I recently subscribed to The Digital Loeb Classical Library (a review blog post is forthcoming and go here
to see a cool video) and I used it to research my current topic of interest, namely Orchomenos and Lake Copais. What's nice (I should say 'revolutionary') about the Digital Loeb, of course, is that you can search, in Greek or Roman characters, across all of the 520 volumes in the library.
The story of Orchomenos in Mycenaean times is simply told (although much we guess at). About 1300 BC the people of the town undertook the enormous task of draining Lake Copais. They succeeded to the extent that they created more than 150,000 acres of arable land from the drained lake bottom; this immediately catapulted them into the status of one of the richest states in Mycenaean Greece. After a period of time (fifty or sixty years?) they were attacked and conquered by Thebes. At some point during the great destruction at the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1200 BC) the great works that drained the Orchomenian plain were destroyed or sabotaged and the Lake filled up again and, in that way, all that arable land was lost.
How much, though, do we know from the literary sources? That's where the Digital Loeb comes in. Herewith I present some fifty citations about ancient Orchomenos and Lake Copais, all but one are from the Loeb. The citations are given in this order 1) List item number, 2) author's name, 3) Name of the work, 4) the traditional location in the text, 5) the Loeb volume and page number. After that I either include the translation from the Loeb or some remarks of my own, or both.
What have we learned? First we learn the bare outlines of the story that I outlined above (Pausanias, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus). Then there is some concern about the introduction of the Dionysus cult to Boeotia (Aelian, Antoninus Liberalis (not in the LCL), and Ovid). There are notices about the eels in Lake Copais (mostly in Athenaeus' 'The Deipnosophists' or 'The Learned Banqueters'). Apollonius of Rhodes tells the story of 'The Minyans' or, as we usually call them, The Argonauts. Also, everybody, beginning with Homer, thought that they were rich in the Heroic Age. That sounds right. I also notice a potentially valuable testimony in Theophrastus (number 50 in this list) about the plants that grow in the waters of Lake Copais (it was flooded again in his time). Hope it's useful.
1. Aelian, Historical Miscellany, III, 42 [LCL 486: 173]
"They say that only the daughters of Minyas, Leucippe, Arsippe, and Alcithoe, rebelled against the dance in honour of Dionysus, and they did so for love of their husbands;"
2. Aelian, Historical Miscellany, III, 42 [LCL 486: 173]
The daughters of Minyas tore to pieces, as if he were a fawn, the young child of Leucippe, a boy still of tender years.
3. Apollodorus, The Library, II, 11 [LCL 121: 179-181] A narrative of how Orchomenos and Thebes came to blows, Orchomenos conquers Thebes and then Hercules destroys King Erginus of Orchomenos.
4. Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 4, lines1220 [LCL 1: 427] The crew of the Argo referred to as 'Minyans'.
5. Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 1, lines 229 ff. [LCL 1: 22-23] Why the Argonauts are called 'Minyans'.
6. Aristotle, History of Animals, VII (VIII), 606a, 1 Moles common around Orchomenos but not in Lebadia.
7. Aristotle, On Marvellous Things Heard, 838b, 5 (or para. 99, line 1) [LCL 307: 279] Dog chases a fox into an underground passage in Orchomenos
"In the city of Orchomenus in Boeotia they say that a fox was seen, which, when pursued by a dog, dived into an underground passage, and that the dog dived in after it, and made a loud noise of barking, as if it had found a wide open space; the huntsmen, assuming some supernatural agency, broke down the entrance, and forced their way in as well; but seeing by some openings that light was coming in they had a complete view of the whole, and went and reported it to the magistrates."
8. Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters, 14.651a [LCL 345: 306-307]
In a discussion on the names for pomegranates (Punica granatum) and their types Athenaeus says:
"There is also said to be a plant known as a sidê (σίδη) that resembles a pomegranate and is found in the marsh near Orchomenus, right in the water; the sheep and goats eat its leaves, while the pigs eat its fruit, according to Theophrastus in Book IV of On Plants (fr. 401 Fortenbaugh), who reports that another plant by the same name, but that lacks roots, grows in the Nile."
The only other form the Greeks may have had access to is Punica granatum var. nanawhich may have had a wild origin (i.e., not a cultivar). The only other species (Punica protopunica) is native to the island of Socotra (Yemen) and, so, is out of our scope.
9. Callimachus, Aetia, 7.19 [LCL 421: 12-13] Argonauts referred to as 'Minyans'.
10 Dio Chrysostom, 'The Thirty-Seventh Discourse, The Corinthian Oration', p. 37 [LCL 376: 34-35] The wealth of Orchomenos has deserted it. "..days when some of the others too had wealth and might; but now, since wealth (ὁ πλοῦτος) has deserted both Orchomenos and Delphi, though they may surpass you in exciting pity, none can do so in exciting envy."
11. Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History. 4.18.7 [LCL 303: 402-405] Hercules dams the Kephissos (a stream near Orchomenos) or the Melana and so floods the Lake of Copais. "But in Boeotia he did just the opposite and damming the stream which flowed near the Minyan city of Orchomenus he turned the country into a lake and caused the ruin of that whole region." and "whereas in Boeotia he was exacting punishment from those who dwelt in Minyan territory, because they had enslaved the Thebans." Here Diodorus contrasts Hercules' actions in creating a plain around the Vale of Tempe as a boon to the Greeks vs. flooding Lake Copais as a punishment of the Minyans.
12. Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History. 15.79.5 [LCL 389: 170-171]
"For from earliest times the Thebans had been ill-disposed towards them, having paid tribute to the Minyae in the heroic age, but later they had been liberated by Heracles…"
Against the background of the events of 364 BC Diodorus explains the long-term hostility of the Thebans and the people of Orchomenos.
13. Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History. 4.10.3-5 [LCL 303: 472-5]
The youthful deeds of Heracles. Rallies the young men of Thebes to destroy the Orchomenians.
"Indeed, while he was still a youth in age he first of all restored the freedom of Thebes, returning in this way to the city, as though it were the place of his birth, the gratitude which he owed it. For though the Thebans had been made subject to Erginus, the king of the Minyans, and were paying him a fixed yearly tribute, Heracles was not dismayed at the superior power of these overlords but had the courage to accomplish a deed of fame. Indeed, when the agents of the Minyans appeared to require the tribute and were insolent in their exactions, Heracles mutilated them and then expelled them from the city. Erginus then demanded that the guilty party be handed over to him, and Creon, the king of the Thebans, dismayed at the great power of Erginus, was prepared to deliver the man who was responsible for the crime complained of. Heracles, however, persuading the young men of his age to strike for the freedom of their fatherland, took out of the temples the suits of armour which had been affixed to their walls, dedicated to the gods by their forefathers as spoil from their wars; for there was not to be found in the city any arms in the hands of a private citizen, the Minyans having stripped the city of its arms in order that the inhabitants of Thebes might not entertain any thought of revolting from them. And when Heracles learned that Erginus, the king of the Minyans, was advancing with troops against the city he went out to meet him in a certain narrow place, whereby he rendered the multitude of the hostile force of no avail, killed Erginus himself, and slew practically all the men who had accompanied him. Then appearing unawares before the city of the Orchomenians and slipping in at their gates he both burned the palace of the Minyans and razed the city to the ground."
14. Euripides, Heracles. 219-221. [LCL 9: 328-329]
"Ἡρακλεῖ τέκνοισί τε, 220Μινύαις ὃς εἷς ἅπασι διὰ μάχης μολὼν Θήβας ἔθηκεν ὄμμ᾿ ἐλεύθερον βλέπειν;"
"Heracles and his children, the man who battled all the Minyans single-handed and caused Thebes to look once more with freedom in her glance…"
15. Greek Epic Fragments. Genealogical and Antiquarian Epics. Minyas [LCL 497: 268-269]
An epic, Minyas, attributed to Homer from a fragment of Pausanias, 10.28.7
-- Orchomenos in Arcadia. 16. Homer, Iliad, II.605 [LCL 170: 106-107] "Ὀρχομενὸν πολύμηλον", "and Orchomenus (IN ARCADIA!!!), rich in flocks"
17. Homer, Iliad, IX.381 [LCL 170: 422-423] "ὅσ᾿ ἐς Ὀρχομενὸν ποτινίσεται", "… all the wealth that goes to Orchomenus"
18. Homer, Iliad, II, 508 [LCL 170: 98-99] "And they who dwelt in Aspledon and Orchomenus of the Minyae were led by Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares, whom, in the house of Actor, son of Azeus, Astyoche, the respected maiden, bore to mighty Ares, when she had gone up to her room; for he lay with her in secret. And with these were ranged thirty hollow ships."
19. Homer, Iliad, V, 706-9 [LCL 170: 258-259] "Oresbius with flashing apron, who dwelt in Hyle on the border of the Cephisian lake, greatly concerned for his wealth; and near him dwelt other Boeotians having a land exceeding rich."
20. Pausanias, Corinth, XXIX.3-4 [LCL 93: 402-403] The Minyans and Phocis:
"In the time, then, of this Phocus only the district about Tithorea and Parnassus was called Phocis, but in the time of Aeacus the name spread to all from the borders of the Minyae at Orchomenos to Scarphea among the Locri."
21. Pausanias, Messenia, XXVIII.10 [LCL 188: 322-323] About 360 B.C. The Orchomenians and the Thebans still in enmity. Orchomenians restored by Philip II of Macedon. "The Minyae, driven by the Thebans from Orchomenos after the battle of Leuctra, were restored to Boeotia by Philip the son of Amyntas, as were also the Plataeans."
22. Pausanias, Boeotia, IX.1-5 [LCL 297: 211,213] The War of the Seven Against Thebes. "This war between Argos and Thebes"
23. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVI.4 to XXXVII.4 [LCL 297: 335-347] This is the primary account of the genealogy of the Orchomenians and how they went to war with Thebes and how they were destroyed [XXXVII.3 or p. 337].
24. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVIII.7 [ LCL 297: 345] "The Thebans declare that the river Cephisus was diverted into the Orchomenian plain by Heracles, and that for a time it passed under the mountain and entered the sea, until Heracles blocked up the chasm through the mountain. Now Homer too knows that the Cephisian Lake was a lake of itself, and not made by Heracles"
25. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVI.4 [LCL 297: 335 ] "The revenues that Minyas received were so great that he surpassed his predecessors in wealth."
26. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVI.6 [LCL 297: 335] Distinguishes Minyans as not those guys in Arcadia. "Orchomenus, in whose reign the city was called Orchomenus and the men Orchomenians. Nevertheless, they continued to bear the additional name of Minyans, to distinguish them from the Orchomenians in Arcadia."
27. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVIII.1 [LCL 297:341 ] "At Orchomenus is a sanctuary of Dionysus, but the oldest is one of the Graces." Sources of the Graces? Others?
28. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVIII.6 [LCL 297: 343] "Seven stades from Orchomenus is a temple of Heracles with a small image. Here is the source of the river Melas(black), one of the streams running into the Cephisian Lake. The lake at all times covers the greater part of the Orchomenian territory.
29. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVIII.7-8 [LCL 297:345] "It is not likely either that the Orchomenians would not have discovered the chasm, and, breaking down the work put up by Heracles, have given back to the Cephisus its ancient passage, since right down to the Trojan war they were a wealthy people. There is evidence in my favour in the passage of Homer [Iliadix.381. See no. 17 in this list.]] where Achilles replies to the envoys from Agamemnon:— 'Not even the wealth that comes to Orchomenus', a line that clearly shows that even then the revenues coming to Orchomenus were large."
30. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXVIII.10 [LCL 297: 345-347]
Callippus wrote a history of Orchomenos?
31. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXIX.1 [LCL 297:347]
Western boundary of Orchomenos is Phocis: "On the side towards the mountains the boundary of Orchomenus is Phocis"
32. Pausanias, Boeotia, XXXIX.2 [LCL 297: 347] Description of Lebadeia and the origin of the name of the Hercyna. Story of the Maid and Hercyna.
33. Pindar, Pythian 4, line 69-70 [LCL 56: 275] Editor's footnote says: The Minyae, the Battidae, or both. The Minyae were from Orchomenus (cf. Ol. 14.4). "And for my part, I shall entrust to the Muses both him and the all-golden fleece of the ram, for when the Minyae sailed in quest of it, god-sent honors were planted for them."
34. Pindar, Olympian 14, line 1 ff. "You to whom the waters of Cephisus belong, and who dwell in a land of fine horses, O Graces, much sung queens of shining Orchomenus and guardians of the ancient Minyae, hear my prayer."
35. PLINY THE ELDER, Natural History, IV.8 [LCL 352: 138-139] "The places in Thessaly are Orchomenus,Thessaly. formerly called the Minyan"
36. Plutarch, Moralia The Greek Questions. (299) E. Alternatively The Greek Questions, par. 38 [LCL 305: 221-223]
The daughters of Minyas 'become insane'. See no. 1 and no. 2 above, Aelian, for the same story.
"They relate that the daughters of Minyas, Leucippe and Arsinoê and Alcathoê, becoming insane, conceived a craving for human flesh, and drew lots for their children." Having to do with the practice of the priest of Dionysus chasing women at the Agrionia (and cf. Moralia, 717 a; 291 a supra.) and killing the woman he catches.
..the daughters of Minyas. Editor's footnote: Cf. Aelian, Varia Historia, iii. 42 (see nn. 1 and 2 above); Antonius Liberalis, Metamorphoses, x (see no. 40, below). Ovid’s account (Met. iv. 1 ff.; 389 ff.) is rather different and omits the murder of Hippasus.
37. Plutarch, Moralia. The Greek Questions, (302) B or, alternatively, The Greek Questions, par. 46 [LCL 305: 234-5]
38. Strabo, Geography. iii.16 (C424) [LCL 196: 373] Towns in the area of the Cephissus
"Parapotamii is a settlement on the Cephissus River near Phanoteus and Chaeroneia and Elateia. Theopompus says that this place is distant from Chaeroneia about forty stadia and marks the boundary of the territories of the Ambryseans, the Panopeans and the Daulians; and that it lies on a moderately high hill at the pass which leads from Boeotia into Phocis…"
39. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, i.12 [LCL 108: 23] "The present Boeotians, for example, were driven from Arne by the Thessalians in the sixtieth year after the capture of Ilium and settled in the district now called Boeotia, but formerly Cadmeïs; only a portion of these had been in that land before, and it was some of these who took part in the expedition against Ilium."
40. Anoninus Liberalis, Collection of Metamorphoses, Metamorphoseon Synagoge. Section 10, 'The Minyades'. Tells the story of the daughters of Minyas, how they refused the worship of Dionysus and were then frightened by him into giving him the son of Leucippe, Hipassos, as a sacrifice. They then became Bacchae on the mountains until Hermes transformed them into birds. See Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation, edd. Stephen Trzaskoma et al., p. 12, section 10, 'The Minyades'.
41. Ovid. Metamorphoses, iv.389 ff. Another version of the daughters of the Minyans but without the sacrifice of Hipassos. At the end they are changed into bats.
42. Aelian On Animals xvii.10
[LCL 449: 337]
"Boeotia is free of Moles, and this animal does not burrow through at Lebadea, and if by some chance Moles are introduced from elsewhere they die. [But in the neighbourhood of Orchomenus they abound.]"
43. Alciphron, Letters of Fishermen, "Letter 11", iii.1, A praise of a young man's face and compared to the Graces of Orchomenos. "..you might say that the Graces themselves have left Orchomenus.."
44. Strabo. Geography.
iii.17, (C 59), [LCL 049: 219-221
"And again, by Lake Copaïs both Arne and Mideia were swallowed up, places which have been named by Homer in the Catalogue of Ships: 'And they that possess Arne rich in vineyards, and they that possess Mideia.' "
45. Athenaeus. The Learned Banqueters. ii.71.c, [LCL 204: 403] Discussing eels. "..large numbers of what are referred to as royal eels, which are half again as big as the eels in Macedon and Lake Copais"
(footnote 243: "Lake Copais in Boeotia was a famous source of eels; cf. the material collected at 7. 297c–d, 298f–9b, 300c".)
46. Athenaeus. The Learned Banqueters. iv.135.d, [LCL 208: 149]
"In his tracks came a white-armed goddess-fish, the eel, who claims to have spent time in the arms of Zeus. She was from Copais, whence comes the race of wild eels, and was very large…"
47. Athenaeus. The Learned Banqueters. vii.297. c-d [LCL 224: 379]
"Eel. Epicharmus mentions sea-eels in Muses (fr. 90). Dorion in his On Fish refers to the eels that come from Lake Copais and speaks highly of them. They grow extremely large; Agatharchides in Book VI of the History of Europe (FGrH 86 F 5), at any rate, claims that the Boeotians put garlands on the largest Copaic eels, as if they were sacrificial animals…"
48 Athenaeus. The Learned Banqueters. vii.300.d [LCL224: 395]
"Boeotian eel-goddesses were also present, wearing beet. And in Medea (fr. 64): of a young Boeotian girl from Copais; because I’m hesitant to refer to a goddess by name."
49. Theophrastus. Enquiry Into Plants, iv.10. [LCL 070: 361]
"Now in the lake near Orchomenos grow the following trees and woody plants: willow goat-willow water-lily reeds (both that used for making pipes and the other kind) galingale phleosbulrush; and also ‘moon-flower’ duckweed and the plant called marestail: as for the plant called water-chickweedthe greater part of it grows under water…"
50. Theophrastus. Enquiry Into Plants, iv.10.2, [LCL 070: 361]
"The goat-willow is of shrubby habit and like the chaste-tree: its leaf resembles that leaf in shape, but it is soft like that of the apple, and downy. The bloom is like that of the abele, but smaller, and it bears no fruit. It grows chiefly on the floating islands; (for here too there arefloating islands, as in the marshes of Egypt, in Thesprotia, and in other lakes). When it grows under water, it is smaller. Such is the goat-willow."
51. Theophrastus. de Causis Plantarum, V.12.3. LCL 475: 108-109
When Lake Copais is full Boeotia is warmer and he gives supposed reasons. But he ignores the fact that the volume of water is heat storage and, until it freezes, it will keep the countryside round about warmer. But this does not explain why Euboea would be warmer at the same time which Theophrastus also claims. Lake Copais could hardly keep Euboea warm.