LIFE

Abdera: Walk in the footsteps of heroes and philosophers

The ancient city of Abdera, located 22 kilometers southeast of the present-day city of Xanthi, was one of the best known in antiquity and the birthplace of several prominent philosophers, including Leucippus, Democritus and Protagoras. According to mythology, the city was founded by the mythical hero Heracles, in honor of his friend Abderos, but historically it was first a colony of Clazomenae in Asia Minor. It flourished and the Persians made it a base for their campaign against the rest of Greece. Later, it joined the Athenian League and the Macedonian campaign in Asia. It suffered extensive destruction by the Romans and declined into an unassuming provincial town in Byzantine times before sinking into oblivion.

The archaeological site occupies the area between the modern resort of Abdera and the road to the port, and is delineated by two walls. Its acropolis is to the southeast while the northern side is occupied by cemeteries dating from all periods.

Polystylon, the Byzantine acropolis, was built on the coastal hill of Bulustra, right above the ancient harbor -- an important commercial hub in antiquity, located west of the modern port.

Exhibits in the first hall of the museum there include a reproduction of public venues in the ancient city, with inscriptions providing information about the system of government, a large number of statuettes, votive objects and coins.

The second hall houses tools used in the city's craft workshops, examples of local craftsmen's skills (mosaics, wall paintings) and utensils used in everyday life. On display in the last hall are finds from the cemeteries, including jewelry and sarcophagi.

The present-day village of Abdera has a traditional settlement on the northern side, up from the imposing square with neoclassical mansions and a church dating to 1700. The village also has a folk history museum.

The Archaeological Museum (tel 25410.51003) is open daily, 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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