Fortress of Eleutherai, site Kaza, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

Fortress of Eleutherai, site Kaza, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

The archaeological site of Eleutherai, on the old Athens-Thebes National Road, north of the Villia junction, encompasses part of the lowland and rocky hill, where the ancient fortress, known as Gyftokastro, stands. Eleutherai was allegedly the birthplace of Dionysus, who founded the homonymous city and was thus called Dionysus Eleuthereus. Originally a Boeotian city, Eleutherai went over to Athens in the sixth century BC. The cult statue of Dionysus Eleuthereus was reportedly moved from Eleutherai to Athens on Peisistratus' orders, leading to the establishment of the homonymous sanctuary on the south slope of the Acropolis. Strategically located on the borderline of the Athenian territory, with control over the narrow passage between Athens and Thebes and overlooking the plain of Oinoe, Eleutherai was part of the Athenian defence network in the fourth century BC. The archaeological site has been cleared of undergrowth.

The archaeological site of Eleutherai comprises the foundations (16.55 x 8.76 meters) of a fourth century temple, probably of Dionysus Eleuthereus, habitation remains dating from the Archaic to the Early Christian period in the area surrounding the temple, the foundations of two Early Christian basilicas at the foot of the hill, and the fortress.

The fort is shaped like an irregular rectangle, approximately 300 meters long and 100 meters wide, with a 860-metre perimeter wall. Its double main gate is on the west, towards the ancient road. The poorly preserved east wall had a single tower and one small gate, whereas the nearly complete north wall has two small gates and seven square towers with sides six meters long. The towers were probably three-storied, with loopholes and openings for small catapults. Traces of buildings were identified inside the fort. One of the buildings was probably a residence, but whether it housed a garrison or not remains uncertain.

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