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Ruins of the amphitheatre at Erythrai
Erythrae or Erythrai ( ) later Litri, was one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minormarker, situated 22 km north-east of the port of Cyssus (modern name: Çeşmemarker), on a small peninsula stretching into the Bay of Erythrae, at an equal distance from the mountains Mimas and Corycus, and directly opposite the island of Chiosmarker.

According to Pausanias (Paus. 7.3.7), Erythrae was founded by Cretan settlers under the leadership of Erythrus the Red, son of Rhadamanthus, and at the same time inhabited by Lycians, Carians, and Pamphylians. At a later period came Cnopus (Strab. 14.633), son of Codrus, with an Ionian colony, whence the city is sometimes called Cnopopolis. The city did not lie exactly on the coast, but some little distance inland, and had a harbor on the coast named Cissus (Livy, 36.43).

In the 7th century BCE as an Ionian city of Asia Minor, Erythrae was a member of Pan-Ionian League. The city gained fame as a producer of millstones during the period of tyrannical rule.

In the peninsula, excellent wine was produced. The town was said to have been founded by Ionians under Knopos, son of Codrus. Never a large city, it sent only eight ships to the Battle of Lade. The Erythraeans were for a considerable time subject to the supremacy of Athensmarker, but towards the close of the Peloponnesian War they threw off their allegiance to that city. After the battle of Cnidusmarker, however, they received Conon, and paid him honours in an inscription, still extant.

Erythrae was the birthplace of two prophetesses (sibyls) --one of whom, Sibylla, is mentioned by Strabo as living in the early period of the city; the other, Athenais, lived in the time of Alexander the Great. The Erythraean Sibyl presided over the Apollonian oracle.

The ruins include well-preserved Hellenistic walls with towers, of which five are still visible. The acropolis (280 ft) has an amphitheatre on its northern slope, and eastwards lie many remains of Byzantine buildings.

By the mid. 18th century and up to early 20th century, Litri was a considerable place and port, extending from the ancient harbour to the acropolis. The smaller coasting steamers call, and there was an active trade with Chios and Smyrnamarker.

The archaeological site is situated within the settlement zone of the present-day Turkish village of Ildırı. The site was explored in depth in the 1960s by Professor Ekrem Akurgal, leading to precious discoveries, but has been left somewhat unattended since.

About 453 BCE Erythrae, refusing to pay tribute, seceded from the Delian League. A garrison and a new government restored the union, but late in the Peloponnesian War (412 BCE) it revolted again with Chios and Clazomenae.

Later it was allied alternately with Athens and Persia. About the middle of the 4th c. BCE the city became friendly with Mausolus: in an inscription found on the site he is called a benefactor of Erythrae. About the same time the city signed a treaty with Hermias, Tyrant of Assus and Atarneus, based on reciprocal aid in the event of war.

In 334 BCE the city regained its freedom through Alexander the Great who, according to Pliny (HN 5.116) and Pausanias (2.1.5), planned to cut a canal through the peninsula of Erythrae to connect Teos bay with the gulf of Smyrna.

When Alexander returned to Memphis in April 331 BCE, envoys from Greece were waiting for him, saying that the oracles at Didyma and Erythrae, which had been silent for a long time, had suddenly spoken and confirmed that Alexander was the son of Zeus. The timing proves that Alexander was already thinking that he was of a more than human nature when he entered Greece: after all, the people of Didyma and Erythrae can never have known that Alexander was recognized as the son of Ra and wanted to be called 'son of Zeus'.

Erythrae was later associated with Pergamum and with Rome, and after the death of Attalos III in 133 BCE, when the Pergamene kingdom was bequeathed to the Romans, it flourished as a free city attached to the Roman province of Asia.

At this time, Erythrae was renowned for its wine, goats, timber, and millstones, as well as its prophetic sibyls, Herophile and Athenais.

In the Roman period the city was plundered and its importance fainted after the earthquakes of that region in the 1st c. CE.

See also


Some of the text has been found on the website dedicated to the museum of The Temple of Athena in Erythrae which can be found in the external links section of this page.

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