The Greek and Hellenistic Period

Thessaly For Beginners

Northern, clannish and backward, with a dash of mysticism.

This is a poorly researched article I have largely shamelessly cut and pasted from the web to help me gain a background and insight into the region of Thessaly, its historical background and politics. And to help me learn more about the many Menos/Menons of Pharsulus and their role in the expeditions of Xenophon and Alexander, and especially about the Lamian War. At our Greek events we will take the part of Thessalians during these events, and I hope this information it may also give members some understanding of the area and the period as well.

Located in northern Greece, Thessaly is the largest plains area of Greece. It is almost surrounded by mountains, which are pierced by traversable valleys and passes called tempe. On the north, the Cambunian range has as its highest mountain the home of the gods, Mount Olympus. Nearby is Mount Ossa. To the west lies the Pindus mountain range, to the southeast the coastal mountains of Óssa and Pelion.

Thessaly occupies the east side of the Pindus watershed, extending south of Macedonia to the Aegean Sea. The northern tier of Thessaly is defined by a generally southwest-northeast spur of the Pindus range that includes Mount Olympus, close to the Macedonian border. Within that broken spur of mountains are several basins and river valleys. The easternmost extremity of the spur extends southeastward from Mt. Olympus along the Aegean coast, terminating in the Magnesia Peninsula that envelops the Pagasetic Gulf (also called the Gulf of Volos), and forms an inlet of the Aegean Sea. Thessaly's major river, the Pineios, flows eastward from the central Pindus Range just south of the spur, emptying into the Thermaic Gulf. The alluvial soils of the Pineios Basin and its tributaries make Thessaly a vital agricultural area, particularly for the production of grain, cattle, and sheep.

Modernization of agricultural practices in the mid-twentieth century has controlled the chronic flooding that had restricted agricultural expansion and diversification in the low-lying plains. Thessaly is the leading cattle-raising area of Greece, and Vlach shepherds shift large flocks of sheep and goats seasonally between higher and lower elevations. The last decades, there is a rise in cultivating dried nuts such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts especially in the region of Almyros. Rise in the number of olive oil trees have been also observed. The nearly landlocked Gulf of Pagasai provides a natural harbor at Volos for shipping the agricultural products from the plains just to the west and chromium from the mountains of Thessaly.

The Trikala and Larissa lowlands form a central plain which is surrounded by ring of mountains. It has a distinct summer and winter season, with summer rains augmenting the fertility of the plains. This has led to Thessaly occasionally being called the "breadbasket of Greece".

Thessaly, Larissa. ca 400-344 BC
Æ 21mm. Head of the nymph Larissa facing slightly left / LARI above, S before, AIWN in ex, horse prancing right; L above, grain ear below.
Thessaly is divided into 4 districts:
1. Thessaliotis,
2. Hestiaeotis,
3. Pelasgiotis, and
4. Phthiotis.

The name Thessaly comes from pastoral residents called Thessaloi, who probably come from the Balkans. They are thought to have spoken an early Greek language and had a Greek culture. The Thessaloi developed an organized federation composed of aristocratic families with an archon (chief) leading them. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey. In Archaic and Classical times, the lowlands of Thessaly became the home of baronial families, such as the Aleuadae of Larissa or the Scopads of Crannon.

The penestae (in Greek Οι Πενεδται, hoi penestai) were a class of unfree labourers tied to the land once inhabiting Thessaly, whose status was comparable to that of the Spartan helots.

Tradition made the penestae descendants of the Achaeans subjected by invading tribes arriving from Thesprotia. Archemachus (cited by Athenaeus, VI, 264), a 3rd century BC writer, believed instead that they were Boeotians:

"The Aeolian Boeotians who did not emigrate when their country Thessaly was conquered by the Thessalians, surrendered themselves to the victors on condition that they should not be carried out of the country, nor be put to death, but should cultivate the land for the new owners of the soil, paying by way of rent a portion of the produce of it, and many of them are richer than their masters."

The Thessalian lands were very productive and spacious (in comparison to the size of the population, i.e.); the penestae thus had goodly amounts of rich land to cultivate. The contributions given to the Thessalians (and Archemachus' remark about their wealth) imply that the penestae could freely dispose of the portions in excess of their rent payments, and that they could possess goods. Certain penestae, known as latreis, worked as house servants, receiving in exchange a salary.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus tells us (II, 9) that they were beaten when they refused to obey and that, generally speaking, they were treated like chattel slaves (i.e. people considered to be the property of others). They appear to have been much less numerous than the free Thessalians.

From a passage in Demosthenes it appears that the penestae sometimes accompanied their masters to battle, and fought on horse-back as their knights or vassals. This circumstance is not surprising, in view of the fame of the Thessalian cavalry. The penestae of Thessaly also resembled the Laconian helots in another respect, for they often rose up in arms against their lords. There were penestae among the Macedonians also. There were also an Illyrian tribe called Penestae.

Left: THESSALY, Larissa. Ca. 370-360 BC. AR drachm (19 mm, 5.94 g). Head of the nymph Larissa facing slightly right / Horse standing left, about to roll. Cf. Lorber pl. 1, 1; Herrmann grp. VII/L, pl. VII, 4. VF, reverse crudely struck.

Pharsalus is a major Thessalian city, possibly associated with Phthia in the Homeric catalogue 2 and home to the Thessalian hero, Achilles.

Protesilaus is the son of Iphiclus, king of Phylace, in Thessaly, the first Greek to leap on Trojan soil although he knew that to do so meant he must die. In Homer's epic, the Odyssey, Odysseus visits the kingdom of Aeolus, and this is the old name for Thessaly.

The Plain of Thessaly, which lies between Mount Oeta/Othrys and Mount Olympus, is the site of the battle between the Titans and the Olympians. According to legend, Jason and the Argonauts launched their search for the Golden Fleece from the Magnesia Peninsula.

Left: Thessaly, Thessalian League. AE, Helmeted head of Athena right / QES-SALWN above and below bridled horse trotting right. Grain stalk to right.

The geographical isolation and cultural stagnation of Thessaly contributed to both its cultural disenfranchisement from southern Greece and its reputation as a ‘backwater’. As a setting on the edge of the civilised world it was an ideal location for writers to locate witchcraft. Thessalian mythology (i.e. myths about Thessaly) seems to have a consistently ‘otherworldly’ character and behind our earliest sources there are traces of archaic practices of healing and shamanism.

Homer described the centaurs as the ‘hairy beast men’ while Pindar wrote of their barbaric conception through Centaurus mating with the mares on Mount Pelion. Through the myths of Chiron, Achilles, Asclepius, Jason and Medea, Thessaly’s tradition of healing and magic is subtly evident.

Findings suggest that the legend of the Thessalian witch was invented during the 5th Century BCE when the Greek ethos was dominated by the Athenian tendency to polarise everything non-Greek into barbarianism. Thessaly was the region best situated to attract this polarity. Thessaly was famous for its ‘red-headed witches’ and evoked all that was contrary to the Athenian: uncivilised, wild, woman, outsider, heretic. Witches live on the periphery, outside the values, customs and traditions of the polis. To the Athenian mind Thessaly was also foreign. Having colluded with the Persians during their second invasion of mainland Greece, the Thessalians were likewise referred to as barbarians. Thessaly’s mythology, history as well as its reputation during the classical period promoted a mystique, which attracted the projection of the witch.

Left: Late 5th Century red-figure vase painting depicting Medea and her cauldron

Homer lists the horses of Eumelus as the best amongst the Greek army, an initial reference to the legendary horses of myth and folklore, which Thessaly become famous for. One of Thessaly’s epithets would become ‘horse-breeding Thessaly’ and in later military encounters the Thessalian cavalry had a reputation as ‘the best in Greece’. Horses roamed the fertile plains of Thessaly. In myth, the Thessalian horses on Mount Pelion had mated with Centaurus, the son of the Lapith king Ixion. He sired the race of the Centaurs, the mythical hybrid of the horse-men, which are a prominent feature of the myths of Thessaly. In reality, horses inhabited the plains; in myth, the Centaurs roamed the mountains. Homer also acknowledged the mystical quality of the Thessalian horse. Achilles’ horse, Xanthus, was able to communicate and prophesy. Homer describes the Thessalian hero Achilles’ magical ability to communicate with the animal (Iliad 19: 400ff), a vestige of shamanistic tradition. Like Thessaly its horses were imbued with both barbaric (the Centaurs) and supernatural (the horses of Achilles) qualities.

From the Dark Ages Thessaly’s fertile plains were cultivated and the region was agriculturally able to support its population. Land hunger, which precipitated an economic crisis initiating colonial expansion for many other areas of Greece, did not affect Thessaly. Lacking the economic impetus to colonise contributed to Thessaly’s insularity and lack of intercourse with the rest of the Greek peninsula. During the Archaic period Thessaly was too broad to be unified politically and was divided into four districts which ‘seemed to have existed as separate and independent states’. These main districts were known as tetrads while lesser marginal districts, known as perioikis, were also defined as regions of Thessaly. As Westlake (See Westlake, “Thessaly in the Fourth Century B.C.” and “The Medism of Thessaly”, JHS, Volume LVI, 1936) points out by the end of the 7th Century the whole country was unified into a single state for defence purposes only. During the first half of the 6th century Thessaly was unified through its strong military presence. However feuding amongst the aristocratic families continuously fractured the national unity, and social conflict continued well into the fifth century: ‘Social unrest caused the prestige of the Thessalians to sink to avery low ebb throughout the Greek world, and the part which they played in Greek history at this time was almost a negligible one.’ The borders within Thessaly were now continuously affected with shifts in alliances and unstable leadership. While civic reform and social change occurred throughout southern Greece, Thessaly remained stagnant. Westlake suggests that in the case of Thessaly, 'the Dark Ages may scarcely be considered at an end until the close of the fifth century’. In the 4th century it was Jason of Phaere emerged as the tyrant who unified Thessaly.

Thessalians began to be stereotyped as untrustworthy and crafty, attributes that later would also describe witches. The Thessalian reputation for treachery, notorious in later times, dates from the second half of the fifth century and probably originated in Athens. The earliest reference to it seems to be by Euripides. Eteocles’ Thessalian trick in Euripides’ Phoenissae (1407-13)102 reflects the generalisation which labelled the Thessalian as deceitful and conniving. While there is no mention of witches in Euripides’ fragment, tricks and Thessaly are becoming fused together in the Athenian mind. Westlake suggests the treacherous Thessalian persona emerges in the second half of the century, shortly before Aristophanes’ reference to Thessalian witchcraft.

The Athenian accusation of untrustworthiness was also political. In 462 Thessaly had forged an alliance with Athens. Before the development of their own cavalry, the Athenians relied on their Thessalian allies for support since they were ‘famed for their skill as cavalrymen’. When Thessaly’s help was needed against Sparta, the Thessalian cavalry deserted its allies at Tanagara in favour of the Spartans. During the same campaign the Thessalian cavalry were openly hostile towards the Athenians and attacked an Athenian supply train in a premeditated raid. This was not the first time Athens had felt betrayed by Thessaly. During the Persian wars Thessaly had ‘medized’. Even before Persia marched through Thessaly in 480 BCE, Herodotus suggests a Thessalian contingent journeyed to Persia to offer their support and ‘to promise all the assistance which it was in their power to give’ the Persians for an invasion of Greece. He suggests this support may have contributed to the Persian decision to invade Greece. Xerxes’ army marched through Thessaly on its assault of southern Greece. After their defeat at Salamis Mardonios, the Persian general, along with the Persian army wintered in Thessaly where there was ample food and shelter. At the battle of Plataia the three sons of the Aleuas, one of Thessaly’s ruling families, were on the confidential staff of Mardonios.

This reputation for untrustworthiness in the latter part of the 5th century compounded earlier accusations that the Thessalians were intellectually inferior. The artisans of southern Greece saw Thessaly as culturally and intellectually backward and sterile. Denigrating comments about the Thessalian bridged the 5th century. Alcman, in the latter 7th century, suggested the Thessalian had ‘the intellectual refinement of Asiatics’, fusing them with the ‘other’,even before their association with the Persians. A century later Simonides, who had visited Thessaly, considered the Thessalians ‘stupid’. Later, in the 4th century, Plato also followed these earlier leads intimating that Thessalians were without virtue. In Crito, Plato stated that Thessaly was a ‘land of misrule’ and unlike any other Greek ‘well-ordered state’. Plato suggested that it would ‘hardly be decent’ of Socrates to ‘give lectures in virtue’ to the Thessalians since they lacked piety. No doubt Plato reflects the Athenian feeling of superiority to the Thessalian throughout the 5th and early 4th centuries. This seems to be reflected in the writings of Xenophon and the comments he makes about Menon II (c. 423-400 BC,), son of Alexidemus.

The stain of medizing was in part wiped away by the Second Macedonian War. In 364 BC, a joint Theban- Thessalian force under Pelopidas defeated Alexander of Pherai in a battle at Kynoskephalai; Pelopidas, perishing in the battle, was widely mourned and vigorously honored throughout Thessaly. In the years before his death, Pelopidas had most likely been involved in a significant reorganization of the Thessalian League.

Left: A rare silver stater of Alexander of Pherai, the tyrant, issued circa 369 to 358 B.C. in Pherai.

These are the bull hunt the taurokathapsia , the mounted torch race the aphippolampas, and mounted and dismounting race the aphippodromas. In the later the rider had to dismount and mount during the race. All are depicted on coins from Larissa. The taurokathapsia was a form of bull fighting that was popular at many games in the ancient Greek world, and particularly in Crete and Thessaly. Scenes of this event are depicted on coins from various cities of Thessaly, but it is especially prevalent in the 5th century BC coinage at Larissa, which provides much of the current evidence about the taurokathapsia today. In the Thessalian version of the event, a man on horseback was to chase down and subdue a bull. He first rode alongside the running bull, then grabbed the bull by the horns and jumped from his steed onto the back of the bull. Still holding the horns, the rider then dismounted the bull, and attempted to wrestle it to the ground. A detailed account of this type of taurokathapsia scene is described in Heliodoros, Aeth. 10, 28-30.

Left: THESSALY, Larissa. Circa 460-420 BC. AR Drachm (20mm, 5.54 g, 10h). Thessalos, petasos and cloak tied at neck, holding band across horns of bull right / Horse running right, trailing reins, within incuse square; (retrograde R)ΑΛ above, I below. Lorber, Thessalian 7-8 var. (legend arrangement); BCD Thessaly II 355.1 var. (same).

Left Atrax, Thessaly, Circ. B.C. 400-344. Atrax (Pelasgiotis), on the northern bank of the Peneius, about ten miles west of Larissa. Obv: Bearded head (of Atrax ?). Rev: ΑΤΡΑΓΙΩΝ Rushing bull.

The later taurokathapsia coinage at Larissa was quite extensive and can be grouped into phases. The first phase, comprising both drachms and hemidrachms, is characterized by the reverse type being in an incuse square. It lasted from circa 460-420 BC, during which time the style of the coins evolved quite dramatically from an archaized to a more realistic, classical form.

In the 4th century BC Jason of Pherae transformed the region into a significant military power, recalling the glory of Early Archaic times. Xenophon (Hell. VI.i.4-19) describes Polydamas of Pharsalus visiting Sparta as a supplicant to ask for help against Jason’s threat to take over the city completing his control of Thessaly. Sparta chose not to interfear with such a cabale general and honourable man, in command of highly trained mercenaries and capable of fielding 8,000 cavalry, 20,000 hoplites and innumerable peltasts. Jason seesm to have annexed part of Macedonia and had Epirus as a client. He was assassinated in 370 BC.

Shortly after Philip II of Macedon was appointed Archon of Thessaly, and Thessaly was thereafter associated with the Macedonian Kingdom for the next centuries. By 354, Philip was in control of the Macedonian coastal region apart from the Chalcidic peninsula. At this point, thanks to his Thessalian connections, he became involved in the Third Sacred War (355–346). The war originated in 356 when the Thebans brought charges against the Phocians for unpaid fines, but in response Phocian troops seized Delphi and began to plunder the treasures of the sanctuary. In 355 the Delphic Amphictyonic Council formally declared war on the Phocians on behalf of Apollo. With their booty, the Phocians raised large troops of mercenaries (Diod. 16.30.1–2). As Phocis was an ally of the tyrants of Pherae, Lycophron and Peitholaus, who had claimed the leadership of the Thessalian League, the opposing Thessalians backed Thebes in the Sacred War. In 353 Larissa again appealed for Philip’s help against Pherae. He took an army to Thessaly but experienced a setback when he was defeated twice by Lycophron’s Phocian allies under their commander-in-chief Onomarchus. Forced to withdraw to Macedonia, Philip was even confronted with disobedience of his troops (Diod. 16.35.2). However, Philip was able to cope with the situation and returned in 352 to defeat the Phocians at the Thessalian coastal plain at the Battle of the Crocus Field (Diod.16.35.3–6). Posing as avenger and champion of Apollo, Philip ordered his soldiers to wear crowns of laurel on their heads, the sign of the god (Justin 8.2.3).

Thus,he had grasped the chance to interfere legitimately in Delphi’s affairs. He even tried to enter central Greece by the pretext of carrying the war against the Phocians into their homeland. When he advanced towards the strategically important Pass of Thermopylae providing access from Thessaly, Eubulus at once supported military involvement and an Athenian force arrived in time to block Philip’s way (Diod.16.38.1–2). Without resistance, he withdrew to Thessaly and returned to Macedonia. His victory at the Crocus Field had cleared the Phocians out of Thessaly. As a result,he was elected leader,archon, of Thessaly, an office that included the command over the famous Thessalian cavalry as well as an input into the Thessalian seat of the Amphictyonic Council (a religious institution with political power in Greece). To cement the Thessalian alliance, he married Nicesipolis, the niece of Jason, former tyrant of Pherae.Philip did not suppress local Thessalian coinages nor does he seem to have made exorbitant requests for Thessalian infantry, cavalry, or perioikic light-armed troops in the run-up to Chaeronea in 338.

Much of Greece was elated at news of Philip’s assassination and Polyaenus records a story of Thessalian resistance at the Tempe to Alexander’s initial march south (4.4.1).The force was easily circumvented and Alexander, like his father, won election as archon of the Thessalian League (Justin 11.3). The new king made a series of genealogical arguments for his right to the position: like some Thessalians he, an Argead, could claim descent from Heracles (Diod. 17.4.1); moreover, Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, among the most famous Thessalians of myth, was an ancestor of his mother Olympias, a Molossian princess (Justin 11.3). These arguments were skilful politicking, for those local elites whose support would be essential for a relatively easy transition of power between father and son would be satisfied. The Aleuads of Larissa professed descent from Heracles and Philip’s recent favorites from Pharsalus had thes trongest claim on Achilles of any Thessalian city. A contingent of 2,000 Thessalian cavalry accompanied Alexander on his eastern campaign. These fought with distinction, especially the contingent from Pharsalus, in Alexander’s three major set-piece battles at the Granicus, Issus, and Gaugaumela. Some even volunteered to stay on after the League of Corinth’s forces were dismissed at Ecbatana in 330 (Curt. 6.6.35). A number of Thessalians ascended to positions of considerable influence with Alexander, and veterans returned home, well compensated for their efforts.

Sources frequently state the Thessalian cavalry were the best of Alexander’s army, generally fighting on the left of the line under Parmenion. Roughly equal to the Companions in strength, 1,800-2,000 men, it can be assumed they also were organised into eight ilai of 200 men each. The vanguard squadron was the Pharsalian ile, also Parmenion’s personal bodyguard, and perhaps double strength like the Royal Squadron. Arrian (3.11.10) calls it the “finest and most numerous squadron”. The squadrons could have been named after the principle cities in Thessaly, perhaps Larisa, Pherae, Tricca, Pharcadon, Pelinna, Olooson and Philippi/Philippopolis or ancient Gomphi. After Gordian another 200 Thessalian horse joined the army, perhaps used as replacements rather than forming a new squadron. The regiment was disbanded at Ecbatana, but 130 volunteers stayed on as a distinct unit as mercenaries serving under the former hipparch Philippus a further year before been disbanded. The Alexander sarcophagus suggests that a red short sleeved garment was worn under a long sleeved purple tunic, with a purple cloak with a white lower borders which would billow out when galloping to give “Thessalian wings”. This Philippus son of Menelaus was a Macedonian first attested as a hipparch of the allied cavalry at the Granicus. By Gaugamela he had been promoted to the Thessalian command.

There are, however, tell tale signs of lingering dissatisfaction among some in Thessaly during Alexander’s rule, including the service of some Thessalians as mercenaries for Darius (Arr. 2.11.2–3) and a possible revolt in Thessaly and Perrhaebia (Aes. 3.167). While the effects of Alexander’s Exiles’ Decree of 324 on Thessaly are unknown, it is easy to see how it could have thrown the region into some turmoil. Philip had raised new men to power whose fortunes were tied to those of Macedonia as a whole. The return of exiles, who must have been especially numerous given the scale of civil war in Thessaly over the first half of the fourth century, threatened this new order.

Unsurprisingly, Antipater’s Thessalian cavalry treacherously joined the cause of the Greek rebels in 323 during the Lamian War. Most of Thessaly revolted and Pharsalus emerged as a center of resistance. By 322, however, Antipater had escaped from Lamia, won a victory at Crannon, and effectively splintered the opposition. The sack of several Thessalian cities, including Pharsalus, followed (Diod. 18.17.7). In continued fighting the next year, the most impressive general of the Thessalian resistance, Meno of Pharsalus, was killed (Diod. 18.38.6). Thessaly emerged from this war militarily broken, financially exhausted, and firmly under Macedonian control.

This family draws me greatly since their story is reflected in the history of Greece, for good and ill. Four Menon’s can be identified, sometimes translated as Meno.

The first Menon (in Greek Μενων, 525? BC - 472? BC) was a prominent Pharsalian who assisted Athens, led by Cimon, in their battle against Eion around 476 BC. According to Demosthenes (XIII.23, XXIII.199) he himself contributed 12 talents of silver and equipped 300 cavalry from his own penestae for battle. He was awarded by the Athenians for his service. He may be the father or grandfather of Menon II of Pharsalus.

The second Menon (475? BC - 431? BC) commanded a faction of Pharsalians who were among the Thessalians who came to the assistance of the Athenians when they were being attacked by the Peloponnesian army in the first year of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BC. He, at the time, led a cavalry that was involved in a skirmish at Phrygia. He may by the son or grandson of Menon I of Pharsalus, and he may be the grandfather of Menon III of Pharsalus (who appears in Plato's Meno), via his son Alexidemus.

Meno (c. 423-400 BC,), son of Alexidemus, was an ancient Thessalian political figure. Probably from Pharsalus, he is famous both for the eponymous dialogue written by Plato in which he features and his role among the generals killed by Artaxerxes at the Battle of Cunaxa, as depicted in Xenophon's Anabasis. Meno is reported, by both Xenophon and Plato, to have been attractive and in the bloom of youth and was quite young at his death. He had many lovers, including Aristippus of Larissa, Tharypas, and Ariaeus the Persian. Xenophon gives a strongly hostile description of Meno as a disreputable, ambitious and dishonest youth, willing to commit any injustice for advancement, though Meno's actions in the Anabasis may not entirely merit such a negative portrait.

Left: Pharsalos; Obol; Athena/ Horse's head Thessaly, Pharsalos. Circa 400-425 B.C. AR Obol, 14mm, 0.9g. Helmeted head of Athena right / ΦΑΡΣ, Horse's head right.

Meno while still young was given command of 1000 hoplites and 5000 peltasts from Thessaly as hired by Aristippus to assist Cyrus the Younger in his attempt to seize the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes was made king of Persia upon the death of Darius II, but Cyrus believed that he had a more rightful claim to the throne and gathered an army to contend his kingship. Cyrus gathered together Persian supporters and Greek mercenaries, including Xenophon himself. Cyrus at first deceived the Greeks about the purpose of his mission and led them some considerable way, to the Euphrates River at Thapsacus, before telling them his true intentions.

Xenophon goes into some detail about the march and mentions Meno on a few occasions. Meno escorted, with some of his troops, the Cilician queen Epyaxa back to Cilicia. Meno lost some hundred troops on this mission, either because his troops were caught pillaging and killed by the Cilicians or because they got lost and wandered until they perished. Later, after Cyrus first told the Greeks that he was leading them into battle against Artaxerxes to seize the Persian throne, the Greeks were dismayed and demanded more money before they would continue. Meno won the admiration of Cyrus by persuading his troops to cross the Euphrates first (as a show of their willingness to follow Cyrus) before the other troops had decided. At another point, Meno's soldiers became enraged with Clearchus, the Spartan general, unsuccessfully trying to stone him to death, an act which nearly led to Meno's and Clearchus' men openly fighting between them. This story, along with his loss of 100 men in Cilicia, suggests that Meno maintained poor discipline among his troops. Xenophon claims that Meno maintained discipline by participating in his troops' wrongdoings. However this sounds like the traditional Athenian attitude to all things from Thessaly.

Cyrus eventually engaged with Artaxerxes' troops headed by Tissaphernes at the Battle of Cunaxa. The Greek contingent won easily, but Cyrus and his troops were repulsed and Cyrus himself was killed in battle. The Greek troops, now led by Clearchus, viewing themselves as the victors, declared their support for Ariaeus, one of Cyrus' commanders and the most senior Persian on their side still living. Ariaeus, accompanied by Meno, his "guest-friend," met privately with Tissaphernes. Ctesias tells us that Tissaphernes here began to plot with Meno to betray the Greeks. Xenophon writes that Clearchus believed that Meno had been pouring false slander about the Greeks into Tissaphernes' ear and was aware that Meno was plotting to seize control of the army from Clearchus with Tissaphernes's favor. Sherylee Bassett suggests that Tissaphernes may have been here deceiving Meno into thinking he would support his leadership aspirations, playing the two main leaders, Clearchus and Meno, off against each other. Ariaeus declined the offer of kingship and Tissaphernes began apparently friendly negotiations with Clearchus for a truce, finally inviting him for a cordial meeting with the other Greek generals and officers. According to Ctesias, some of the Greek soldiers were hesitant to attend the meeting, but Meno persuaded the soldiers, who thereby persuaded the reluctant Clearchus, to comply. Clearchus, with four other generals (Agis of Arcadia, Socrates of Achaea, Proxenus of Boetia and Meno), twenty officers and some two hundred troops visited the tent of Tissaphernes but they were betrayed, Clearchus and the generals being captured and all of the officers and as many of the soldiers as could be caught being killed. The generals were taken to Artaxerxes and all were beheaded, except Meno.

Ctesias' account simply tells us, at this point, that Meno was spared. Diodorus says Meno was spared since he alone was thought willing to betray the Greeks. According to Xenophon, Meno was kept alive and tortured for a year before finally being killed. Ctesias is generally an overall unreliable historian, but since he was at the time a physician to Artaxerxes and was witness to some of the events (for example, attending to Clearchus before he was beheaded), he may be considered more reliable than Xenophon, who, as he himself admits, is merely repeating a report that he heard. On the other hand, the two reports need not necessarily differ, if Ctesias only knew of Meno being spared and was not aware that he was subsequently tortured and ultimately killed.

In Plato Meno appears his eponymous Platonic dialogue as a guest of Anytus accompanied by a considerable retinue of slaves. Meno's stay in Athens is short and Socrates mentions that Meno is not able to stay to attend the mysteries. The dialogue is probably not historical, but is meant to take place in 402 BC, shortly before Meno's Persian generalship or in 401 BC, while he is en route to Persia.

Socrates says that Meno is a former student of Gorgias and Meno notes that he has made many speeches on virtue before large audiences, suggesting an interest in sophistry. Socrates' comments also suggest that he is associated with the Greek eristic tradition of debate. Meno asks Socrates the question of whether virtue can be taught, leading to the epistemological quandary known as Meno's paradox which Socrates attempts to address through dialectic with one one of Meno's slaves. Ultimately, Meno seems little interested in discovering the answer, but rather seeks a strong argument to use in debate and public speech. Xenophon had described Meno as being the complete opposite of virtuous and as believing that virtuous people were weak and ripe for being exploited. Socrates tries to lead Meno into the question of what virtue is, but Meno resists, asking Socrates to answer his initial question of whether virtue is teachable. The dialogue ends with the conclusion that virtue is not teachable, though without a conclusion on what virtue is.

The fourth Menon (died 321 BC) was a citizen of Pharsalus in Thessaly, and a man of great influence and reputation, took a prominent part in the Lamian war, and commanded the Thessalian cavalry in the battle with the Macedonians, in which Leonnatus was slain. Plutarch tells us that his services were highly valued by the confederates, and that he held a place in their estimation second only to Leosthenes, At the battle of Crannon (322 BC), he and Antiphilus, the Athenian, were defeated by Antipater and Craterus, though the Thessalian horse under his command maintained in the action its superiority over that of the enemy; and they felt themselves compelled to open a negotiation with the conquerors, which led to the dissolution of the Greek confederacy. But when Antipater was obliged to cross over to Asia against Perdiccas, the Aetolians renewed the war, and were zealously seconded in Thessaly by Menon, through whose influence it probably was that most of the Thessalian towns were induced to take part in the insurrection. Soon after, however, he was defeated by Polyperchon in a pitched battle, in which he himself was slain, 321 BC. His daughter Phthia he gave in marriage to Aeacides, king of Epirus, by whom she became the mother of Pyrrhus.

Following Alexander the Great’s death in 323BC in Babylon, the Athenians were moved to liberate Hellas from Macedonian hegemony, whence the name “Hellenic War”. Shortly before Alexander expired he had ordered the return of all exiles hitherto banished from the Greek cities. For the most part this measure was popular, but was unwelcome in Athens and Aetolia for different reasons, and the death of Alexander was to be their opportunity for repealing this act. Swayed principally by Hypereides, a staunch anti-Macedonian rhetor and demagogue, the Athenians went to war in the hopes of engendering a new, anti-Macedonian Hellenic League, and appointed Leosthenes general of the allied forces.

Recruiting a force of mercenaries and joined by many other city-states the Athenians and their Aetolian, Locrian, and Phocian allies were at first able to bring superior numbers against the enemy. Antipater the Macedonian viceroy in Europe, with an initial force of some 13,000 troops was short on troops due to the Macedonian campaigns in the east. The total Greek force at the outset of the war appears to have been 25,000 strong and was composed of up to 10,000 Athenians, 12,000 Aetolians and various contingents of mercenary forces. The Thessalians originally sided with Antipater, but were quickly persuaded to join the Athenians as allies. This sudden shift in strength led to some early confederate successes against Antipater, and he was constrained to seek refuge in the fortified city of Lamia located on the southern slope of the Othrys Mountains on the Malic Gulf. There Antipater called for reinforcements from Asia. The Athenians and her allies, despite their early successes, were bogged down in their siege of Lamia. The well-walled town proved impregnable to the Athenians, and their commander Leosthenes was mortally wounded during a sallying forth from the city by the Macedonians who sought to harass their ditch-digging besiegers. His death prompted the Athenians to retreat.

That year Hypereides pronounced the funeral oration over the dead including his friend Leosthenes. Antiphilus was appointed as his replacement. Soon after the Athenian retreat from the walls of Lamia, Macedonian reinforcements — 20,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry — arrived from Asia under the command of Leonnatus. But he was killed in a battle against the Greek cavalry, however this allowed Antipater to escape from Lamia and merge his army with that of Leonnatus. The arrival of a third Macedonian force under the leadership of Craterus decidedly shifted the numerical superiority to the Macedonian side. The Athenian naval fleet had been defeated at the Battle of Amorgos (322 BC) and had not succeeded in preventing these reinforcements’ succouring Antipater.

Antipater and Craterus now marched their combined army south to force the Greeks to battle. The Greeks, after calling together their dispersed forces met the Macedonians near Crannon in Thessaly in 322 BC.

Relying on the high reputation of the Thessalian horse, the Athenian general, Antiphilus decided to try as in the battle with Leonnatus to win the battle by cavalry. The battle therefore opened with the clash of the Greek and Macedonian cavalry. With the cavalry of both sides occupied, Antipater ordered his infantry to charge the Greek line. The Greek infantry was driven back by the more numerous enemy and withdrew to the high ground from where they could easily repulse any Macedonian assault. Seeing their infantry in retreat the Greek cavalry disengaged from the battle, leaving the field and victory in Macedonian hands.

While the Greek army was still intact it was clear that the Macedonians had gained the advantage in the war. After conferring with his cavalry commander Menon of Pharsalus, Antiphilus therefore sent an embassy to Antipater the next day asking for terms. Antipater however refused to conclude any general peace with the Greek alliance as a whole, insisting instead that each city sent its own ambassadors. While these terms were at first rejected the subsequent Macedonian capture of several Thessalian cities caused a rush of defections as each city strove to make a separate peace.

Athens, abandoned by her allies, was at last forced to surrender unconditionally. In the peace imposed by Antipater the Athenians were forced to accept a Macedonian garrison as well as a replacement of democracy with an oligarchy under the leadership of Phocion. Antipater made peace treaties with the rebellious cities separately and on generous terms. The Athenians were made to dissolve their government and establish a plutocratic system in its stead, whereby only those possessing 2,000 drachmas or more could remain citizens. This was done in the belief that the poorer elements of the society had compelled the war in the first place. Hypereides was condemned to death, fled, and was probably captured and killed in Euboea. Demosthenes was forced to commit suicide by Antipater for his role in supporting the Hellenic War.

But when Antipater was obliged to cross over to Asia against Perdiccas, the Aetolians renewed the war, and were zealously seconded in Thessaly by Menon, through whose influence it probably was that most of the Thessalian towns were induced to take part in the insurrection. Soon after, however, he was defeated by Polyperchon in a pitched battle, in which he himself was slain, 321 BC.

Left: Krannon; Poseidon/ KPA, horseman, trident below Thessaly, Krannon, 400-344 B.C. Bronze. 5.2g. 17mm. Obv: Poseidon laureate, right. Rev: KPA, Thessalian horseman, right, trident below.

Three central themes characterize Macedonian involvement in Thessaly after the death of Alexander the Great and the Lamian War. First, Philip’s Thessalian settlement apparently endured the lengthy transition of royal power in Macedonia from Argeads to Antigonids: a late source suggests that Macedonian kings from Philip III Arrhidaeus to Philip V continued to serve as archons of the Thessalian League.

A second theme is the consolidation of Macedonian control over Thessalian territory. As Polybius acidly observed, ‘the Thessalians were supposed to enjoy their own con-stitution, and to have quite a different status to the Macedonians; but in fact they had exactly the same, and obeyed every order of the royal ministers’ (4.76).

For Polybius,Thessalian self-deception masked the realities of Macedonian hegemony. Finally, this order faced increasingly grave challenges from Epirus, Aetolia, and eventually Rome. This is largely not a story of home grown, Thessalian resistance to or support for Macedonian rule – although one must continue to assume that there were pro- and anti-Macedonian factions in many Thessalian cities – but of outside powers coveting the region for its military and natural resources, and because, by this time, Thessaly was increasingly regarded as an integral component of Macedonia itself. One could inflict no more severe harm against Macedonia than by attacking along its southern Thessalian frontier.