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Alalcomenae (Ἀλαλκομεναί) is the name of several towns in Greece.

Alalcomenae, Boeotia

Now called Alalkomenes or Alalkomeni, Alalcomenae in Boeotia was on the south-west bank of Lake Copais, west of Haliartus (modern Aliartos), before the lake was drained. Stephanus of Byzantium refers to the town by the name Alalkomenion.

In antiquity Alalcomenae was famous for a temple to the goddess Athena.[1] The epic poet Homer twice refers to her as Alalkomenean Athene (Ἀλαλκομενηῒς Ἀθήνη).[2] The town was by a hill which Strabo calls Mount Tilphossius (named for Telphousa, the spring visited by the god Apollo). Strabo also records that the tomb of the seer Teiresias, and the temple of Tilphossian Apollo, were located just outside Alalcomenae.[3]

Ancient sources preserve three accounts of the origin of the town's name:

Stephanus of Byzantium and the geographer Pausanias — and probably Homer — preserve the story that it was named after Alalcomeneus (Pausanias) or Alalkomenes (Stephanus), who raised the goddess Athena there, acting as her foster-father.[4]

Pausanias also records an account that it was named after Alalcomenia, daughter of Ogygus, King of the Ectenes, the people to first occupy the land of Thebes.[5]

According to Stephanus of Byzantium, the Alexandrian scholar Aristarchus of Samothrace believed the town was named from the Greek verb ἀλαλκεῖν "to protect" (< ἀλέξω), to reflect Athena's role as defender of the town. The early "D" scholia on the Iliad also reflect this account, so the idea may pre-date Aristarchus.[6]

In view of the cult of Athena there, presumably local myth in Alalcomenae followed the first of these theories. Pausanias recalls a story that the Roman general Sulla stole the icon of Athena from the temple, and in revenge Athena sent a plague of lice upon him; but afterwards the temple was neglected.

Alalcomenae, Ithaca or Asteris

Alalcomenae in Ithaca, Castle of Odysseus Image Source

The ancient geographer Strabo refers to an Alalcomenae on the tiny island of Asteria, between Ithaca and Kefalonia (Homer calls the island Asteris). [7]

Plutarch, however, refers to Alalcomenae as a "city of the Ithacans".[8] This could mean that he imagined it as being on Ithaca, or merely that it belonged to Ithaca. Strabo's discussion makes it clear that it was an extremely minor village; nonetheless, because of Plutarch's reference one archaeological site on Ithaca now bears the name Alalkomenes

Alalcomenae, Thessaly

Periphery: Thessaly
Prefecture :

Strabo refers to another Alalcomenae in his description of Thesprotia near Panagia, Malakasi Municipality of Thessaly.[9]


  1. ^ Schol. D on Iliad 4.8, Pausanias 9.33.5, Stephanus of Byzantium 68 s.v. Ἀλαλκομένιον.
  2. ^ Iliad 4.8, 5.908.
  3. ^ Strabo 9.2.27, 9.2.36.
  4. ^ Pausanias 9.33.5; Stephanus of Byzantium 68 s.v. Ἀλαλκομένιον.
  5. ^ Pausanias 9.33.5.
  6. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium 68 s.v. Ἀλαλκομένιον, schol. D on Iliad 4.8, 5.908.
  7. ^ Strabo 10.2.16, citing "Apollodorus"; Cf. Odyssey 4.846.
  8. ^ Plutarch Aetia Romana et Graeca 301C.
  9. ^ Greek Travel Pages; Strabo 7.7.9.

    Sulla's treatment of the Athenians was savage and foreign to the Roman character, but quite consistent with his treatment of Thebes and Orchomenus. But in Alalcomenae he added yet another to his crimes by stealing the image of Athena itself. After these mad outrages against the Greek cities and the gods of the Greeks he was attacked by the most foul of diseases. He broke out into lice, and what was formerly accounted his good fortune came to such an end. The sanctuary at Alalcomenae, deprived of the goddess, was hereafter neglected. Pausanias 9.33.6

    Pausanias on Boeotian Alalcomenae (tr. W.H.S. Jones and H.A. Ormerod, 1918)

    Strabo on Boeotian Alalcomenae (tr. H.L. Jones, 1924)

    Strabo on Asterian Alalcomenae (tr. H.L. Jones, 1924)

    Strabo on Thessalian Alalcomenae (tr. H.L. Jones, 1924)

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