Geographical sites:

  • Thriasian plain (click here to focus in map)


Text #3667

Herodotus. The Histories. Series: Histories. Vol. 4
[Hdt. 8.65. Translated by Alfred Denis Godley. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1922. (4 Vols.) pp. 59--61]

There was one Dicaeus, son of Theocydes, an exile from Athens who had attained to estimation among the Medes. This was the tale that he told: At the time when the land of Attica was being laid waste by Xerxes’ army, and no Athenians were therein, he, being with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian on the Thriasian plain,1 saw dust coming from Eleusis as it were raised by the feet of about thirty thousand men; and as they marveled greatly what men they should be whence the dust came, immediately they heard a cry, which cry seemed to him to be the Iacchus-song of the mysteries. Demaratus, not being conversant with the rites of Eleusis, asked him what this voice might be ; and Dicaeus said, “Without doubt, Demaratus, some great harm will befall the king’s host; for Attica being unpeopled, it is plain hereby that the voice we hear is of heaven’s sending, and comes from Eleusis to the aid of the Athenians and their allies. And if the vision descend upon the Peloponnese, the king himself and his army on land will be endangered ; but if it turn towards the ships at Salamis, the king will be in peril of losing his fleet. As for this feast, it is kept by the Athenians every year for the honour of the Mother and the Maid,2 and whatever Greek will, be he Athenian or other, is then initiated; and the cry which you hear is the Iacchus ‘ which is uttered at this feast.” Demaratus replied thereto, “Keep silence, and speak to none other thus ; for if these words of yours be reported to the king, you will lose your head, and neither I nor any other man will avail to save you. Hold your peace ; and for this host, the gods shall look to it.” Such was Demaratus’ counsel; and after the dust and the cry came a cloud, which rose aloft and floated away towards Salamis, to the Greek fleet. By this they understood, that Xerxes’ ships must perish.

  1. The Thriasian Plain is in western Attica, immediately to the west of Athens, in Greece. It is bounded by Mount Egaleo to the east, Mount Parnitha to the north, Mount Pateras to the west, and the Bay of Eleusina to the south. [nE]

  2. Demeter and Persephone. [OF]

Text #3668

Plutarch. Lives. Vol. 2
[Plut. Them. 15. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Harvard University Press. 1914. (11 Vols.) p. 43]


At this stage of the struggle they say that a great light flamed out from Eleusis, and an echoing cry filled the Thriasian plain down to the sea, as of multitudes of men together conducting the mystic Iacchus in procession. Then out of the shouting throng a cloud seemed to lift itself slowly from the earth, pass out seawards, and settle down upon the triremes. Others fancied they saw apparitions and shapes of armed men coming from Aegina with their hands stretched out to protect the Hellenic triremes. These, they conjectured, were the Aeacidae, who had been prayerfully invoked before the battle to come to their aid.

Text #8586

Cristobal. Plutarch in the Religious and Philosophical Discourse of Late Antiquity

According to Herodotus before the battle of Salamis (end of September 480), Dicaeus, an Athenian exile who had become important among the Medes and his guest Demaratus heard a sound in the Thriasian plain. The sound was similar to the ritual exclamation iakhe, that the initiates cried during their procession to Eleusis. Diaceus interpreted the sound as a divine voice, a cry helping the Athenians and their allies in the battle. On the other hand, Plutarch compares the roar and the light that invade the Thriasian plain on the day of the battle of Salamis (and not before as stated by Herodotus), with the shouting caused by the crowd conducting Iacchus1, the solemn name of the mystic Bacchus, in procession to Eleusis on 20th Boedromion (i.e. 28 or 29 September).

  1. His name was derived from the boisterous festive song which is likewise called Iacchus. (Aristoph. Ran. 321, 400; Herod. viii. 65; Arrian, Anab. ii. 16.) From these statements (comp. Schol. ad Aristoph. Ran. 326), it is clear that the ancients distinguished Iacchus, the son of Zeus and Demeter, from the Theban Bacchus (Dionysus), the son of Zeus and Semele, nay, in some traditions Iacchus is called a son of Bacchus, but in others the two are confounded and identified. (Soph. Antig. 1115, &c., 1154; Strab. x. p. 468; Virg. Eclog. vi. 15; Ov. Met. iv. 15.) He is also identified with the infernal Zagreus, the son of Zeus and Persephone. (Schol. ad Pind. Isthm. vii. 3, ad Eurip. Orest. 952, ad Aristoph. Ran. 401, 479; Arrian, l. c.) At Athens a statue of Iacchus, bearing a torch in his hand, was seen by the side of those of Demeter and Cora. (Paus. i. 2. § 4, 37. § 3.) At the celebration of the great Eleusinian mysteries in honour of Demeter, Persephone, and Iacchus, the statue of the last divinity, carrying a torch and adorned with a myrtle wreath, was carried on the sixth day of the festival (the 20th of Boedromion) from the temple of Demeter across the Thriasian plain to Eleusis, accom panied by a numerous and riotous procession of the initiated, who sang the Iacchus, carried mystic baskets, and danced amid the sounds of cymbals and trumpets. (Schol. ad Pind. Isthm. vii. 3; Plut. Themist. 15, Camill. 19; Herod. viii. 65; Athen. v. p. 213; Virg. Georg. i. 166.) In some traditions Iacchus is described as the companion of Baubo or Babo, at the time when she endeavoured to cheer the mourning Demeter by lascivious gestures; and it is perhaps in reference to this Iacchus that Suidas and Hesychius call Iacchus hêrôs tis: see Smith W., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 2, p. 545.

Please view our Legal Notice before you make use of this Database.

See also our Credits page for info on data we are building upon.