The valley of the Eurotas, which occupies the centre, is bounded W.
The Eurotas valley, however, is fertile, and produces at the present day maize, olives, oranges and mulberries in great abundance.
Laconia has no rivers of importance except the Eurotas and its largest tributary the Oenus (mod.
The most important towns, besides Sparta and Gythium, were Bryseae, Amyclae and Pharis in the Eurotas plain, Pellana and Belbina on the upper Eurotas, Sellasia on the Oenus, Caryae on the Arcadian frontier, Prasiae, Zarax and Epidaurus Limera on the east coast, Geronthrae on the slopes of Parnon, Boeae, Asopus, Helos, Las and Teuthrone on the Laconian Gulf, and Hippola, Messa and Oetylus on the Messenian Gulf.
In the Homeric poems Laconia appears as the realm of an Achaean prince, Menelaus, whose capital was perhaps Therapne on the left bank of the Eurotas, S.E.
and W., and by two transverse ranges which separate it from the plateau of Orchomenus and the Eurotas valley respectively.
By its vicinity to the watersheds of the Eurotas and Alpheus, and its command over the main roads from Laconia to Argos and the Isthmus, Tegea likewise was brought into conflict with Sparta.
The city lay at the northern end of the central Laconian plain, on the right bank of the river Eurotas, a little south of the point where it is joined by its largest tributary, the Oenus (mod.
The site is admirably fitted by nature to guard the only routes by which an army can penetrate Laconia from the land side, the Oenus and Eurotas valleys leading from Arcadia, its northern neighbour, and the Langada Pass over Mt Taygetus connecting Laconia and Messenia.
- Tradit ion relates that Sparta was founded by Lacedaemon, son of Zeus and Taygete, who called the city after the name of his wife, the daughter of Eurotas.
The Aetolians settled in Elis the Dorians pushed up to the headwaters of the Alpheus, where they divided into two forces, one of which under Cresphontes invaded and later subdued Messenia, while the other, led by Aristodemus or, according to another version, by his twin sons Eurysthenes and Procles, made its way down the Eurotas valley and gained Sparta, which became the Dorian capital of Laconia.
We cannot trace in detail the process by which Sparta subjugated the whole of Laconia, but apparently the first step, taken in the reign of Archelaus and Charillus, was to secure the upper Eurotas valley, conquering the border territory of Aegys.
Archelaus' son Teleclus is said to have taken Amyclae, Pharis and Geronthrae, thus mastering the central Laconian plain and the eastern plateau which lies between the Eurotas and Mt Parnon: his son, Alcamenes, by the subjugation of Helos brought the lower Eurotas plain under Spartan rule.
As a result of popular clamour, however, a survey for a railway was begun in 1907, an event of great importance for the prosperity of Sparta and of the whole Eurotas Plain.
Until 1905 the chief ancient buildings at Sparta were the theatre, of which, however, little shows above ground except portions of the retaining walls; the socalled Tomb of Leonidas, a quadrangular building, perhaps a temple, constructed of immense blocks of stone and containing two chambers; the foundation of an ancient bridge over the Eurotas; the ruins of a circular structure; some remains of late Roman fortifications; several brick buildings and mosaic pavements.
Excavations carried on in 1910 showed that the town of the "Mycenean" period which lay on the left bank of the Eurotas a little to the south-east of Sparta was roughly triangular in shape, with its apex towards the north: its area is approximately equal to that of Sparta, but denudation and destruction have wrought havoc with its buildings and nothing is left save ruined foundations and broken potsherds.
The Alpheus proper rises near Asea; but its passage thither by subterranean channels from the Tegean plain and its union with the Eurotas are probably mythical (see W.
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