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Map of ancient Boeotia, indicating the city Tanagra, which could be the place of Graia

Graea or Graia (Greek: Γραῖα Graîa) was a city on the coast of Boeotia in ancient Greece.

It is placed under Boeotia in Homer's Catalogue of Ships. It seems to have included the city of Oropos, though by the fifth century BC it was probably a kome (district) of that city.[1] According to Pausanias the name was a shortcut of the original name Tanagraia, who was daughter of Asopos. Graia was a greater area including Avlida, Mycalissos, Arma etc.[2] It is also described by some sources as a city; Fossey argues for its identification with the hill of Dhrámesi 8 km from Tanagra,[3] while others suggest it is identical with Oropos itself.[4]

Graea was sometimes said to be the oldest city of Greece. Aristotle said that this city was created before the deluge. The same assertion about the origins of Graia city is found in an ancient marble, the Parian Chronicle, discovered in 1687 and dated to 267–263 BC, that is currently kept in Oxford and on Paros.

Reports about this ancient city can be also found in Homer, in Pausanias, in Thucydides, etc. The name Graïke (Ancient Greek: Γραϊκή [ɡra.ikɛ̌ː]) was used of the Oropus area, which was dependent on Athens during the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides, and the term was also used by Stephanus of Byzantium.[5][6]

The word Γραικός (Graecus, Greek) is interpreted as "inhabitant of Graia" by some authors.[7] The German historian George Bussolt suggested that the name Graeci was given initially by the Romans to the colonists from Graia who helped the Euboeans to establish Cumae in southern Italy, and was then used for all Greeks.[8] The classicist Robin Lane Fox states that Oropus was either located in or identical with the city Graia, and writes:

If men from Oropos-Graia were among the early Greek visitors to Capua or Veii and even early Rome, we can better understand an age-old puzzle: why Greeks were called "Greeks" in the Latin West. Such people told their first contacts in the Latin region that they were "Graikoi," that is, people from Graia. They were thus called "Graeci" by the people whom they met.[9]

The ethnonym comes from the adjective γραῖα graia "old woman", derived from the PIE root *ǵerh2-/*ǵreh2-, "to grow old" via Proto-Greek *gera-/grau-iu;[10] the same root later gave γέρας geras (/keras/), "gift of honour" in Mycenean Greek.[11]

Graikos (Γραικός) may be interpreted "inhabitant of Graia". Aristotle uses Graikos as equivalent to Hellenes, and believes that it was the name originally used by Illyrians for the Dorians in Epirus.[12][13]

See also


  1. G. S. Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary: Volume 1, Books 1-4. Cambridge University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-521-28171-7, p. 191.
  2. Pausanias: Boeotica 20–24
  3. John M. Fossey, "The Identification of Graia," Euphrosyne 4 (1970), pp. 3–22.
  4. Simon Hornblower and Elaine Matthews, Greek Personal Names: Their Value as Evidence. Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-726216-3, p. 95; similarly Maria Stamatopoulou and Marina Yeroulanou, Excavating Classical Culture: Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Greece. Archaeopress, 2002, ISBN 1-84171-411-9, p. 151.
  5. Thucydides, Histories 2.23.3
  6. cf. Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica s.v. Oropus.
  7. Hatzidakis, 1977, quoted in Babiniotis Dictionary
  8. Online Etymology Dictionary.[1]
  9. Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer. Random House, 2009: ISBN 0-679-44431-9, p. 61/161; see also John Nicolas Coldstream, Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC. Routledge, 2003, ISBN 0-415-29899-7, p. 403 (note 7).
  10. R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 285.
  11. R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 267.
  12. Online Etymology Dictionary.
  13. Aristotle, Meteorologica I.xiv