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Amykles (Greek: Αμύκλες, older form, polytonic: Ἀμύκλαι, monotonic: Αμύκλαι; Latin: Amyclae) is a village and an archaeological site located southwest of Sparta. According to some sources, the ancient city was founded by Amyclas, the son of Lacedaemon.


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Amyclae is in the Eurotas plain, by the Eurotas river; it lies east of the Taygetus mountains, south of Tripoli, southwest of Sparta, north of Gytheio, and east of Kalamata. Much of the area is used for orange groves and other types of farming.

Ancient Amyklai

7548: Figurine of a female cymbal-player

In the second century AD, the traveller Pausanias was informed that the archaic site of Amyklai had its ancient origin as an Achaean stronghold that predated the "Dorian invasion", and modern archaeology has supported that view. The Bronze Age settlement lay on the slopes above the modern village of Amykles. It was conquered by the Spartans as the fifth of the surrounding settlements whose subjection initiated the history of Sparta, in the eighth century BC; the inhabitants of Amykai took their places among the perioikoi, members of autonomous groups of free but non-citizen inhabitants of Sparta.

About the same time, there was erected at Amyklai the Sanctuary of Apollo, enclosing within its temenos the tumulus of Hyakinthos[1], a pre-Hellene divinity whose cult was conflated with that of Apollo, in the annual festival of the Hyakinthia. There have been finds of sub-Mycenaean votive figures and of votive figures from the Geometric period, but with a gap in continuity between them: "it is clear that a radical reinterpretation has taken place" Walter Burkert has observed, instancing many examples of this break in cult during the "Greek Dark Ages", including Amyklai (1985, p 49).

After the Spartan conquest, Amyklai continued to hold the Gymnopaideia and the Hyakinthia, now celebrated in honor of Apollo Amyklaios, given an even later political interpretation, as celebrating "the political reconciliation of Doric Sparta (Apollo) with the Achaian population of Amyklai (Hyakinthos)" (Hellenic Ministry of Culture). Nothing is heard yet of Apollo's sister Artemis at Amykai, Burkert has pointed out [2]. In the seventh or early sixth century, a colossal archaic helmeted effigy was made of bronze, taking the semi-aniconic form of a stout column with arms, holding a spear as well as the more familiar bow: "ancient and made without artistry," Pausanias thought. "Except for the face and the tips of its feet and hands it looks like a bronze pillar. It has a helmet on its head, and a spear and a bow in its hands. The base of the statue is shaped like an altar, and Hyakinthos is said to be buried in it." (Description, III.6). In the mid-sixth century the face of Apollo had been veneered with gold from Lydia, the gift of Croesus. Later in the sixth century, Bathycles of Magnesia designed the Doric-Ionic temple complex later known as the "throne of Apollo". The archaic cult statue, set on the podium that was constructed to enclose the chthonic altar dedicated to Hyakinthos, was surrounded by a virtual encyclopedia of Greek mythology, to judge from Pausanias' enumeration of the subjects of the reliefs. The podium contained the altar to Hyakinthos [3] and was faced with bas-reliefs and there were more bas-reliefs on the stoa-like building that surrounded on three sides the colossal column-shaped statue of the god. The analemma and peribolos of the sanctuary have been excavated. Architectural fragments show that the architecture combined Doric and Ionic architectural orders: some are exhibited in the Sparta Museum.

Beside the cult of Apollo, the people of Amyklai also worshipped Dionysus, as Dionysos Psilax. Pausanias noted that psila was Doric for wings— "wine uplifts men and lightens their spirit no less than wings do birds" he added by way of gloss: apparently it was hard for him to imagine an archaic winged Dionysus.

Traditionally Amyklai was associated the residence of Tyndarus and his sons, the Dioscures..

Modern Amykles

Today, Amykles is a village located near the archaeological site, home to the orange crops located around the area and the Lakonia orange juices made from Laconian oranges. The village has a school, a lyceum, a church and a small square (plateia).

Between 1981 and the 1991 census, the population of Amykles decreased from 1034 to 589.[CN]

Notes

^ The artificial hill, now Christianized as that of Ayia Kyriaki (Saint Cyriac), still defines the sacred site.
^ Greek Religion 1985, p., 220. She appears among a host of subjects in the reliefs on the "throne of Apollo".
^ "At the Hyakinthia, before the sacrifice to Apollo, they pass through a bronze door to dedicate the offerings of a divine hero to Hyakinthos in this altar; the door is on the left of the altar" (Pausanias).

References

A. Faustoferri, Il trono du Amyklai e Sparta : Bathykles al servizio del potere, Italian scientific editions, Naples, 1996;
Edmond Lévy, Sparte : Histoire politique et sociale jusqu’à la conquête romaine, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire" = "Points of History", Paris, 2003
R. Martin, Bathyclès de Magnésie et le trône d'Apollon à Amyklæ, RA, 1976, p. 205–218
Hellenic Ministry of Culture: The Amyklaion and Sanctuary of Apollo
Pausanias, Description of Greece III.6 Apollo at Amyklai.
Richard Stillwell, ed. Princeton Encyclopaedia of Classical Sites, 1976: "Amyklai, Achaia, Greece"

Further reading

E. Buschor and W. von Massow, "Vom Amyklaion," AM 52(1927) 1-85.
P. Calligas, "From the Amyklaion," in J. M. Sanders (ed.), Philolakon: Lakonian Studies in Honour of Hector Catling (Oxford 1992) 31-48.

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