Lampsacus was an ancient Greek polis situated on the eastern side of the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles) . The English Wikipedia page describes the city as of Milesian AND Phocaean foundation, hinting at a joint colonial enterprise by the two Ionian cities. Other pages (such as the German, French, and Greek entries), however, mention only its Phocaean origin.

Jean-Paul Morel, in his article "Phocaean Colonisation" in Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. 2006. Greek Colonisation: An Account of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas. 1 1. Leiden: Brill. (Official site on Brill, a PDF is available on Academia) listed Lampsacus as a Phocaean colony:

The first Phocaean colony appears to have been Lampsacus (Lapseki), established in Asia Minor on the Hellespont in the territory of the Bebryces, a Thracian people (about 615 B.C.?)7. What little is known about it seems to conform to the ‘structures’ of Phocaean colonisation (see below)8. Its history, until its submission by Rome in 80 B.C., consists of a long series of conflicts with the Thracians, the Persians or other Greek cities (Miletus, Athens, etc.).9

7 Roebuck, C. 1959: Ionian Trade and Colonization (New York), 113.
8 Lepore, E. 1970: ‘Strutture della colonizzazione focea in Occidente’. PP 25, 22-4.
9 In general on Lampsacus, see Bürchner, L. 1924: ‘Lampsakos’. RE XII.1, 590–2.; Brugnone, A. 1995: ‘In margine alle tradizioni ecistiche di Massalia’. PP fasc. CCLXXX, 57–66.

In his references, both Roebuck (1959) and Brugnone (1995) identified Lampsacus as of Phocaean foundation only, which corresponds to the classification of Lampsacus in RE/New Pauly:

L. was founded (Eus. chronikoi kanones 95d) in 654/3 BC by Phocaeans [2. 107f.], not by Milesians (Str. 13,1,19).

Yet this rejection of Strabo's account of Milesian origin is not shared by The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (1976), which stated that Lampsacus was:

City of the Troad (Mysia) originally called Pityussa, on the S shore of the Hellespont opposite Kallipolis. It had a good harbor (Strab. 13.1.18), and was said to have been founded by the Milesians or the Phokaians.

It seems that all references to a Milesian foundation ultimately trace back to Strabo 13.1.19:

κατέσπασται δ᾽ ἡ πόλις, οἱ δὲ Παισηνοὶ μετῴκησαν εἰς Λάμψακον, Μιλησίων ὄντες ἄποικοι καὶ αὐτοί, καθάπερ καὶ οἱ Λαμψακηνοί.

but the city is in ruins. The Paeseni changed their abode to Lampsacus, they too being colonists from the Milesians, like the Lampsaceni.

Hence there appears to be 3 stances on the colonial origin of Lampsacus:

  1. Joint Phocaean-Milesian foundation, as hinted by English Wikipedia.
  2. Sole Phocaean foundation without Milesian involvements, which seems to be the most widely accepted interpretation among scholars.
  3. Either Phocaean or Milesian foundation, with no definitive conclusion.

So which one should we accept as closer to truth? Was Lampsacus Phocaean, Milesian, or a combination of the two?

Lastly, I should add that given that joint foundation, relocation and repopulation of Greek overseas settlements were not uncommon (see, for example, Parion, Sybaris, Pyxous, Kaulonia, Kardia, etc.), the possibility that Lampsacus received influxes of Milesian settlers can't be ruled out, especially considering its proximity to other Milesian colonies such as Kyzikos and Abydos; and this might well be the reason why Strabo, writing more than 500 years after its foundation, thought the city to be Milesian in origin. Still, these are merely my speculations.

Additional Sources


2 Answers 2



Most modern historians lean towards Lampsacus being originally a Phocaean colony, this being based on an account of the local historigrapher Charon of Lampsacus in the surviving fragments of his Chronicles of Lampsacus, as well as other evidence linking Lampsacus to Phocaea.

Evidence for Milesian involvement is lacking, aside from Strabo's much later text, so your Option 2 seems most likely (as you surmised). Also worth noting is that, according to Charon's account, the Phocaean colony does not seem to have been started completely from scratch.


The earliest source for the founding of Lampsacus comes from a local historian, Charon, who pre-dates Thucydides and is believed to be roughly contemporaneous to Herodotus, or perhaps a little earlier: Charon was born either in the late 6th century or early 5th century BC. This makes him by far the earliest source we have for the founding of Lampsacus. Unfortunately, only fragments of his works survive, among which are some from the four-volume Hôroi Lam­psakēnôn (Chronicles of Lampsacus).

Although there are doubts over whether Charon really authored some of the works attributed to him in the Byzantine encyclopedia Suda, Hôroi Lam­psakēnôn is almost certainly by this historiographer from Lampsacus. Choron was cited by a number of ancient writers, including Thucydides and - more importantly for this question - Plutarch.

As already noted by the OP, Lampsacus was originally known as Pityussa (or a variant spelling). In De Mulierum Virtutibus (On the Bravery of Women or Virtues of Women), Plutarch writes:

There came from Phocaea twin brothers Phobus and Blepsus of the family of the Codridae, of whom Phobus was the first to throw himself into the sea from the Leucadian Rocks, as Charon of Lampsacus has recorded. Phobus, having influence and princely rank, sailed to Parium on some business of his own, and having become the friend and guest of Mandron, who was king of the Bebrycians who are called the Pityoessenians, he aided them by fighting on their side when they were being harassed by their neighbours. When Phobus took his departure Mandron expressed the utmost regard for him, and, in particular, promised to give him a part of their land and city if Phobus wished to come to Pityoessa with Phocaean colonists. So Phobus prevailed on his citizens and sent out his brother with the colonists.

(my emphasis)

Noted classical art historian and archaeologist John Boardman, in The Greeks Overseas is among those who, tentatively at least, attribute the colony to Phocaea, as do Lionel Pearson in Early Ionian Historians and M. H. Hansen and T. H. Nielsen in An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. The latter text provides further evidence for a Phocaean foundation:

That Phokaia was the metropolis is confirmed by the tradition that the citizens of Lampsakos called themselves brothers of the Massaliotai (cf. Massalia (no. 3), so a Phokaian colony; I.Lampsakos 4.26), and by the name of the month Heraion, attested both in Lampsakos (I.Lampsakos 8.5) and Phokaia (Samuel (1972) 125, 131).

Note: Massalia (modern-day Marseille) was a Phocaean colony.

Dennis R. Alley, in Charon of Lampsakos, despite referring to the "colonial foundation myth of Lampsakos", nonetheless cites the fragments of Charon as "an important portion of our surviving evidence" on the history of Lampsacus.

A. R. Burn in Greek Sea-Power, 776-540 B. C., and the 'Carian' Entry in the Eusebian Thalassocracy-List also supports a Phocaean foundation but asserts:

Milesians also supplanted the original Phocaean colonists of Lampsacus, but at what date we cannot tell (Str. xiii. 589; Charon of Lampsacus, frag. 6).

Burn seems to be making an assumption here, that the different accounts of Charon and Strabo meant that Milesians replaced the earlier Phocaeans. Neither author says this, and there is no evidence elsewhere either.

Excavations, the first of which was in 1996 (by which time the ancient city had long since been almost completely erased), have provided no evidence; almost all finds have been from later periods:

there have been no systematic excavations that would allow the reconstruction of the city’s full picture. Recent rescue excavations have brought to light sarcophagoi and significant tomb offerings and gifts, such as golden wreaths, diadems and a ring, all dating back to the second half of the 4th century BC.

Unfortunately, another early (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC) historian and geographer Hecataeus of Miletus' works also only survive in fragments. He wrote stories on "the foundation of a town" but is not cited in any of the secondary sources on Lampsacus, and there is no mention of the colony in the collection of his fragments, Hecataei Milesii Fragmenta.

Strabo, writing at least 400 years after Charon, asserts that the Lampsaceni were Milesian colonists. Although this is not necessarily contradictory, evidence is lacking (as noted above). Nonetheless, it is possible that settlers from Miletus could have been welcomed at a later date to boost the strength of a colony which seems to have been surrounded by hostile neighbours at times. Eusebius of Caesarea, writing at least 800 years after the founding of colony, also attributed it to Miletus, his source probably being Strabo.

As to how Pityoessa or Pityussa came to be renamed Lampsacus, Plutarch relates the story of Mandron's daughter Lampsace and her role in saving the Phocaean colonists from the treachery of her own people in her father's absence:

...the daughter of Mandron, Lampsace, a young girl, learned of the plot beforehand, and tried first to dissuade her friends and relatives and to point out to them that they were undertaking to carry out a frightful and wicked deed in murdering men who were their benefactors and allies and now also their fellow-citizens. But when she could not prevail on them, she secretly told the Greeks what was afoot,....Lampsace died as the result of an illness, and they buried her within the city most magnificently, and called the city Lampsacus after her name.

  • 1
    That bit about Charon was certainly helpful addition. I personally think Lampsacus was almost without doubts a Phocaean foundation, as also demonstrated by some rather solid circumstantial evidences (e.g. the cult of Leucothea, similar naiskoi found across Phocaean colonies, etc.). Later Milesian involvements seem possible but hard to substantiate; I wonder if Burn's statement is validated by more recent archaeological finds -- a Milesian takeover, whether by force or not, would have been reflected by changes in trade items. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 11:26
  • 1
    @mooncatcher I've added a few details but evidence for Milesian involvement is definitely lacking in both literary sources (aside from Strabo) and in the archaeology, which doesn't seem to tell us anything at all about the earliest period. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 13:56


  • This is one of those ancient geography questions that I like to go through, and hence enjoy solving -- but am never satisfied with the results (as it were).
  • OP is probably more knowledgeable, hence I wonder if this perspective (not really an answer) was considered.
  • More a leading consideration/factor, than an answer. But it could help OP resolve the question/issue of origins.

History Based on Evidence: First vs Secondhand Information

Strabo's Geography (Geographica), although full of place-names and locations, has a slight problem in general and it is a question of authenticity (does he really know these places). In other words, Geographica has lots of data, but it often comes without context, which is necessary and especially important in geographic work.

Here's the issue as it relates to OP's question: Pityusa or Pityussa is, I have read, Greek for "Pine Trees" or "Pine". During the time period under consideration, there could be more than one location with this name. The question of why did subsequent historians disregard or acknowledge Strabo (as OP stated: "yet this rejection of Strabo's account of Milesian origin is not shared by The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (1976)") may very well rest on this fact, i.e. that there were several place-names of Pityusa/Pityussa.

Multiple Pityusa / Pityussa / Pitya

For the relevant book of Geographica, it is Book XIII - North Aegean. And from Bill Thayer's site, LacusCurtius (which is old enough to have a Wikipedia entry), there is a Pitya and there is another place, Lampsacus:

Pitya (fn.79) is in Pityus in the territory of Parium, lying below a pine-covered mountain;80 and it lies between Parium and Priapus in the direction of Linum, a place on the seashore, where are caught the Linusian snails, the best in the world

However, there is another Pityusa/Pityussa (the one OP is looking at, Lampsacus), later in this same chapter:

Lampsacus, also, is a city on the sea, a notable city with a good harbour, and still flourishing, like Abydus. It is about one hundred and seventy stadia distant from Abydus; and it was formerly called Pityussa, as also, it is said, was Chios. On the opposite shore of the Chersonesus is Callipolis, a small town. It is on the headland and runs far out towards Asia in the direction of the city of the Lampsaceni, so that the passage across to Asia from it is no more than forty stadia.

The entry for footnote 79 explains the issue and confusion that Geograhica sometimes generate:

f.n 79: According to the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (1.933), cited by Leaf (Troy, p187), "Lampsacus was formerly called Pityeia, or, as others spell it, Pitya. Some say that Phrixus stored his treasure there and that the city was named after the treasure, for the Thracian word for treasure is 'pitye' " (but cf. the Greek word "pitys," "pine tree"). Strabo, however, places Pitya to the east of Parium, whereas Lampsacus lies to the west (see Leaf, l.c., pp185 ff.; and his Strabo on the Troad, p87). In § 18 (following) Strabo says that "Lampsacus was formerly called Pityussa.

Source: LacusCurtius

Hence, it requires very close reading of Geographica to find out which entry of Pitye/Pityusa/Pityussa is relevant to one's research.

I am not so sure this answers the question. In fact, I know it does not. But it does explain why we need to go beyond Strabo's place-names in Geographica to find the answer on questions of origin. Today, Lampsacus is Lâpseki, and according to Wikipeida (which isn't much), the answer is a colony founded by Phocaea.

(For place-names and origins, one needs to go beyond Geographica and Wikipedia. Hence, this is not good enough.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.