1. Mythology and Antiquity
There is evidence for the existence of the city as early as c. 800 BC. Archaeological finds indicate there was continuous habitation in the site of Lebadea, while inscriptions and literary sources testify to its importance. In fact, during the Roman period it was described as a ‘sacred city’ because of a sacred grove and an oracle dedicated to the hero-god Trophonius.
In the mythical tradition Trophonius was an architect. Together with his brother Agamedes they constructed stone buildings, abandoning the use of mud bricks and wood. According to myth, Trophonius beheaded his brother Agamedes; upon arriving to Lebadea, however, he was swallowed up by the earth together with Agamedes’ head. This is how, always according to the account in Pausanias, the ‘bothros (=pit) of Agamedes’ was formed in the sacred grove of Lebadea. Trophonius thus became a chthonic deity, a dweller of the dark underground, with the ability to foretell the future. Those seeking Trophonius’ advice had to sacrifice a ram in that pit, in the city’s sacred grove. The chasm or cavern of Trophonius was forgotten; it was rediscovered only when the people of Lebadea were struck by a plague and consulted the Oracle at Delphi.
Trophonius was, therefore, an ancient local deity, whose cult had a predominantly chthonic character, becoming hugely more popular during the Roman period. The sources mention games held in honour of the hero combined with the Basileia, the games organised in honour of Zeus Basileus. Even today, the area of the sources of river Hercyna, nowadays called Krya, at the feet of the hill where the castle was built, which probably formed part of the sacred temenos including the grove and the Oracle of Trophonius, features niches for votive offerings and ancient architectural members scattered around or found incorporated in later structures (spolia). The same site has yielded statues of women wearing the peplos; these probably depict deities or priestesses in the local cult.
A ritual for pronouncing an oracle was already established by the Archaic period, given that ancient sources (Herodotus and Aristophanes) mention oracles given to Croesus (c. 550 BC) and to Mardonius’ emissary (480 BC). A reliable source on this procedure is Pausanias. The literary testimonies on the Oracle of Trophonius are unusually numerous and are found in a number of authors. Apart from Herodotus and Aristophanes, Plutarch, Lucian and Strabo related various anecdotes pertaining to the Oracle, spanning different periods of its history. In 1803 Lord Elgin wanted to conduct excavations with the aim of uncovering the Oracle; in order to secure permission from the local authorities he donated a clock, which today is found in the so-called Clock Tower.
Zeus was also venerated apart from Trophonius. Pausanias mentioned the Temple of Zeus Basileus, whose construction was never completed because of the structure’s size or continuous warfare, according to the traveller’s testimony, as well as due to the lack of funds, a view supported by modern scholars. The foundations of a very large structure west of the modern city of Livadia, at the top of the hill Profitis Elias, dated to the second half of the 3rd cent. BC have been interpreted as belonging to that temple. Written sources, however, prove the cult of Zeus Basileus was already widespread in Lebadea by the 4th cent. BC. Modern scholars argue that the project for the construction of the temple also involved the relocation of the central part of the Trophonius Oracle from the grove to the area of the Temple of Zeus Basileus in the second half of the 3rd cent. BC. This resulted not only in the two deities being physically closer, but to a further interweaving of their cults, which in certain periods were inseparable.
The orientation of the streets in the ancient city is NW-SE and NE-SW, something that is also true of the modern city. The ancient city was built on lower ground than the modern settlement, mainly in the part defined by Karagiannopoulou Str, Mpoufidou Str, Andreadaki Str and Christodoulou Str. Rescue excavations conducted in that area have revealed ruins of buildings and have yielded movable finds. The city’s necropolis was located on the hill of Ayios Vlassios, more specifically in the area of the hospital, where 155 graves were excavated in total, dating from the late 6th cent. BC to the 3rd cent. BC. The most recent rescue excavations revealed part of an ancient cemetery with graves dating from the Late Classical to the Hellenistic periods (4th-3rd cent. BC).
The history of Lebadea in Antiquity is inextricably bound to that of Boeotia. Almost throughout this period the Lebadea stood in the shadow of Thebes, but it was one of the largest cities of the Boeotian League. In the Hellenistic period it was considered an important city, as suggested by archaeological remains and inscriptional testimonies, in which inhabitants of the city are commemorated as proxenoi. Lebadea minted its own coins from 386 to 374 BC -its silver coin bore the Boeotian shield on one side and a thunderbolt on the other, accompanied by the letters ΛΕΒΑ-; from 338 to 315 BC it minted bronze coins, with the Boeotian shield on one side and the letters ΛΕΒ on the other.
The city was a member of the Boeotian League in all its phases. In 395 BC it was destroyed by Lysander. In the war between Rome and the Macedonian King Perseus (178-168 BC), the city decided to support the Romans. Soon after it was captured and its oracle pillaged by Mithridates, while after his victory over Mithridates, Sulla visited further destruction upon it. The Temple of Zeus was also destroyed.
2. Middle Ages
In the early Byzantine period Lebadea was not particularly prosperous. It shared the fate of the Eastern Illyrian theme, in terms of political as well of ecclesiastical developments. The city’s agrarian economy faced serious challenges because of the barbarian raids of the 4th and early 5th century, and again in the 7th century. With the administrative reform introducing the institution of the themes, it became part of the theme of Hellas; from the 9th to the 12th century it flourished in the context of the general prosperity enjoyed by the themes of Greece. The Norman raids that followed, however, seriously impacted economic activities in the area.
Following the capture of southern Greece by the Franks of the Fourth Crusade (1204), Lebadea was given to the ‘Lord of Athens’ Otto de la Roche; one century later, following the defeat of the Franks by the Catalans in the Battle of Cephissus (1311), its inhabitants delivered the city’s castle to the victors in exchange for certain privileges. The period of Catalan rule lasted until May of 1388 under the King of Sicily Frederic, when the area of the Duchy of Athens passed to Nerio Acciaioli.
During this period a massive groups of Albanian-speaking populations, mainly shepherds and farmers, settled in the Duchy of Attica and Boeotia. These people settled in dangerous, abandoned or inaccessible sites. Thus, Lebadea received relatively small numbers of Arvanites (for this reason the Ottoman Turks dubbed the city ‘Giaour Livadia’, meaning ‘Livadia of the infidels’, i.e. Greeks), something which was not true of Tsoukalades, Granitsa, Sourpi and Zeriki. Zeriki in particular was established by Arvanites. In the period of Catalan rule, the city enjoyed significant growth and its importance rose, only to fall into obscurity in the following period of Florentine rule.
The city’s castle deserves further discussion. It is usually described as a Catalan structure, and indeed the building which can be seen today was constructed by the Catalans. The earlier castle, however, was erected by the Franks. Inside the castle stood the chapel of Ayia Sofia; this was very important to the Catalans, for this was where the holy relic of Saint George was kept, considered the ‘head, protector and mediator’ of the kings of the house of Aragon.
The castle also contained the church of Ayios Georgios, established in the 12th century. According to the sources, in 1311 de Brienne III, Duke of Athens, in his last will and testament bequeathed the sum of 1,150 golden drachmas to the church of Ayios Georgios. Under the Ottomans the church was converted into a mosque; later it was destroyed and was rebuilt after the Greek War of Independence.
3. Ottoman Period
In 1460 Livadia passed to the Ottoman Empire, forming a . In the 16th century the city was a has of Ottoman officials and by the 17th century it formed a of Mecca, or of Medina, according to other scholars. In the 18th century, all income from the kaza of Livadia was used for the Yeni Camii (a mosque at Üsküdar in Constantinople), established by the wife of Sultan Mehmet IV.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, contemporary tax registers mention the production of rice, which appears for the first time in southern Greece. It was cultivated on the shores of River Hercyna, under the auspices of the central administration. The city’s markets offered rice, grain, pulses, honey, livestock, wax, local and imported textiles, hides, prinokoki (crimson coloured dye), timber a.o.
In the hostilities of the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1684-1699 and, more specifically in 1694 and 1695, Livadia suffered extensive destruction, yet by the early 18th century conditions were ripe for another period of economic growth. To start with, its inhabitants enjoyed a number of privileges and civic institutions were strengthened with the emergence of a ruling class. It is not incidental that by the late 18th century Livadia was described as ‘the largest city in Boeotia’. Its economy was prosperous and the city traded wool, grain and rice all over Greece. As a result, the drive towards immigration was limited, and was more common among the city’s scholars and merchants. Some of the better known such cases are those of Lambros Katsonis and Ioannes Nikolaides of Livadia.
4. Livadia in the 19th century
On the eve of the Greek War of Independence, around 10,000 Greeks lived in Livadia. In 1820 the city was a focal point for the revolutionaries of the Filiki Etaireia, to which the local authorities had been initiated. Athanassios Diakos, who had become commander of the fighters in Livadia, cooperated with Vasilis Mbousgos and the prokritoi Ioannis Logothetis, Ioannes Filonas and Lampros Nakos to prepare for the uprising. On the night of 28th/29th of March the revolutionaries gathered on the hill of Profitis Elias. When the Ottoman commander Hassan aga rejected Diakos’ proposal to surrender, the attack was launched. On March 31st, the Ottoman defenders who had taken refuge in the Clock Tower surrendered, and on April 1st in a solemn service in the church of Ayia Paraskevi, the bishops of Salona, Talantion and Athens gave their blessings to Diakos’ revolutionary flag, which is today kept in that same church.
In the Greek War of Independence, the city suffered by the repeated attacks of Ottoman troops heading for Peloponnesus, and the last engagements of the war were fought in its area. Livadia was finally liberated in 1829 and its recovery begun immediately afterwards.
The city’s inhabitants who had taken refuge in other areas returned, the school reopened and by 1841 Livadia had once again become one of the most robust economic centres in the newly formed Greek state. Lake Copais and River Hercyna contributed to industrial growth. The textile industry was the steam engine of growth, with Copais providing ample water for cotton plantations and Hercyna powering the weaving machines in the factories. Ginneries, spinneries, fulling areas and watermills allowed the production of huge amounts of yarn, which was sold in domestic and foreign markets. Thus, by 1864 the National Bank of Greece opened a local branch in Livadia. In 1899 the Trade Association was founded. Today the city’s former prosperity is still evinced by the luxurious mansions of that era, few of which are preserved. The wealth of Livadia, however, was concentrated in the hands of few families, whose names had become well-known even before the Greek War of Independence. Scions of these families were actively involved in the political and cultural arena of Greece. It was not coincidental that thanks to Nikolaos Mpoufides’ efforts (1842-1912), Member of Parliament, Minister for the Interior and President (i.e. Speaker) of the Parliament, in 1899 a decision was taken to make Livadia capital of the prefecture, notwithstanding the protests of the Thebans.
5. Livadia in the 20th century
Livadia’s growth continued into the 20th century with the establishment of new industrial plants. Today Livadia is the seat of the Municipality of Livadia, which emerged after the unification of the former municipalities of Livadia, Davleia, Coronea and the community of Kyriaki. Its total population is 33,152.
Economic activity is concentrated mainly in the secondary sector (cotton gins, workshops etc.) and the tertiary sector (commercial activities and services), while agricultural production is dwindling. Lately efforts have been made to boost tourism. Livadia is a city offering many sights: its castle, the sources of Krya with the oracle of Trophonius and the fulling area; stone bridges, the Clock Tower, churches and chapels; visitors can also stroll along the old marketplace and visit the neighbouring areas. The names of the streets, squares, busts and monuments provide a wealth of information on the city’s history. A well-endowed and vigorous library and Livadia’s intellectuals and scholars have helped place the city on the cultural map.
6. Persons of Note
The area of Livadia can take pride in being the birthplace of a number of eminent persons who became major actors in Greece’s political, social and cultural arena. Indicatively, we should mention the following:
Lampros Katsonis (1752-1805): Captain and Knight of the Military Metal of Saint George, Fourth Class. In 1770 he voluntarily joined the Russian forces and participated in the First Russo-Turkish War (1769-
1774, Orlov Revolt). Consequently, together with other Greeks he relocated to Crimea. Assembling his own flotilla he participated in a number of naval expeditions, mainly against Turkish forces. For his services he was decorated by both the Russian as well as the Greek authorities. Late in 1798 or early in 1799, his family moved to Crimea, in an estate granted to him by Empress Catherine II. This estate measured approximately 22,000 hectares and included a country mansion. This estate was later renamed to Livadia by Katsonis. Nowadays the area is a village 3 km west of Yalta.
Antonios Georgantas (?-1884): A fighter in the Greek War of Independence of 1821, statesman and author of a book of memoirs from the time of the Revolution, first published by Giannis Vlachogiannis.
Ioannes Nikolaides from Livadia (1805-1871): A Professor of Medicine and scholar.
Filon Filonos (1813-1895): Son of Giannakis Filonos, a prokritos (local official) in Livadia. President (i.e. Speaker) of the Greek Parliament in 1861-1862. He served several terms as a member of parliament and served for 1 year as mayor of Livadia.
Nikolaos Mpoufidis (1842-1912): Lawyer and statesman. In 1893 he was appointed Minister for the Interior and served six terms as President (i.e. Speaker) of the Greek Parliament.
Petros S. Kokkalis (1896-1962): Professor of Surgery in the University of Athens. He was an active member of the Greek Resistance in WWII. He cooperated with the National Liberation Front (EAM) and became a member of the Political Committee for National Liberation (PEEPA).
Demetrios Papaspirou (1902-1987): Lawyer and politician, served as a minister and President of the Greek Parliament.
Takis Lappas (1904-1995): A historian and man of letters. His studies on the area are still considered essential reading.
Euthumios Dalkas (1909-2003): Educationalist and historian. He devoted his studies mainly to Livadia and his books constitute of a point of reference for those wishing to learn more about the area.
Kostas Paskalis (1929-2007): Baritone with a brilliant career in Greece and abroad.
Dimitris Geros (1948- ): Visual artist whose works have been exhibited in Greece and abroad; also a stage designer.
Sotia Tsotou (1942-2011): A lyricist who had composed a number of great hits.