Tanagra Survey Project

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Monday, May 20, 1985 to Tuesday, June 18, 1985

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Grimadha, long identified as ancient Tanagra, lies in southwestern Boeotia, approximately 35 km north of Athens.  At the time of the 1985 survey, the site had never been excavated, although its cemeteries were examined, and some brief probing undertaken at the end of the 19th century CE discovered the famed “Tanagran” figurines from a large necropolis at Kokkali.  Apart from visits and surface sherding in 1966 and a cursory site examination in 1969 by John Fossey, there was little interest in the site despite an interesting history.

Tanagra became important in the sixth century BCE, participating in the settlement of Herakleia Pontika in 560 BCE and perhaps in the colonization of southern Italy.  The first Tanagran coins were minted during the same century.  The lyric poet Korinna, Tanagra’s most important literary figure, who is said to have defeated Pindar at least once, may have been active during this period as well.  Following the Persian Wars, it aspired to lead the Boeotian Federation and commissioned Kalamis to provide cult status for two temples.  Athens was alarmed by these ambitions and in the 460s BCE the murder of the Athenian statesman Ephialtes was blamed on a Tanagran.  A few years later the site was the location of a major victory over the Athenians by the Spartans and Boeotians.  Athens soon retaliated and demolished the city walls, ending Tanagra’s brief bid for Boeotian hegemony.

In 1985, Duane W. Roller of Wilfrid Laurier University undertook a topographic survey of the site of the Classical and Hellenistic city of Tanagra.  The project, completed in a single season, mapped the city’s steep hillside, established the course of the perimeter wall, and located the remains of many substantial buildings, including a theatre.  No artifacts were collected during this survey.

The ruins are marked by city walls, which have long been noted by travellers, although little of the walls remain about the surface to the present day.  Construction of an aqueduct in the 1950s cut into the face of one particularly prominent tower while the only gate still standing is that in the southeast.  There are no physical remains of the others although three more may be inferred.  The circuit of the wall is very irregular, due largely to the steep terrain.  The original course extended for 2,240 m around the city, constructed of blue limestone and sandstone.

None of the interior structures stands higher than ~1.5 m above the present surface.  The thickest concentration of remains is in the southern part of the city, which is laid out around streets and avenues.  Tanagra was noted for its striking and attractive urban plan, where sanctuaries rose prominently above houses, according to Pausanias.  Most buildings are now too scattered and nondescript to be identified, although a hollow 75 m across and 60 m deep is the likely location of the city’s theatre.

Further work carried out under the auspices of the Netherlands Institute in Athens have confirmed many of the results of the 1985 project.  Preliminary reports of this project have been published in Pharos: Journal of the Netherlands Institute in Athens (2006, 2005, 2001, 2000)  and BCH (2008).  An extensive bibliography can be found at Prof. Bintliff’s website at Leiden University.


Roller, Duane W. 1989. Tanagran Studies 2: The Prosopography of Tanagra in Boiotia. McGill University Monographs in Classical Archaeology and History 9. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

Roller, Duane W. 1989. Tanagran Studies 1: Sources and Documents on Tanagra in Boiotia. McGill University Monographs in Classical Archaeology and History 9. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

Roller, Duane W. 1989. “Recent investigations at Grimádha (Tanagra).” Pgs. 129-163. In Boeotia Antiqua I: Papers on Recent Work in Boiotian Archaeology and History. J.M. Fossey ed. McGill University Monographs in Classical Archaeology and History 7. Amsterdam: Brill.

Roller, Duane W.  1987. “Tanagra Survey Project 1985: The Site of Grimadha.” The Annual of the British School at Athens 82: 213-232.

Roller, Duane W. 1986. “ Tanagra Survey Project 1985: Preliminary Report.” Échos du monde classique = Classical Views 30.2: 160-172.

Roller, Duane W. 1974. “The Date of the Walls at Tanagra.” Hesperia 43: 260-263.