Hymettus on the south-east, and ended fairly before Parnes and Pentelicus on the north-east. The paralia included all the coastline of Attica – except the part that was in the astu -, the plain of Eleusis and the hilly area north-west of it. The mesogeia or mesogeios corresponded to the rest of the interior[5] (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Graphic elaboration by Consuelo Manetta

§5  Before such tripartition, however, Attica was divided into three different, locally based factions (στάσεις): the men of the plain led by Lycurgus[6], the men of the coast led by Megacles[7], and the “highlanders” led by Peisistratus[8]. As for the three regions involved, the pedion was essentially the plain of Athens; the diakria was the mountainous north-east of Attica, including the coastal area down to Brauron; the paralia corresponded to the remainder of Attica, i.e. the territory that stretches south of mount Pentelicus and east of mount Hymettus and that thus comprises both the whole southern coastal strip (except the north-eastern tract belonging to the diakria) and the inland area between the two coasts (i.e. the present Mesogeia and Lavrion)[9] (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Graphic elaboration by Consuelo Manetta

§6  Despite the new tripartition connected to the administrative-territorial system shaped by Cleisthenes in 508/7, the sixth century political-territorial tripartition of Attica apparently continued to be kept in mind and referred to long after the reform by Cleisthenes throughout the Classical period:  in Thucydides, paralos or paralia identify the area corresponding to the sixth century district of Attica, as it can be inferred from three passages of his History of the Peloponnesian War[10]. In the first case (II 55.1), Thucydides refers to the district by the name Paralos and introduces it by the formula “the so-called” (τὴν Πάραλον γῆν καλουμένην):

Οἱ δὲ Πελοποννήσιοι ἐπειδὴ ἔτεμον τὸ πεδίον, παρῆλθον ἐς τὴν Πάραλον γῆν καλουμένην μέχρι Λαυρείου, οὗ τὰ ἀργύρεια μέταλλά ἐστιν Ἀθηναίοις.

§7 The Peloponnesians, after ravaging the plain, advanced into the district called Paralos as far as the Laurium, where are the silver mines of the Athenians.

§7  In the other two instances Thucydides calls it paralia; but again, he clearly means the sixth century district, as the Spartans ravaged inland areas too (II 56.1):

Ἔτι δ’ αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ ὄντων, πρὶν ἐς τὴν παραλίαν ἐλθεῖν, ἑκατὸν νεῶν ἐπίπλουν τῇ Πελοποννήσῳ παρεσκευάζετο, καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἑτοῖμα ἦν, ἀνήγετο.

But before they had left the plain and entered the paralia, he (Pericles) had begun to equip a fleet of a hundred ships to sail against the Peloponnesus, and when all was ready he put to sea.

§8  The third passage reports (II 56.3-4):

Ὅτε δὲ ἀνήγετο ἡ στρατιὰ αὕτη Ἀθηναίων, Πελοποννησίους κατέλιπον τῆς Ἀττικῆς ὄντας ἐν τῇ παραλίᾳ.

And when this armament of the Athenians put to sea, the Peloponnesians whom they left in Attica were already in the paralian district.

§9  When dealing with places outside Attica, Thucydides normally refers to their hinterland by the most common Greek word for it, μεσόγεια[11]. Nevertheless, he does not employ that term when speaking about Attica. The same apparently applies for Herodotus, who normally uses μεσόγεια with reference to places other than Attica[12]. Indeed, apart from very sporadic exceptions[13], the interior of Attica does not seem to be called mesogeia or mesogaia in ancient sources before the Roman period. A well-known passage from Strabo exemplifies this later usage particularly well and can therefore be quoted here to illustrate it (IX 1.3):

Ἀκτὴ[14] δ’ ἐστὶν [ἡ Ἀττικὴ] ἀμφιθάλαττος, στενὴ τὸ πρῶτον, εἶτ’ εἰς τὴν μεσόγαιαν πλατύνεται.

Attica is a sea-girt promontory; narrow at the beginning, then it widens out into the interior.

§10  Epigraphic evidence apparently confirms this situation: both the noun mesogeia and the adjective mesogeios do not occur in Attic inscriptions before the Imperial period.[15] Furthermore, even at that time these terms are scarcely attested and their actual meaning is not clear.[16] IG II² 2774, a very fragmentary third century CE inscription from the Athenian Acropolis, which has attracted practically no attention from scholars, was tentatively recorded (with question mark) in the Inscriptiones Graecae under the heading “Testamentum”. Line 8 of this document registers: [— — —] ως ἐν τοῖς περὶ μεσογε[ίαν τόποις?]. Given the fragmentary status of both the inscription on the whole and this line of the text in particular, very little can be inferred on what mesogeia (assuming that the above shown restoration is correct) indicates in this context. IG II² 2776 is a Hadrianic list of properties which refers four times to plots of land situated ἐν μεσογείῳ (lines 24, 45, 47, 66-67). Again, the text is not complete, therefore it is difficult to determine what exactly that expression means. Still, as lines 66-67 specify that a certain chôrion was situated Παλληνῆσι ἐν μεσογείῳ, “in Pallene ἐν μεσογείῳ”, mesogeios cannot generically refer to ‘the interior’ of Attica, but rather to an area situated in Pallene or in close proximity to that deme. Nevertheless, ἐν μεσογείῳ can neither identify a specific neighborhood of Pallene, since, as already pointed out, the same expression occurs elsewhere in the inscription with no connection with Pallene. The demes mentioned up to line 114 belonged mainly to inland trittues and were all situated south of Pentelicus and east of Hymettus, except a few of them, such as Ankyle, Bate, Kolonos, and Argyle, which were city demes and lay west of Hymettus. In any case, all of them were located in the interior of Attica. Under these circumstances, I tentatively suggest that in this context – as well as, presumably, in similar contexts in second century CE Attica – the expression ἐν μεσογείῳ defined areas situated “out of town”, “in the countryside”, i.e. in rural areas out of the demes.

§11  Thanks to epigraphic sources we also know that in the Hellenistic period the name paralia came to designate a further Attic district. A large amount of honorific decrees and both honorary and votive dedications, mostly coming from Rhamnous and dating to the third century, contain formulas such as στρατηγὸς ἐπὶ τὴν παραλίαν, στρατηγὸς ἐπὶ τὴν χώραν τὴν παραλίαν, and alike[17]. They refer to the division of the Athenian chôra into two military districts, the paralia comprising the forts of Rhamnous, Aphidna and Sounion, and the Eleusis district including Eleusis, Panakton and Phyle. Each district was under the command of a general, the στρατηγὸς ἐπὶ τὴν παραλίαν and the στρατηγὸς ἐπ’ Ἐλευσῖνος respectively.[18] Thus, according to this additional division of the region, the military district called paralia corresponded approximately to the east coast of Attica (or at least to the areas around Sounion and Rhamnous), but it also included non-coastal areas, since the fort of Aphidna was situated inland, east of mount Parnes. In this context, it is interesting to briefly consider the question of the origin of the name ‘Attica’. According to Apollodorus of Athens, Attica derived from aktê, which literally means “steep coast”, but more generally could denote the coast, as well as, in the geographical vocabulary, the cape or peninsula[19]. Apollodorus explained the origin of the name Attica from aktê as follows (FGrHist 244 F 185):

Οὕτω γὰρ ἐκλήθη διὰ τὸ πολὺ μέρος αὐτῆς καθικνεῖσθαι εἰς θάλασσαν. τριγώνου γὰρ οὔσης αἱ συννεύουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ Σούνιον ἑκατέρωθεν δύο πλευραὶ παράλιοι τυγχάνουσι, δι’ ἃς τῶν ἐπὶ Κέκροπος φυλῶν τεττάρων οὐσῶν δύο προσηγόρευσαν Ἀκταίαν καὶ Παραλίαν.

It was so named because large part of it touches the sea. Indeed, being triangular, the two sides that bend on Sounion are both coastal; for this reason, two of the four tribes of Cecrops were called Aktaia and Paralia[20].

§12  Such explanation seems to imply that Cecrops’ tribes, Aktaia and Paralia, roughly corresponded – territorially speaking – to the two coastal sides of “triangle” Attica; now, it is at least intriguing to note that on the one hand, the peninsula south of the main port of Piraeus, i.e. part of the west coast of Attica, was known in antiquity (and still is) as Aktê; on the other, that the third century military district comprising the forts of Rhamnous, Aphidna and Sounion, that is, part of the east coast of Attica, was called Paralia. In other words, the assumption that Aktaia and Paralia occupied the west and the east coast of Attica respectively, would involve a partial survival (or perhaps a reappearance), in terms of place names, of those two Cecrops’ tribes over a very long period of time.

The Vocabulary of Coastalness and Inlandness

§13  My survey of the terminology of “coastalness” and “inlandness” in ancient Greek sources begins with the classification provided in the second century CE by the Grammarian Julius Pollux in his Onomasticon. Among other subjects, Book IX deals with “city and territory”. In section 18, a series of characterizations show how a city can be described according to its geographical position:

Πόλιν δ’ ἂν εἴποις ἠπειρῶτιν, νησιῶτιν, χερσαίαν, ἀπὸ θαλάττης, μεσόγειον, ἔφαλον, πάραλον, παράλιον, παραθαλαττίδιον, ἐπιθαλαττίδιον, ἀγχιθάλαττον· ἡ γὰρ ἀγχίαλος ποιητῶν.

A city can be continental, insular, peninsular, far from the sea, inland, maritime, littoral, coastal, near the sea, on the sea, close to the sea (ἀγχιθάλαττον); indeed, the maritime city is defined as ἀγχίαλος in poetry.

§14  Thus, according to Pollux’s thesaurus, whereas seven different adjectives express the concept of coastal (ἔφαλος, πάραλος, παράλιος, παραθαλαττίδιος, ἐπιθαλαττίδιος, ἀγχιθάλαττος, ἀγχίαλος), only two terms define a city as inland (ἀπὸ θαλάττης and μεσόγειος). As the Grammarian points out, ἀγχίαλος is a purely poetic term; similarly, ἔφαλος, which, in addition, is very rarely attested, is preponderantly employed in poetry. Furthermore, the adjective ἀγχιθάλαττος occurs in fact exclusively in this passage. As a result, it seems that only four of the seven terms listed by Pollux were used in prose to refer to the idea of coastal:  πάραλος, παράλιος, παραθαλαττίδιος, and ἐπιθαλαττίδιος. It should be pointed out that πάραλος and παράλιος, the first one as both adjective and noun, with a very few exceptions appear in the ancient sources as late as in the Roman Imperial period. The small number of earlier occurrences includes a passage from Euripides Ion (line 1584). Here the goddess Athena forecasts the upcoming prosperity of the Ionian descendants, and characterizes the future Ionian poleis on the coast of Asia Minor as paraloi:

Οἱ τῶνδε δ’ αὖ παῖδες γενόμενοι σὺν χρόνωι πεπρωμένωι Κυκλάδας ἐποικήσουσι νησαίας πόλεις χέρσους τε παράλους (…).

The descendants of these will at the destined time settle in the island cities of the Cyclades and in the mainland on the sea-coasts (…).

§15  Not surprisingly, elsewhere in his works Euripides employs poetic adjectives to describe something as coastal:  either the above mentioned ἀγχίαλος, or ἐπάκτιος, or παράκτιος[21]. All three adjectives are typical of poetry and seem to have been popular for a long span of time, as they frequently occur – especially the first two – e.g. in Homer, Hesiod, and the tragic authors, as well as, much later, in Moschus, Apollonius Rhodius, Oppian, Dionysus Periegetes, Agathias, etc.

§16  Herodotus employs twice the noun παραλίη in relation to a coastal area. In Book V, he deals with the war between the Athenians and the Aeginetans[22] and states (V 81.3):

Ἐπικειμένων γὰρ αὐτῶν Βοιωτοῖσι ἐπιπλώσαντες μακρῇσι νηυσὶ ἐς τὴν Ἀττικὴν κατὰ μὲν ἔσυραν Φάληρον, κατὰ δὲ τῆς ἄλλης παραλίης πολλοὺς δήμους.

While these (the Athenians) were pressing the Boeotians, they (the Aeginetans) descended on Attica in ships of war, and ravaged Phaleron and many other townships of the rest of the coast.

§17  In another passage (VII 185.11), Herodotus lists a series of populations who joined the Persian army during Xerxes’ expedition against Greece, among whom were “dwellers of the coastal area of Thrace” (ὅσοι τῆς Θρηίκης τὴν παραλίην νέμονται).

§18  However, in two other passages from Herodotus the adjective paralos has two further, different meanings. It is used as a noun and refers to the sixth century Athenian political faction led by Megacles in the first book of the Histories (I 59.14):

(..) ὃς στασιαζόντων τῶν παράλων καὶ τῶν ἐκ τοῦ πεδίου Ἀθηναίων, καὶ τῶν μὲν προεστεῶτος Μεγακλέος τοῦ Ἀλκμέωνος, τῶν δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πεδίου Λυκούργου <τοῦ> Ἀριστολαΐδεω.

(…) there was a feud between the Athenians of the coast under Megacles son of Alcmeon and the Athenians of the plain under Lycurgus son of Aristolaides.

§19  Paralos means “maritime” in another passage (VII 161.16):

Μάτην γὰρ ἂν ὧδε πάραλον Ἑλλήνων στρατὸν πλεῖστον εἴημεν ἐκτημένοι, εἰ Συρηκοσίοισι ἐόντες Ἀθηναῖοι συγχωρήσομεν τῆς ἡγεμονίης.

For it were vain that we should possess the most powerful maritime army of Greece, if, being Athenians, we yield up our command to the Syracusans.

§20  It then becomes clear that the adjective πάραλος and the noun παραλίη are polyvalent in Herodotus’ work:  whereas the latter in two cases identifies the actual coastal area, paralos can refer both to one of the three Athenian political parties of the sixth century, and, as adjective, to the Athenian navy.

§21  This brief survey of some of the very few early occurrences of paralos and paralia in Greek sources shows that, at least in the fifth century, both terms had multiple meanings; as for the sense that forms the focus of our inquiry – i.e. the one related to the idea of coastal – the adjective appears only once with that connotation, in Euripides (Ion 1584); similarly, two of the passages from Herodotus examined above (V 81 and VII 185) are the only fifth century attestations of the noun paralia meaning a coastal area. Slightly later, in Thucydides, paralos and paralia denote exclusively Athenian realities:  in all occurrences, he refers either to the Attic district called Paralia, or to the Athenian sacred trireme Paralos and its crew, the Paraloi. Whereas Herodotus speaks about the Paralos and the Paraloi relatively often (III 33.1-2; III 78.1; VIII 73.5-6; VIII 74.1-2; VIII 86.9), he mentions the Paralia district only three times (II 55.1; II 56.1; II 56.3-4, cf. above, 3) and in each case he refers to the Attic district of the time before the Cleisthenic reform. It is worth pointing out that shortly after, in the same section of his account (II 56.5-6), Thucydides says that the Athenians:

ἀναγαγόμενοι δὲ ἐκ τῆς Ἐπιδαύρου ἔτεμον τήν τε Τροιζηνίδα γῆν καὶ Ἁλιάδα καὶ Ἑρμιονίδα· ἔστι δὲ ταῦτα πάντα ἐπιθαλάσσια τῆς Πελοποννήσου. ἄραντες δὲ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἀφίκοντο ἐς Πρασιὰς τῆς Λακωνικῆς πόλισμα ἐπιθαλάσσιον (..)

Leaving Epidaurus, they went to sea again, and ravaged the territory of Troezen, Halieis, and Hermione, which are all on the Peloponnesian coast. Sailing next from this region they came to Prasiae, a town on the coast of Laconia (..)

§22  This passage confirms that in Thucydides paralia and paralos refer exclusively to certain components of the Athenian world. Thucydides, in fact, does not employ them when he intends to convey the more general meaning of “coast” and “coastal”; whenever Thucydides speaks about a place laying on the coast, he defines it as ἐπιθαλάσσιος. As a reminder, this is a variant of one of the four terms listed by Pollux and used in prose with the meaning of “coastal”: πάραλος, παράλιος, παραθαλαττίδιος, and ἐπιθαλαττίδιος. In fact, ἐπιθαλάσσιος and παραθαλάσσιος, along with the variants ἐπιθαλάττιος, παραθαλάττιος, ἐπιθαλασσίδιος, παραθαλασσίδιος, παραθαλαττίδιος, and ἐπιθαλαττίδιος, are the most popular adjectives for ‘coastal’ among Greek historians, geographers, lexicographers, and other authors of works in prose from the Classical period to Roman Imperial and Byzantine times. So, for instance, a phrourion is defined as παραθαλάττιον in a fragment from Hecataeus of Miletus[23]. Herodotus favors the form παραθαλάσσιος and uses it as a noun too: τὰ παραθαλάσσια τῆς Ἑλλάδος, “the coast of Greece” (III 135.1); Αἰγινῆταί τε δὴ ἐδηίουν τῆς Ἀττικῆς τὰ παραθαλάσσια, “the Aeginetans plundered the seaboard of Attica” (V 89.1). As already pointed out, Thucydides characterizes more often coastal cities, lands, and people as ἐπιθαλάσσιοι (II 56.5-6; III 7.3; III 105.1; IV 102.3); however, he equally means “coast” both by ἡ παραθαλάττιος and τὰ ἐπιθαλάσσια (III 91.6; IV 56.1). Six centuries later, Pausanias too refers to the seaboard by τὰ ἐπιθαλάσσια: τὰ ἐπιθαλάσσια τῆς Λακωνικῆς (Description of Greece ΙΙΙ 21.6; ΙV 7.2); ὅσα ἐπιθαλάσσια τῆς Ἀργείας (VIII 1.1). In the first century, Diodorus Siculus employs the adjectives παραθαλάττιος and παραθαλάσσιος very frequently, both to connote nouns like chôra, polis, odos, and topoi, and to identify the inhabitants of coastal areas (οἱ παραθαλάσσιοι, e.g. in Library of History XV 90.4). Strabo even matches the adjective ἐπιθαλαττίαιος – thereby recording a further form that was apparently coined by him, as it is not found in other authors (cf. Strabo Geography III 4.20) – with Messenia and Laconia, thus applying the concept of “coastal” to entire regions (VIII 5.6):

οὐκ εὖ δὲ οὐδ’ ὅτι τῆς Μεσσηνίας ὁμοίως ἐπιθαλαττιαίας οὔσης τῇ Λακωνικῇ φησὶν αὐτὴν πρόσω ναυτίλοισιν εἶναι.

Neither is he (Euripides) right when he says that to sailors Messenia is far away, for Messenia like Laconia lies on the sea.

§23  In another passage, Strabo distinguishes between regions that lay near the sea but do not reach it and regions that are ἐπιθαλαττίαιοι, i.e. situated exactly on the coast (III 4.20):

Οὗτοι δ’ εἰσὶν οἱ Κελτίβηρες καὶ οἱ τοῦ Ἴβηρος πλησίον ἑκατέρωθεν οἰκοῦντες μέχρι τῶν πρὸς θαλάττῃ μερῶν. αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ ἡγεμὼν διαχειμάζει μὲν ἐν τοῖς ἐπιθαλαττιαίοις μέρεσι (…)

These latter are the Celtiberians and the peoples that live near them on both sides of the Iberus as far as the regions next to the sea. As for the governor himself, he passes his winters in the regions on the sea (…).

§24  Let us now turn to the notion of “inlandness”. As we have seen, according to Pollux, while seven different adjectives describe a city as coastal (ἔφαλος, πάραλος, παράλιος, παραθαλαττίδιος, ἐπιθαλαττίδιος, ἀγχιθάλαττος, ἀγχίαλος), only two define it as inland: ἀπὸ θαλάττης and μεσόγειος. Some of the terms listed by Pollux as expressing the idea of “coastal” were employed exclusively in poetic works (ἀγχίαλος and ἔφαλος, plus two further adjectives not mentioned by Pollux, ἐπάκτιος and παράκτιος), some others had different meanings at different times (πάραλος, παράλιος, and παραλία), and others were broadly used by Greek authors from Classical times to Late Antiquity (παραθαλαττίδιος, ἐπιθαλαττίδιος, and other variants); conversely, both ἀπὸ θαλάττης and μεσόγειος are widespread in written sources of all periods. As in the case of “coastalness”, the notion of “inlandness” is expressed in a different way in poetic works: from Homer, Pindar, Euripides, to Theocritus, Callimachus, Moschus, and down to Nonnus and Quintus Smyrnaeus, the expression prevailingly employed by poets is ἐξ ἁλός, followed by the less attested ἐπ’ ἠπείροιο/ἐπ’ ἠπείρου and μεσήπειρος, which are found in Homer, Apollonius Rhodius, and Dionysus Periegetes. As for prose literature, then, μεσόγειος or μεσόγαιος, used both as adjective and as noun (ἡ μεσόγαιος/ἡ μεσόγειος, τὸ μεσόγειον), along with the two forms μεσόγεια and μεσόγαια, are the only adjective and noun for “inland”. The expression ἀπὸ θαλάττης or ἀπὸ θαλάσσης has essentially the same meaning, though it is frequently employed to express a precise distance from the sea, either in stades (more rarely in schoinoi) or in days of travel. As one would expect, the expression ἀπὸ θαλάττης is used in that sense especially by geographers, and, to a certain extent, by historians. So, for instance, Scylax systematically repeats formulas such as ἀπέχον ἀπὸ θαλάσσης στάδια πʹ (Periplus 24.4; 33.2; 40.3; 45.3; 104.4 and 17; 108.26) and ὁδός ἐστιν ἀπὸ θαλάσσης ἡμερῶν εʹ (102.15; 37.8). Other authors, such as Strabo, Pausanias, Herodotus and Polybius, employ ἀπὸ θαλάσσης with the same meaning but in a less schematic way.

Coastalness and Inlandness: Some Aspects

§25  According to Polybius (The Histories XXX 9.16), the inhabitants of the Lycian city of Cybira were not able to send Polyaratus of Rhodes to Rome because they were μεσόγαιοι τελέως, “totally inland people”. I assume that Polybius expresses here a sharp opposition between communities with coastal settings and inhabitants of inland areas. Indeed he implies that, as the Cybirians lived in the interior, they were completely inexperienced in sailing, and therefore they were prevented from dispatching Polyaratus to Rome; this means that, if they were coastal people, on the contrary they could have put out to sea. Thus his explanation entails a comparison and, in fact, a polarity between inhabitants of the hinterland and inhabitants of coastal regions. The opposition between coastal and inland inhabitants in relation to sea inexperience and sea mastery is expressed even more clearly by Herodotus in his account of Xerxes’ expedition against Greece (VII 110). Herodotus tells that, as Xerxes went up along the Thracian coastal strip, he passed by a series of populations who joined the Persians, and:

Τούτων οἱ μὲν παρὰ θάλασσαν κατοικημένοι ἐν τῇσι νηυσὶ εἵποντο· οἱ δὲ αὐτῶν τὴν μεσόγαιαν οἰκέοντες καταλεχθέντες τε ὑπ’ ἐμέο, πλὴν Σατρέων οἱ ἄλλοι πάντες πεζῇ ἀναγκαζόμενοι εἵποντο.

Of these Thracian populations, those who dwelt by the sea joined the expedition on the ships; those who lived inland, on the other hand, whose names I have recorded, were compelled to follow him going by land.

§26  The contrast between “those who dwelt by the sea” and “those who lived inland” is syntactically emphasized by the pair οἱ μὲν/οἱ δὲ. Furthermore, the specification that the latter πεζῇ ἀναγκαζόμενοι εἵποντο, «were constrained to go by land», suggests both that they had no choice and that the first option, i.e. joining Xerxes ἐν τῇσι νηυσί, was undoubtedly and by far the best one. As a result, the idea conveyed by Herodotus in this passage is that their inland setting negatively affected the inhabitants of the mesogaia.

§27  As a maritime civilization, mastery of the sea obviously played a key role in a large variety of aspects of the history of ancient Greece; thus, considering the significance of the nautical factor or, in other words, given the Greek maritime perspective[24], the opposition between inhabitants of coastal areas and inhabitants of inland areas with regard to sailing knowledge assumes a particular importance.

§28  The Catalogue of the Ships in the Iliad contains a few references to this theme: in 610-614, we learn that Agamemnon lent sixty ships to the Arcadians, “for they had nothing to do with seafaring activities” (ἐπεὶ οὔ σφι θαλάσσια ἔργα μεμήλει)[25]. Situated in the heart of Peloponnese, Arcadia is indeed the area of Greece furthest from the sea. In his Oikoumenes Periegesis, Dionysius of Alexandria describes the Arcadians as people who «dwell the mountainous land at the center of the nesos (i.e. the Peloponnesus)» (κάδ δὲ μέσην νῆσον κοίλην χθόνα ναιετάουσιν Ἀρκάδες, 414-415). The scholia on Dionysus’ verses explain this sentence by stressing that the Arcadians were mesogeioi; also, they make a connection to the aforementioned Homeric passage:

Μέσην δὲ, ὡς μεσογείους. Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ὁ Ἀγαμέμνων ὡς μεσογείοις ναῦς αὐτοῖς δίδωσιν.

“‘at the center’, as the Arcadians are inland people. That is the reason why Agamemnon gives them ships, because they are inland people”.

§29  In his commentary on the Iliad, Eustathius of Thessalonica offers a similar clarification of that same passage:

Ὁ δὲ ποιητὴς ἱστορεῖ καί, ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἀγαμέμνων νῆας τοῖς ἐξ Ἀρκαδίας ἔδωκε, κενὰς δηλονότι· «ἐπεὶ οὔ σφι θαλάσσια ἔργα μεμήλει», τουτέστιν οὐ φροντὶς ἦν αὐτοῖς τῶν κατὰ θάλασσαν οὐδὲ ναυτικοὶ ἦσαν, οἷα μεσήπειροι, ὡς μέσην οἰκοῦντες τὴν Πελοπόννησον καὶ πανταχόθεν τῆς θαλάσσης πολὺ ἀφεστῶτες.

The poet tells also that king Agamemnon gave ships, clearly empty, to the Arcadians[26]; ‘for they had nothing to do with seafaring activities’, that is, they did not deal with maritime matters, nor had they sailing experience, for they were continental people, as they dwelt the center of the Peloponnesus and were far from the sea on all sides.

§30  As they were completely landlocked, with no connections to the sea, it thus comes with no surprise that the Arcadians had no ships of their own and no experience at all in maritime matters.

§31  Another Homeric passage expresses the idea that inhabitants of regions situated far from the coast did not have any knowledge of the sea and therefore were not able to sail, nor their diets could benefit from basic sea products such as salt. In Odyssey xxiii, Odysseus tells Penelope what Teiresias predicted him (265-272):

Οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτὸς χαίρω, ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε’ ἄνωγεν ἐλθεῖν, ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχοντ’ εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν, εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκωμαι, οἳ οὐκ ἴσασι θάλασσαν ἀνέρες οὐδέ θ’ ἅλεσσι μεμιγμένον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν· οὐδ’ ἄρα τοὶ ἴσασι νέας φοινικοπαρῄους οὐδ’ εὐήρε’ ἐρετμά, τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται.

For Teiresias bade me go forth to full many cities of men, bearing a shapely oar in my hands, till I should come to men that know naught of the sea, and eat not of food mingled with salt; aye, and they know naught of ships with purple cheeks, or of shapely oars that serve as wings to ships[27].

§32  When Teiresias prophesied that Odysseus would come to such men, who neither know anything of the sea, nor of ships, nor of oars, and who do not put any salt at all in their food, he undoubtedly meant that he would go somewhere in the mesogeia.[28]

§33  A passage from the Iliad deals with the opposition between coastal and inland inhabitants in connection to the lack of experience of mesogeioi in another typical marine activity: swimming, and in particular diving. In Book XVI (726-743), as Hector heads towards Patroclus on a chariot driven by “war-minded” Cebriones, Patroclus throws a sharp stone at Hector but hits Cebriones, who “like a diver fell from the well-made chariot, and his spirit left his bones. Then with mocking words did you speak to him, horseman Patroclus: ‘Well now! Nimble is the man for sure; how easily he dives! I think if he were in the teeming deep, this man would satisfy many by seeking for oysters, leaping from his ship even if the sea were stormy, since now on the plain he dives easily from his chariot. Surely among the Trojans too there are men who dive'”[29] (742-749). Eustathius provides a meaningful explanation of these verses (Commentaries on Homer’s Iliad I.468):

Εἰ καὶ μὴ παραθαλάττιοι αὐτοί εἰσι δηλαδὴ ὡς ἐνεθίζεσθαι κυβιστᾶν. Ἐνταῦθα δὲ σημειοῦνται οἱ παλαιοὶ ἀπῳκισμένην τῆς θαλάττης εἶναι τὴν παλαιὰν Ἴλιον, ὡς καὶ ὁ Γεωγράφος δείκνυσιν. εἰ γὰρ ἦσαν, φησίν, οἱ Τρῶες παράλιοι, τί καινόν, εἰ καὶ ἐκυβίστων;

Even though they do not live beside the sea, they are clearly used to dive. In this regard, the ancients say that ancient Ilion was distant from the sea, as the Geographer too points out. Indeed, he says, if the Trojans lived on the coast, why would it seem strange that they could dive?

§34  This comment emphasizes once more the opposition between people living in the interior and people living on the coast in relation to inland inhabitants’ inability to engage in typically maritime activities.

§35  In addition to the lack of skill in sailing and in sea matters, an inland setting could negatively affect its dwellers in other ways, especially in wartime. A scholion on Aristophanes Peace offers a clear and incisive example of that. As is well-known, the play was written in 421, in full Peloponnesian war. While Trigeus, with the help of several Greek farmers, artisans and merchants, and the god Hermes, is trying to drag away the big rocks that block the cavern in which Polemus locked Eirene, Hermes addresses the Athenians among those helping Trigeus by saying (506-7):

Ἀλλ’ εἴπερ ἐπιθυμεῖτε τήνδ’ ἐξελκύσαι, πρὸς τὴν θάλατταν ὀλίγον ὑποχωρήσατε.

If you really want to pull this goddess free, retreat a little towards the sea.

§36  Aristophanes’ commentator explains these verses as follows:

Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ Ἀθηναῖοι πρὸς τῇ θαλάσσῃ εἰσίν, ἐκώλυον τοῖς μεσογείοις ἔχειν τὰ ἀναγκαῖα. φησὶν οὖν· ὅτι, εἰ θέλετε εἰρηνεῦσαι, τὶ πρὸς τὴν ἑαυτῶν χώραν καὶ τὸν ἴδιον τόπον καὶ τὸ παρὰ θάλατταν ὑποχωρήσατε, καὶ μὴ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων ἀντιποιεῖσθε. τῶν μεσογείων δῆλον ὅτι ἤθελον καὶ τῆς γῆς κρατεῖν.

Indeed, as the Athenians were near the sea, they prevented the mesogeioi from getting the essentials. Then he says, if you really want peace, retreat somewhat from their region towards the sea, and do not lay claim to other people’s land. It was clear that they wanted to dominate over the territory of the mesogeioi too.

§37  Therefore, through Hermes’ voice, Aristophanes is requesting the Athenians to retreat “a little bit” (ὀλίγον) from the Peloponnesian mesogeia towards the sea, and to give up an inland empire. Let us focus on the first sentence of the scholion: Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ Ἀθηναῖοι πρὸς τῇ θαλάσσῃ εἰσίν, ἐκώλυον τοῖς μεσογείοις ἔχειν τὰ ἀναγκαῖα. It specifically refers to the Athenian invasion of the Peloponnesus, but more generally, it explains that whenever in wartime enemies occupied a coastal area, they prevented inland inhabitants behind that area from getting what they needed for their sustenance, i.e. food goods carried by sea. This implies that, at least in some instances, inland people were in fact completely isolated and could only rely on their connection with coastal areas.

§38  Thus, in Greek sources from Homer onward, “inlandness” appears to be consistently assimilated to a sense of isolation; furthermore, being inlander seems to be seen as a condition that hinders in many ways, especially when compared to coastal inhabitants and their setting. Nevertheless, everything has its pros and cons, and indeed coastal people too could find themselves in trouble when dealing with contexts they were not familiar with, i.e. the world of inlanders. Thucydides reports various occasions in which the Athenians, the thalassocrats and maritime people par excellence, were negatively affected by their inexperience of inland areas. In Book I, Thucydides tells that, about simultaneously – seemingly in 465 – , the Athenians both defeated the Thasians, who had revolted against them, by winning a naval battle, and sent ten thousand of their own people to the Strymon in Thrace to colonize Amphipolis; in the latter case, although they defeated the local population and managed to gain possession of the city, (I 100.3):

προελθόντες δὲ τῆς Θρᾴκης ἐς μεσόγειαν διεφθάρησαν ἐν Δραβησκῷ τῇ Ἠδωνικῇ ὑπὸ τῶν Θρᾳκῶν ξύμπαντες, οἷς πολέμιον ἦν τὸ χωρίον [αἱ Ἐννέα ὁδοὶ] κτιζόμενον.

yet when they advanced into the interior of Thrace they were all destroyed at Drabeskos in Hedonia by the Thracians[30].

§39  It is worth pointing out the strong contrast between the ease with which the Athenians put down the revolt of Thasos through a naumachia (καὶ ναυσὶ μὲν ἐπὶ Θάσον πλεύσαντες οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ναυμαχίᾳ ἐκράτησαν καὶ ἐς τὴν γῆν ἀπέβησαν – I 100.2) – also, simultaneously, they easily conquered Amphipolis –, and the huge disaster they suffered as soon as they advanced into the interior of Thrace (προελθόντες δὲ τῆς Θρᾴκης ἐς μεσόγειαν).

§40  Two further passages from Thucydides do not actually involve any Athenian defeat, but I argue that they are indicative of a certain Athenian attitude when dealing with inland areas. In his account of the Athenian expedition to Acarnania (II 102-103), Thucydides tells that the Athenians from Naupactus:

παραπλεύσαντες ἐπ’ Ἀστακοῦ καὶ ἀποβάντες, ἐς τὴν μεσόγειαν τῆς Ἀκαρνανίας τετρακοσίοις μὲν ὁπλίταις Ἀθηναίων τῶν ἀπὸ τῶν νεῶν, τετρακοσίοις δὲ Μεσσηνίων, (…) ἀνεχώρησαν πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς.

They first skirted the coast towards Astacus, and then, disembarking, invaded the interior of Acarnania with four hundred hoplites from the ships and four hundred Messenians, (…), then they returned again to their ships.

§41  Being the quintessential embodiment of “coastalness”, the Athenians traveled by sea, sailed along the coast and then, in order to enter into the mesogeia, brought four hundred Athenian hoplites from the ships and an equal number of Messenians: therefore, it appears that they were perfectly comfortable with all the operations they conducted by sea and in proximity of the coast, but as soon as they entered the interior they needed others’ support. The Messenian intervention appears as a an element that provided more security to the Athenians in an area where they did not feel safe enough, for it was not their “habitat”. The Athenians showed a similar approach during their expedition to Aitolia in 426, as it is accounted by Thucydides (III 95-98). Led by general Demosthenes, the Athenian army set sail from Leucas and, again, skirted the coast towards Sollium (παρέπλευσεν ἐς Σόλλιον – III 95.1); again, the army itself consisted not only of three hundred Athenian marines, but also of Cephallenians, Messenians, and Zacynthians (III 95.2); the expedition then started from Oeneon in Locris (III 95.3):

Οἱ δὲ Ὀζόλαι οὗτοι Λοκροὶ ξύμμαχοι ἦσαν, καὶ ἔδει αὐτοὺς πανστρατιᾷ ἀπαντῆσαι τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις ἐς τὴν μεσόγειαν· ὄντες γὰρ ὅμοροι τοῖς Αἰτωλοῖς καὶ ὁμόσκευοι μεγάλη ὠφελία ἐδόκουν εἶναι ξυστρατεύοντες μάχης τε ἐμπειρίᾳ τῆς ἐκείνων καὶ χωρίων

The people from Ozolian Locris were allies, and they with their whole force were to meet the Athenians in the interior; for, since they were neighbors of the Aetolians and used the same sort of arms, it was believed that their help would be of great service on the expedition on account of their knowledge both of the Aetolian manner of fighting and of the country.

§42  Thucydides here goes into details about the usefulness of having the Ozolians as allies. However, a further reason behind Athens’ choice to ally with them may actually be that the Athenians felt more comfortable when facing inland areas with the help of others, who, in addition, were possibly more familiar with the local hinterland. Thucydides reports further occasions in which the Athenians hoped for the intervention of allies in the mesogeia: at some point during their retreat from Sicily, “they reached the sea, and taking the road called Elorine marched on, intending when they reached the river Cacyparis to follow this stream up into the interior (παρὰ τὸν ποταμὸν ἴοιεν ἄνω διὰ μεσογείας); for they were hoping that the Sicels, for whom they had sent, would meet them on this road” (VII 80.5). Again, we observe the Athenians facing the usual difficulties when dealing with the interior of a country; to be sure, in this case they decided to pass through it going along a river stream. But above all, once again they counted on others’ help.

§43  The last aspect of “coastalness” and “inlandness” I would like to discuss is the opposition between coastal and inland settings in terms of the different degrees of danger and safety of these locations. The starting idea is that of an inland setting as a distinct site, separated from its surroundings and therefore providing relative security, as opposed to coasts as open and thus easily accessible places, which hence necessarily entail a certain degree of peril. Once again, I will resort to the testimonies offered by Thucydides in order to provide a few examples of coastal vulnerability. Interestingly enough, three of the passages from Thucydides either only mentioned or discussed more at length above in connection with littoral areas deal with Athenian ravages of the Peloponnesian seaboard during the Peloponnesian war. At II 56.5-6 (cf. above, § 21), Thucydides reports multiple pillages of the coast of Peloponnesus by the Athenians in 430:

Leaving Epidaurus, they went to sea again, and ravaged the territory of Troezen, Halieis, and Hermione, which are all on the Peloponnesian coast. Sailing next from this region they came to Prasiae, a town on the coast of Laconia, where they not only ravaged parts of the country, but also captured the town itself and pillaged it.

§44  In 426 (III 91.1), “the Athenians sent thirty ships round the Peloponnese under the command of Demosthenes son of Alcisthenes and Procles son of Theodorus (…)”. Thucydides then tells about the expedition that, at the same time, the Athenians sent to Melos and Boeotia. There is no doubt, however, that in the meantime the Athenians on those thirty ships that had been sent περὶ Πελοπόννησον ravaged many towns and territories on the Peloponnesian coastline, although Thucydides restricts himself to mentioning the coast of Locris (III 91.6, cf. above, § 22):

καὶ παραπλεύσας ὁ Νικίας ταῖς ἑξήκοντα ναυσὶ τῆς Λοκρίδος τὰ
ἐπιθαλάσσια ἔτεμε καὶ ἀνεχώρησεν ἐπ’ οἴκου.

And Nicias sailed along the coast with his sixty ships, ravaged the seaboard of Locris, and then returned home.

§45  In his report on the Athenian expedition against Cythera in 424, Thucydides integrates, en passant, an allusion to the Athenian pillaging activity on the Laconian or possibly the Peloponnesian coast (IV 56.1):  Τοῖς δὲ Ἀθηναίοις τότε τὴν παραθαλάσσιον δηͺοῦσι (…), “While the Athenians were at that time ravaging their coast (…)”.

§46  These passages are meant to offer some examples of the high level of vulnerability of coastal territories due to the ease with which they could be approached and ravaged, especially by sailing experts as the Athenians. Inland areas, of course, were not immune to such dangers; even so, their remote and disconnected location, i.e. the isolation characterizing “inlandness”, which, as we have seen, hindered inlanders in many ways, by contrast turns out to be the key factor providing them relative security, at least when compared with the high degree of danger incidental to “coastalness”. As an example, a higher level of vulnerability of coastal rather than inland areas seems to be implied by Xenophon in his Poroi, when he calculates that “even in the event of war, it is not necessary to abandon the mines”, in the inland region of Laurium in Attica (IV 43). Indeed, he points out that the mines were protected from seaborne raids both on the east and on the west coastal sector, as there was a fortress at Thorikos and another one at Anaphlystos, respectively. Also, he considers overland attacks as highly unlikely, and he extensively explains why (IV 46-48):

…for the closest city, Megara, is more than five hundred stades away from the mines; and the next closest, Thebes, is more than six hundreds. But wherever they set out from, they will have to pass our city; and if they are few, they will probably be destroyed by our cavalry and patrols. Furthermore, it would be difficult for them to march with a great force and leave their own cities unguarded, since the city of Athens would then be much closer to their cities than they themselves would be, when they are at the mines. And if they should come, how would they be able to stay without having supplies? If a part of them went foraging, it would be dangerous not only to those going out, but also for the objective they are contending for. And if they all go, then they would find themselves besieged instead of besiegers[31].

§47  Curiously enough, despite such exhaustive and convincing explanation of the unlikelihood of an overland attack, later in the same passage Xenophon also suggests – as if the mines were not safe enough – that a third fortification could be built midway between the fortresses of Thorikos and Anaphlystos.


Chantraine, P. 1999. Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque: Histoire des mots. Nouv. éd. avec suppl. Paris.

Constantakopoulou, C. 2007. The Dance of the Islands: Insularity, Networks, the Athenian Empire, and the Aegean World. Oxford.

Doty, R.E. 2003. Poroi. A New Translation. Lewiston, NY.

Hornblower, S. 1991. A Commentary on Thucydides, vol. 1. Oxford.

Ismard, P. 2010. La cite des réseaux : Athènes et ses associations, VIe-Ier siècle av. J.-C. Paris.

Kralli, I. 2006. “Aspects of Athenian Military Command Under the Antigonids (262-229 B.C.) Continuity or Change?” Athenaeum 94:542-561.

Malkin, I., C. Constantakopoulou, and K. Panagopoulou, eds. 2009. Greek and Roman Networks in the Mediterranean. London.

Malkin, I. 2011. A Small Greek World. Oxford.

Murray, A.T. 2nd ed. revised by W. F. Wyatt. 1999. Homer, Iliad, 2. Books 13-24. Cambridge, Mass.

Murray, A.T. 1919. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray. Cambridge, Mass.

Nenci, G., ed. 1994. Erodoto. Le Storie, Libro V: La rivolta della Ionia. Milano.

Petrakos, Ch. V. 1999. Ο δήμος του Ραμνούντος: σύνοψη των ανασκαφών και των ερευνών 1813-1998. ΙΙ. Οι επιγραφές. Athens.

Postlethwaite, N. 2000. Homer’s Iliad: A Commentary on the Translation of Richmond Lattimore. Exeter.

Rhodes, P. J. 1981. A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia. Oxford.

Schlaifer, R. 1944. “The Attic Association of the Mesogeioi.” CP 39:22-27.

Traill, J. S. 1986. Demos and Trittys. Epigraphical and Topographical Studies in the Organization of Attica. Toronto.

[1] All dates are BCE unless otherwise indicated.

[2] Some recent works focused on networks and interactions in the Greek world: Constantakopoulou 2007; Malkin, Constantakopoulou, and Panagopoulou 2009; Malkin 2011.

[3] Far from representing a comprehensive treatment of the entire textual evidence related to the topic – a task that goes clearly beyond the scope of this paper -, I am here limiting myself to taking into consideration a selection of sources which in my opinion are particularly significant in relation to our theme.

[4] Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 21.4. The Constitution of the Athenians reports mesogeios, but in other sources – mainly epigraphic– the district is called mesogeia. On the Cleisthenic organization of Attica, see Traill 1986.

[5] Cf. Rhodes 1981:251-253; Traill 1986, map with conspectus of deme quotas and locations.

[6] οἱ ἐκ τοῦ πεδίου, Herodotus Histories I 59; πεδιακοί, Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 13.4; πεδιεῖς, Plutarch Solon 13.2, 29.1.

[7] πάραλοι, Herodotus Histories I 59; Aristophanes Lysistrata 58; Plutarch Solon 13.2, 29.1; παράλιοι, Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 13.4, and in later authors.

[8] ὑπεράκριοι, Herodotus Histories I 59; Scholia on Demosthenes 623.2 Dind.; Dionysius of Halicarnassus Art of Rhetoric I 13.3; διάκριοι, Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 13.4; Aristophanes Wasps 1223, etc.; ἐπάκριοι, Plutarch Dialogue on love 763 D.

[9] According to ancient sources (Sophocles Fr. 19 = Strabo Geography IX 392. Cf. Scholia on Aristophanes Lysistrata 58; Scholia on Aristophanes Wasps 1223), this tripartition traces back to an ancient division of the region between the sons of Pandion: as the oldest son, Aigeus inherited the aktê, i.e. the Kephissus valley between mounts Aegaleus and Hymettus, which is bordered by Parnes and Pentelicus on the north and the north-east; Lycus got the hilly area opposite Euboea that stretched until Brauron on the coast; Pallas received the territory south of Parnes and Pentelicus and east of Hymettus, including Pallene, which took its name from him. Finally, Nisus got Megaris until Eleusis and the Thriasian plain. Cf. Rhodes 1981:73-74, 179-180, 184-188.

[10] Cf. Hornblower 1991:327-329.

[11] e.g. in I 100.3: προελθόντες δὲ τῆς Θρᾴκης ἐς μεσόγειαν, “when they advanced into the interior of Thrace”, and in II 102.1: ἐς τὴν μεσόγειαν τῆς Ἀκαρνανίας, “towards the interior of Acarnania”.

[12] e.g. in I 175.1: ὑπὲρ Ἁλικαρνησσοῦ μεσόγαιαν, “beyond the interior of Halicarnassus”, and in IV 185.2: ἐς μεσόγαιαν τῆς Λιβύης, “towards the interior of Lybia”.

[13] In a single case Herodotus uses the word mesogaia with regard to the Attic territory. In his account of the battle of Marathon (VI 113.1), the Historian states: Κατὰ τοῦτο μὲν δὴ ἐνίκων οἱ βάρβαροι καὶ ῥήξαντες ἐδίωκον ἐς τὴν μεσόγαιαν (…). “Here the foreigners prevailed and broke the Greeks, pursuing them inland (…)”

[14] Cf. below, § 11-12.

[15] I am excluding the decrees of the Mesogeioi (IG II² 1244-1248), which date to the end of the fourth – mid third century. For the moment, I am not taking into account such evidence mainly because, as Ismard 2010:225 recently pointed out, “le genos (ou l’oikos) des Mésogéens (Μεσόγειοι) n’avait qu’un lien indirect avec la Mésogée, puisque ses membres appartenaient pour l’essentiel à des dèmes urbains”. On the Mesogeioi see above all Schlaifer 1944.

[16] However, it should be noted that the epigraphic attestations of mesogeia and mesogeios from outside Attica too are very few and date to the Roman Imperial period.

[17] The earliest occurrence of these expressions is Petrakos 1999:n. 3, which dates to 268/7. They become increasingly common after Athens’ subjugation to the Antigonids (262).

[18] Cf. Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 61, with Rhodes 1981:679. More specifically on the third century military districts and their administration, Kralli 2006:546-551.

[19] Chantraine 1999:s.v. aktê.

[20] A similar description of the region, as well as a similar explanation of the origin of the name of Attica are given by Strabo Geography IX 1.3 (cf. Etymologicum Magnum 167.50-52; Dio Chrysostom Orations 6.2). Another tradition (FGrHist 239 A 1; Stephanus of Byzantium Ethnica s.v. aktê; Strabo Geography IX 1.18), however, says that Attica derived its name from an autochtonous called Actaeus, who, according to Pausanias (Description of Greece I 2.5, 14.7), was the first king of Attica. Contra Philochorus (FGrHist 328 F 92a), who did not believe that this Actaeus had ever existed.

[21] ἀγχίαλος: IA 169; Fr. 12, 41; Hyps. I 2, 26; Fr. 74, 3. ἐπάκτιος: Fr. 670, 2; παράκτιος: IT 1424.

[22] This war has been variously dated by scholars before the battle of Marathon, between the two Persian campaigns, and in the first quarter of the seventh century, see Nenci 1994:277.

[23] FGrHist F 1a,1,F, fr. 76.

[24] This meaningful expression is borrowed from Malkin 2011:48-50, 146-152, 199, 216-217.

[25] Indeed, as Postlethwaite 2000:60 points out, these Arcadians, along with their leader Agapenor, play no role in the narrative.

[26] Cf. Thucydides I 9.3.

[27] Translation by Murray 1919.

[28] Later in his report of Teiresias’ prophecy, Odysseus foreshadows his own death (281-282): θάνατος δέ μοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ (…) ἐλεύσεται. As Laura Slatkin pointed out after I discussed this paper at the 2013 CHS Spring Research Symposium, the meaning of this sentence has been a subject of much scholarly discussion. The debate focuses on the expression ἐξ ἁλός, which has been differently interpreted. It has been maintained that, according to Teiresias, Odysseus’ death should have come either ‘from the sea’ or ‘far from the sea’. My study of the vocabulary of ‘coastalness’ and ‘inlandness’ (see above, 10) has shown that ἐξ ἁλός is in fact the most widespread expression used in poetry to mean ‘inland’. As it turns out, this gives a fairly good indication that the sentence pronounced by Odysseus in Odyssey xxiii should be interpreted as follows: “And death shall come to me myself far from the sea”.

[29] Translation by Murray and Wyatt 1999.

[30] I follow Hornblower 1991:155-156, who prefers the manuscript variant ξύμπαντες instead of the more commonly accepted ξυμπάντων. This reading changes considerably the interpretation of the account, as it stresses that Drabeskos was, in fact, a major disaster; indeed, it is mentioned again by Thucydides at IV 102.2.

[31] Translation by Doty 2003.