History of the Site


The effective regulation of production and organization of the socio-economic life by the Mycenaean palatial administration and a long period of prosperity and stability led to population growth, as indicated by the rapid increase in the number and size of the Mycenaean settlements and cemeteries, and their geographical distribution in the homeland and abroad in the 13th century BC. Given the indigenous environmental circumscription and resource limitations, demographic growth necessitated expansion and intensification of specialized agricultural production to meet basic needs and afford surplus for exportation. In the closing years of the 14th century BC (LH IIIA2) a large-scale engineering project of gigantic proportions was realized in Boeotia, perhaps a joint venture of the neighboring palaces of Thebes and Orchomenos, which effectively transformed the Kopais basin (ca. 20,000 ha) into the most fertile plain on mainland Greece: the submerged marshland was artificially drained by means of an ingenious and complex drainage control system which involved course diversion of six rivers and streams from the basin into wide peripheral –and possibly navigable(?)– canals, protected by massive watertight embankments (reinforced in places with Cyclopean revetments and bearing roads on their crowns) and supplied with underground drains and channels leading the water overflow into artificial polders, natural bedrock cavities and sinkholes (καταβόθραι), or to the bay of Larymna. The Kopais drainage project was colossal by both ancient and modern standards: it is estimated that 2,000,000 cubic meters of earth were moved to build the extensive dykes and massive embankments (2m high and 30m wide) running for many kilometers on the periphery of the basin, more than 250,000 cubic meters of stone were used to revet the embankments, and the water overflow of the main canal is estimated at 100 cubic meters per sec. The area once named “Arne was still remembered as “multi-vined” in the Iliad (“polystaphylon Arne,” II 507) and Orchomenos as one of the richest kingdoms of the heroic past (Iliad I. 381-382), whose wealth and power was associated in the ancient literary sources with the cultivation of the drained lake (Strabo IX.2.40; Pausanias IX.17.2; Diodorus IV.18.7).

A vast citadel, today known as “Gla(s)” or “Kastro” (=“castle”), was built on top of an island-like, flat-topped bedrock outcrop rising 20-40 m above the plain below and encompassing an area of 20 ha or 49.5 acres (ten times the size of Tiryns and seven times that of Mycenae) at the north-eastern edge of the Kopais basin. The Mycenaean citadel of Glas was fortified by a massive cyclopean wall (5.50-5.80m thick) which runs along the brow of the rocky natural platform for approximately 3 kms, features four gates (including one double gate), and encompasses a cluster of three adjacent and intercommunicating central enclosures. The northern enclosure (3.7 acres or 1.5 ha) surrounds an administrative and residential complex with two “twin” long wings built at an angle on the summit of the rocky hill; either wing contains a focal, single-storey megaron-like room (“melathron ”) at its remote end, which was richly decorated with frescoes but lacks a throne or a central hearth surrounded by interior columns, and several two-storey residential apartments communicating through two long corridors and a central staircase (II). The southern enclosure (12.6 acres or 5.1 ha) encompasses two parallel long storage buildings divided internally by cross-walls and equipped with wide access ramps, as well as other subsidiary rooms (guard houses, personnel residential quarters, kitchens) arranged quite symmetrically north and south of the storage facilities (III). The southern enclosure is connected with the south gate of the citadel via a road running through a central propylon on its southern peribolos wall, while another road connects the northern enclosure with the north gate of the citadel through a propylon on its eastern peribolos wall; the two adjacent enclosures communicate through a guarded internal gate. Another smaller enclosure is formed immediately east of the northern enclosure without any apparent entrance or visible ruins (I). Finally, an internal cross-wall running from the central tower of the southeast double gate to the north cyclopean wall separates and isolates the eastern sector of the citadel which was, thus, accessible only from the eastern entrance of the double gate (IV).

Glas was apparently the regional storage center of production and fortified administrative seat and residence of two local rulers who were probably appointed by the palaces of Thebes and Orchomenos to supervise and maintain the complex draining system, organize and regulate the agricultural production, manage taxation, central storage and redistribution of products (crops and wine), control and defend the satellite peripheral settlements and populations.

The three major Boeotian palatial centers, Thebes, Orchomenos, and Glas were destroyed by fire slightly earlier than Pylos, sometime in the advanced LH IIIB2 (ca. 1220/1200 BC), most likely by enemy action; Thebes and Orchomenos continued to exist and were reoccupied on a smaller scale, whereas Glas and the Kopais drainage works were completely destroyed and abandoned. This regional destruction may be associated with internal conflicts between the Mycenaean palaces of Thebes and Orchomenos, or, alternatively, may be attributed to external aggression by Mycenaeans from the Argolid. Both versions have been well-preserved in mythology, literature, and folk memory: according to mythical tradition, Thebes attacked and destroyed Orchomenos, with Heracles blocking the sinkholes and flooding the lake (Strabo IX.2.40), and the Argives repeatedly campaigned against and finally besieged Thebes (Seven against Thebes, and the Epigonoi ); accordingly, the palace of Thebes (“Kadmeia ”) was not included among the Boeotians in the “Catalogue of Ships” (Iliad II.494-516), a separate and possibly much older poem later embodied in the Iliad, and the king (“wanax ”) of Thebes did not participate in the Trojan War which allegedly took place shortly after the destruction of Thebes. The citadel of Glas was destroyed and abandoned, never to be inhabited again.

The citadel of Glas has been partially excavated (central enclosures) by T.A. de Ridder (1893), I. Threpsiades (1955-1961) and Sp. Iakovidis (1981-1983, 1990-1991). The exemplary publication by Sp. Iakovidis of earlier and recent excavations in the Mycenaean citadel of Glas and the synthesis of archaeological, geoarchaeological, and historical evidence have established the form, function, organization, importance and uniqueness of this archaeological site.

For a full account of the history of the site, cf. Sp. Iakovidis, “Glas” at http://www.archetai.gr/site/content.php?artid=35


Select Bibliography

Iakovidis, Sp., Late Helladic Citadels on Mainland Greece, Leiden 1983, pp. 91-107, pls. 58-77

---------- Γλας I : Η Ανασκαφή 1955-1961 (Βιβλιοθήκη της Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας 107), Athens 1989

---------- Γλας IΙ: Η Ανασκαφή 1981-1991 (Βιβλιοθήκη της Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας 173), Athens 1998

---------- Gla and the Kopais in the 13th century B.C. (Library of the Archaeological Society at Athens 221), Athens 2001

---------- "Gla," Archaeologia Homerica I, E1, 1977, pp. 204-210

---------- "A Bronze Pivot Shoe from the Residential Building at Gla," Proceedings of TUAS 3 (1978), pp. 42-52

---------- “Γλας και Ορχομενός,” EpetBoiotMel 2 (1995), pp . 69-81

---------- Gla and the Kopais in the 13th century B.C. (Library of the Archaeological Society at Athens 221), Athens 2001

Knauss, J., B. Heinrich, and H. Kalcyk, Die Wasserbauten der Minyer in der Kopais: Die älteste Flussregulierung Europas (Kopais 1), Bericht Nr. 50 des Instituts für Wasserbau und Wasser-mengenwirtschaft der Technischen Universität München, Munich 1984

Knauss, J., Die Melioration des Kopaisbeckens durch die Minyer im 2. Jt. V. Chr. (Kopais 2), Bericht Nr. 57 des Instituts für Wasserbau und Wasser-mengenwirtschaft der Technischen Universität München, Munich 1987

---------- "Die Wasserbau-Kulturder Minyer in der Kopais (ein Rekonstruktionversuch)," in: Boiotika, Vorträge vom 5. internationalen Böotien-Kolloquium zu Ehren von Professor Dr. Siegfried Lauffer , Munich 1989, pp. 269-274

---------- Wasserbau und Geschichte: minische Epoche, bayerische Zeit (Kopais 3). Lehrstuhl für Wasserbau u. Wassermengenwirtschaft im Inst. für Bauingenieurwesen IV, Munich 1990

Lauffer, S., "Wasserbauliche Anlagen des Altertums am Kopaissee," Wasser im antiken Hellas. Leichtweiß-Institut für Wasserbau der Technischen Universität Braunschweig, Mitt. 71 (1981), pp. 239-265

McConnel, B.E., "Fortifications of the Lake Kopais Drainage Works," Dartmouth Classical Journal XI (1978-79)

Kenny, E.J.A., "The Ancient Drainage of the Copais," Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 22 (1935), pp. 189-206

Noack, F., “Arne,” AM 19 (1894), pp. 405-494

De Ridder, A., "Fouilles de Gla," BCH 18 (1894), p. 271ff

Kambanis, M.C., "Le dessèchement du lac Copais par les anciens (I)," BCH 16 (1892), pp. 121-137

---------- "Le dessèchement du lac Copais par les anciens (II)," BCH 17 (1893), pp. 322-342

Curtius, E., "Die Deichbauten der Minyer," Sitzungsbericht der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 55 (1892), pp. 1181-1193

Aravantinos, V., Mycenaean Texts and Contexts at Thebes , in: S.D. Jalkotzy, S. Hiller, and O. Panagl (eds.), Floreant Studia Mycenaea. Akten des X. internazionalen mykenologischen Colloquiums in Salzburg vom 1-5 Mai 1995, Denkschriften (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 274), Vienna 1999, vol. I, esp. pp. 49-52, and p. 79f (E. Andrikou, Appendix: The Pottery from the Destruction Layer of the Linear B Archive in Pelopidou Street, Thebes)

Spyropoulos, Th ., “Το ανάκτορον του Μινύου εις τον Βοιωτικόν Ορχομενόν,” AAA VII (1974), pp. 313-324

Mountjoy, P.A., Orchomenos V, Mycenaean Pottery from Orchomenos, Eutresis and other Boeotian Sites, Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, N.F. 89, Munich 1983


Excavation Reports

Threpsiades, I., "Aνασκαφαί Άρνης (Γκλα) Kωπαΐδος," Praktika (1955), pp. 121-124; (1956), pp. 90-93; (1957), pp. 48-53; (1958), pp. 38-42; (1959), pp. 21-25; (1960), pp. 23-38; (1961), pp. 28-40

Iakovidis, Sp., "Έρευναι εις την ακρόπολιν του Γλα," Praktika (1979), pp. 37-39; "Aνασκαφή Γλα," Praktika (1981), pp. 92-95; (1982), pp. 105-108; (1983), pp. 99-101; (1984), p. 42; (1990), pp. 40-44; (1991), pp. 64-66

Maggidis, Chr., "Γλας," Praktika (2010); (2011) (forthcoming)