1. Mythology – Nomenclature

The town has been named after Orchomenos, Minyas’ son. In the past, though, the town was called Andriida, named after Andreas, the first settler and father of Eteocles, who was heirless. However, the first king of Orchomenos was Andreas, Pineios’ son. Andreas had a son, Eteocles, but as he was heirless, the kingdom passed over to Almos, one of Sisyphus’s sons, whose great-grandson was Minyas. It is suggested that Minyas was the leader of a new dynasty. Therefore, in Homer’s epics Orchomenos has the epithet Minyan in contrast with Orchomenos Polimilos who was in Arkadia. However, this family line was interrupted because Minyas’s son, Orchomenos, was heirless, too. Therefore, the next king came from Athamas’ side, Sisyphus’ brother. His name was Clymenus, whose son was Erginus. Erginus had two sons: Trophonius and Agamedes. The Thebans murdered Clymenus and Erginus became the king of Orchomenos. Then, Arginus assisted, by his brothers, set out on an expedition against the Thebans in order to take revenge for Clymenus’ murder. They beat them and imposed them a high tax. In Thebes, when Herakles came of age, he took it upon himself to release the Thebans from the tax. He attacked the Orchomenians causing great calamity among them and obliged them to pay the double tax to the Thebans. However, Erginus is believed to be the navigator of Argo, the ship with which the Argonautic expedition took place. After Erginus, Ascalaphus and Ialmenus were the ones who took control over Orchomenos town. Both of them took part in the expedition against Troy,according to the Catalogue of Ships found in Homer’s Iliad. In this catalogue, Orchomenos and Aspledon are presented to be together, but the former is set apart from the 29 Boeotian cities that are mentioned as a confederation.

It is suggested that Minyas had so much wealth that a treasury was built to placeit in. That treasury is the famous Tomb of Minyas. The monument was built in 1250 BC and some loyal family members of the Mycenaean settlement must have been buried in there. All the precious funeral offerings had already been removed by tomb robbers during the ancient years. The 19th century travelers could easily recognize the beehive tomb. Afterwards, the tomb was excavated by archaeologists coming from Greece and from other countries, too.In 1915, the tomb was restoredby Orlando. It should be mentioned that, in 1862, large pieces of the dromos of the beehive tomb had been removed by the mayor of Skripou village, in order to use them for a church construction.

Minyas is supposed to be the leader of a new dynasty, which, according to the ancients, was responsible for the draining of Kopais Lake. There is also a connection between Minyas and Dionysos. The god got angry with the king’s daughters when they refused to become members of his followers and participators in the orgies in order to worship him. Thus, Dionysos after transforming himself several times, Minyas’s daughters were driven mad and devoured one of their children as they thought it to be a deer. Then, they took refuge up to the mountains where Hermes transformed each of them into a bat, an owl and a crow, respectively. In Orchomenos, Dionysos had the epithet “Agrionios”; “Agrionia” was the festival in his honour and was celebrated annually in September-October. During “Agrionia” women from Orchomenos, furious with the child’s murder, and the Dionysos’s priests chased Minyades (Minyas’ female ancestors) with a sword in their hands. The priests had the right to murder them but they never actually did it. Minyades’ husbands and their male relatives were not allowed to defend them.

According to the tradition, as Pausanias mentions in his work Boeotia, there are records that Eteocles was the first to make sacrifices to the Charites (Graces). He also notes that there were three of them: Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia. The most ancient temple dedicated to the Cahrites was situated in this territory. It was constructed in subsequent phases and it already existed in Pausanias’s time. It is located on the western side of the church of Skripou, but, nowadays, there is nothing preserved of it. However, the visitors can see the spring Akidalia where, according to the tradition, the Charites were born. That is the reason why the spring was called the Spring of Charites. Not to mention that the musical competition called Charitisia was also dedicated to the Charites and there is information that it used to take place in the 3rd century BC.

2. Prehistory

Archaeological finds show that Orchomenos was settled in the Neolithic Period. At the beginning of the Mycenaean Period, when, according to the mythology, Minyans were in power, the town had a dominant position in the territory, as depicted in the Kopais Lake drainage. For that period of time this kind of work was regarded as unique. The lake covered almost 70 square kilometers. In winter, its level rose significantly, due to heavy rains and the melting snow, whereas in summer the water left through the natural crevasses and sinkholes. As the underground water drain took place in the higher levels of the basin -where the crevasses and sinkholes were situated- in the summer Kopais Lake turned into a marsh. The lake was well-known for the fish and the delicious eels. It was also famous for the exceptional reeds that grew on its shore and the gorse that aulos and ropes of Haliartus were made of. The lake received water from the rivers: Melanas, Kifissos, Herkyna, Phalaros or Coralios, Triton and some other smaller ones.

The efforts to put the lake water under control began very soon. Between 2000 BC and 1550 BC, the first efforts were made in order to protect the cities that were located by the lake from the floods and to ensure at the same time that there will be more arable land available. Around 1550 BC, due to a disastrous flood, the lake level went over a meter. Many settlements were destroyed and many polders were lost for good due to the water. That led to efforts for the systematic facing of the problem. The next effort was made by Alexander the Great but his work was never completed. Finally, Kopais Lake was permanently drained in the 19th century.

Between 900 and 500 BC, the archaeological remains indicate that the area was amid population boom and affluence.

3. History

3.1. Antiquity

The Archaic period is characterized by the shifts of settlements towards upper areas due to the lake’s overflow. Many were the times that even their names were changed. As soon as the Mycenaean world came to an end, Orchomenos lost its dominant position. This is depicted in the myth about the Thebans’ victory over Orchomenians. At that time Herakles was their leader and their victory coincided with Boeotians’ descend from Thessaly. In the 8th century Orchomenos ruled the towns of Aspledon and Chaeronea. From about the end of the 6th till the half of the 5th century BC, Orchomenos and Hyettus (4 kilometers northeast of today’s Pavlos village) were members of the Boeotian Confederacy and were represented by 2 Boeotarchs. At that period of time Olmones, Tegyra (near today’s Dionysos village) and Cyrtones (nowadays, it belongs to Fthiotis) must have been under Orchomenos’ dominion. Around 500 BC, Orchomenos must have minted its own currency.

During the Persian Wars, Orchomenos, as well as the rest of Boeotians except Thespiai, went on the Persians’ side. In 447 BC, in the Battle of Coronea and in 424 BC, in the Battle of Delium Orchomenos participated militarily in the Boeotians’ attempts to get released from the Athenians’ dominance. In 427 BC, the town was seriously damaged due to a strong earthquake. Then, Orchomenos remained on friendly terms with Sparta although the Boeotian League followed its own policy. Orchomenos’ friendship with Sparta was obvious during the Corinthian War in which Orchomenos went on the side of Lycander and the Confederation. As a result, Orchomenos became autonomous with the Peace of Antalcidas. The town’s independence is depicted in the fact that it minted currency named after its own name. Everything changed when the alliance between the Athenians and the Thebans triumphed over Sparta. Theypunished all the cities that had been on Sparta’s side, Orchomenos included. In 364 BC, the town was destroyed and the residents were either murdered or sold as slaves. Only few managed to flee to Kos.

By the Battle of Chaeronea the town had not played any important political role. The fact that Orchomenos went on Philip’s and then on Alexander’s side led to the town’s revival. Alexander rebuilt the town and the tower on the top of Akontio village, extended the fortification walls (some pieces still remain) and accorded privileges to the town. It was, also, the time when another effort was made to drain Kopais Lake. At the end of 4th century BC the theatre was constructed and it functioned by the late Roman Period. Orchomenos was again at its peak; it became again a member of the League and must have presided for a period of time. During the 3rd and 2nd century BC, Orchomenos was one of the five most important cities of Boeotia. In the next years, Orchomenos followed the district’s course of history that involved alternate Hellenistic kings and victory over the Gauls.

During the Roman Period the town was, at first, unaffected but then it became the theater of the conflict between the Sulla, who was Roman, and Archelaus, who was Mithridates’ general. The former pillaged the town and that marked the beginning of its decline. Although it went on Cesar’s side along with other Boeotian cities, Orchomenos was from then on nothing more than a village of no importance.

Before we watch the course of Orchomenos history in the following years, it is important to be mentioned that Orchomenos was famous for breeding horses. Not only are images of horses depicted on the town currency but also Pindar talks about its horses when he refers to the town (Pindar's Fourteenth Olympian Ode).

3.2. Middle ages

By the half of the 6th century AD, Orchomenos as well as the rest of Boeotia had been ravaged by the Goths and by consecutive earthquakes. In the half of the sixth century, the financial development began. Orchomenos produced enough wheat to export. At the same time, sericulture was being carried out and the silk production was being developed. Then, the town became part of the Theme of Hellas and until 1204 the residents lived an undistracted life, except the period of the brief advance of the Slavs. During 873/874, the monastery of Koimisis tis Theotokou or Panaya Skripou was built in the homonymous region of Panaya Skripou near Orchomenos, which nowadays is called Athamas. The integrated inscription on the external side of the temple’s apse reads the name of Leontas, who was the monastery founder of and royal protospatharios, as well as the construction date of the church. Much of the masonry that has been used for the church construction comes from the archaeological site of Orchomenos, to which it is adjacent. Besides, that the name Skripou probably comes from the numerous built-in inscriptions on the church walls (from the Latin word scriptus). Nowadays, just the catholic part of the original complex remains, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God and to the Apostles Peter and Paul as suggested by the triune Holy Bema. The church is cross-in-square, it has protrusive crossbeams and a narrow narthex on the west. The surrounding area is scattered with antiquities: the ancient theatre, Minyas’s tomb, the Mycenaean palace, a temple that is thought to be dedicated to the Charites.A little bit later, the church of Saint Sozon was built (1010 ?), one of the many churches Basil II built in remembrance of his victory over the Bulgarians, who had occupied the territory in 985. The temple is well preserved and once again the use of the ancient material is obvious.

From 1204 to 1311, Orchomenos had been occupied by the Francs. In 1311, it became the theater of the conflict between the Catalans and Gautier De Brienne Duke of Athens. In the battle of Orchomenos, the Catalans won and occupied Thebes and then Athens, breaking the Francs’ dominance and establishing the Catalans’ in the Duchy of Athens, and so in Orchomenos, until 1388.

From 1363 to 1365, the Turks under the commands of Murad II settled in Boeotia and Attica. In 1390, they invaded Livadia and Orchomenos under the commands of Evren Bey and pillaged the towns. From 1394, the regions of Livadia and Orchomenos went under the control of Bayezid I. Yet, the Accaiuoli regained the territory and the residents lived peacefully until the Ottomans finally subjugated them.

3.3. Ottoman period

From 1434 till the Revolution, Orchomenos remained under the Ottoman dominion. Throughout this period of time, the town belonged to the kaza of Livadeia. During the Ottoman rule, Orchomenos did not face any significant problems, as the Ottomans respected the language and the religion. The land came directly to the Sultan’ s possession and some of it to the voivodes. In 1770, the residents started to cultivate cotton, fact that contributed to the economic development of the region, which was set back only by the plague epidemic in 1788-1789. The Orchomenians Goulas and Zigouras took part in the pre-Greek War of Independence and the Orchomenos’ contribution during the war as far as human resources and food supplies are concerned was of great significance.

3.4. Modern and contemporary period

Orchomenos was finally released in 1829, but the residents’ financial condition was terrible due to the ravages that the enemies had caused. Moreover, the marshes of the region caused deadly diseases like malaria. In 1835, Orchomenos was declared municipality and Skripou was the seat of it. The municipality involved Skripou, Petromagoula, Karya, Agios Dimitrios, Vranezi and Molivi. Gradually, the economy began to thrive and that resulted in the development of the whole town with special interventions in the land-planning, 20 years later. In 1882, the drainage of Copais Lake started. In 1889, the seat of the town was transferred to Petromagoula and the following settlements were integrated to the municipality of Orchomenos: Tsamali, Poligyra, Karyotissa, Kalyvia, Kikira, Sinos, Ano and Kato Skripou. In 1912, the municipality of Orchomenos was abolished and individual communities were created, such as Skripou, Petromagoula and Tsamali. In 1920, Skripou and Tsamali were united and constituted the town of Orchomenos, which became the seat of the Municipality of Orchomenos. The municipality was the result of the surrounding settlements re-union, in 1948.