© 1998 Bernard SUZANNE   Last updated January 17, 1999 
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Larissa

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City of Thessalia (area 2).
Larissa (also spelled Larisa) was the leading city of Thessalia in the Vth and IVth centuries B. C. Thucydides, in his Histories, II, 22, 3, mentions it first among the Thessalian cities that sent troops to help Athens against Sparta in 431, at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, and gives the name of two generals from Larissa, one from each of the two leading factions.
Larissa was also the name of the citadel of Argos, and mythology knows of a Larissa, who was either the daughter or the mother of Pelasgus, the eponym of the Pelasgians and was from Argos. In the tradition that makes her the mother of Pelasgus, whom she had from Zeus or Poseidon, she was also the mother of Achæus (who, in other traditions is presented as son of Xouthus and brother of Ion) and Phthius, the eponym of the Thessalian province of Phthiotis, three sons who moved from Argolis to Thessalia and became the ancestors of the various peoples of Thessalia.
Larisa was the home of several leading Thessalian families, first among them, the Aleuadæ, offspring of Aleuas, whose leaders at the time of the Persian wars were three brothers, Thorax, Eurypylus and Thrasydæus, who sided with Xerxes (see Herodotus, VII, 6 ; VII, 130 ; VII, 172 ; IX, 1 ; IX, 58 ; Thorax was, in 498, that is, before these wars, the sponsor of the first extant ode of Pindar, then aged 20, the Xth Pythian, composed at his request (see antistrophe 4) to celebrate the victory of the Thessalian Hippocleas in the double-stadium race at the Pythian games). Another leader of the Aleuadæ toward the end of the Vth century B. C. was Aristippus, shown by Xenophon (Anabasis, I, 1, 10) as host of Cyrus the Younger, who helped him against rival Thessalian factions before Aristippus put at his disposal, in his attempt to overthrow his brother, a contingent headed by Meno, presented by Plato at Meno, 70b as Aristippus beloved.
Larissa was indeed the birthplace of Meno, who thus became, along with Xenophon and a few others, one of the generals leading several thousands Greeks from various places, in the ill-fated expedition of 404 (retold in Xenophon' s Anabasis) meant to help Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II, king of Persia, overthrow his elder brother Artaxerxes II and take over the throne of Persia (Meno is featured in Plato's dialogue bearing his name, in which Socrates uses the example of "the way to Larissa" to help explain Meno the difference between true opinion and science (Meno, 97a-c) ; this "way to Larissa" might well be on the part of Socrates an attempt to call to Meno's mind a "way home", understood as the way toward one's true and "eternal" home reached only at death, that each man is supposed to seek in his life).

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First published January 4, 1998 - Last updated January 17, 1999
© 1998 Bernard SUZANNE (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
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