Hellenistic Period

During the Hellenistic period, which was initially marked by Macedonian and then by Roman rule, Boeotia gradually withdrew from centre stage, while nevertheless continuing to constitute a field of significant military confrontations.

Macedonian supremacy had serious repercussions on the political organization of Helladic land, shifting the centre of gravity from Greece to the East and bringing to the fore broad political formations in the form of extensive kingdoms.

The old city-states retained their civil institutions but lost the possibility of selfdetermination, since the monarchs of the Hellenistic kingdoms interfered constantly in their domestic affairs. They were retained as either cultural centres, e.g. Athens, or formed coalitions in federations (Achaic Sympoliteia, the Koinon of the Aetolians), but in every case, there was no more than limited autonomy.

After the battle of Chaironeia, Philip II re-established the Koinon of the Boeotians based in Onchestos, without the participation of Thebes, which joined much later (287 BC), after it was rebuilt. Every city was represented by just one Boeotarch, while later the eponymous leader was replaced by a general, in accordance with the model of the Achaian Sympoliteia.

The equilibrium in Boeotia had been overturned. The beginning of the Hellenistic period found Thebes a pile of ruins, while Orchomenos, Thespiai and Plataia, cities destroyed by Thebes, were resettled by the Macedonians and began growing again.

A little later (316 BC) the rebuilding of Thebes commenced, at thecommand of Kassander, King of Macedonia, to whose call cities and private citizens responded warmly. However, it was not until the second decade of the following century that the city joined the reorganized Koinon of the Boeotians. Of necessity, Boeotian cities took part in the wars between Alexander the Great’s successors, supporting whoever served their interests. In general, their stance was pro-Macedonian, although in 197 BC they were forced to ally with the Romans against the Macedonians.

Later (171 BC), those cities that had sided with the Macedonian king Perseus against the Romans suffered severe damage (Aliartos, Koroneia, Thisbe) and the Koinon of the Boeotians was dissolved.

The instability that prevailed had negative repercussions on the economy. Wealth, and especially land, became gradually concentrated in the hands of the few, and in this way a new ruling social class was created in Boeotia.

Rome initially overthrew the kingdom of Macedonia (168 BC) and then dominated southern Hellas (146 BC). Thebes’ alliance with the Achaians provoked the invasion by the Roman general Metellus (148 BC) and shortly after by Mummius (146 BC). Then, pro-Roman regimes were imposed in Boeotia, and elsewhere, as were heavy taxes, with the exception of some cities that had remained loyal to the Romans, such as Thespiai, and enjoyed special treatment for being on the side of the Romans.

In the 1st c. BC, the wars of Mithridates, king of the Pontus, against the Romans and the civil conflicts of the latter provoked new disasters in Greek mainland. General Sulla invaded Boeotia in 86 BC and detracted half of Theban land. Peace came with the victory of Octavian Augustus in the battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Luxury, as a social value, and its spread into the middle social strata, imposed the development of mass production. Products for everyday use, for worship or funeral use were made in mass quantities, frequently without particular artistic features.

Continuing his course, the visitor enters the hall of the Hellenistic period, in which he will meet the marble female head of the 3rd c. BC from Livadeia (stand 69). The tour starts on the left with objects related to the political organisation, such as the stele with the names of the new Thespians who completed their military service during the year of the archon of the Koinon of the Boeotians Ismenias (stand 71), the lead weight equivalent in value to one stater from the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestos (showcase 152), and the annual financial report of an hipparch of Thebes, Pompidas, (stand 73).

The pointed commercial amphorae from Chios, Kos and Attica on stand 74 and the meagre savings of a child from Thebes (stand 153) present issues of economy and trade.

Then the visitor heads for the section in which the results of the military clashes are recorded as is the insecurity of the Hellenistic period. From the epigrams on the grave monument for the Akraiphnean Eugnotos (stand 76) we learn his story: he committed suicide after witnessing the defeat of his fellow patriots in the battle with the Macedonians, near the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestos, probably in 292 BC.

It is followed by the model of the Macedonian-type tomb in Tanagra. Of particular significance is the inscription with a list of donations to the reconstruction of Thebes; on which, among the donors, are listed Messene, Megalopoli, Athens, rulers and citizens and even from Cyprus (stand 78).

In showcases 154-155 are exhibited “treasures”. The one from Thebes stands out, consisting of 457 coins and gold jewels, which was perhaps hidden during Metellus’ invasion of Boeotia in 146 BC.

Showcase 156 contains objects of daily use from homes and workshops of the period, such as pottery, pestles, shearing scissors and a clay cup. There is a supplementary digital interactive application that guides the visitor through a typical Hellenistic home.

In showcase 157 are presented objects that are related to music and dancing; on stand 80 there is a painted mosaic floor from Thebes with the representation of a flautist, winner of music contests.

On stand 81, there is a comment on the issue of slavery with a liberating inscription of the 3rd c. BC from Thespies.

The visitor proceeds in the introduction to the Hellenistic world with showcase 158 and the typical pottery of the period. Two kylikes can be singled out bearing the inscription ΦΙΛΙΑC (friendship), vessels with “West Slope” decoration and skyphoi with relief decoration.

Showcase 159 is dedicated to Boeotian clay figurines/terracottas, which had developed greatly from the “Tanagraies”. Together with showcase 160, which contains figurines, vases, mirrors and jewellery, we are given a picture of the appearance and concerns of adults, adolescents and children.

In the following hall to the right are stands 82-88 which offer a brief picture of Hellenistic sculpture.

In showcase 161 are objects related to burial customs, and on stands 89-91 funeral vessels are presented.

Noteworthy among the grave monuments are the typical Boeotian porous cornices that are supported on a narrow post and frequently bear the name of the deceased, thereby identifying his grave (stand 92), the spindle -shaped perfume vessels, as popular grave gifts, and the grave stele of the poet Kapion (stand 93).