Thessaly (Greek: Θεσσαλία): landscape in northern Greece.
In a brief digression in his account of Xerxes' invasion of Greece, the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus notes that Thessaly might as well have been a large lake:note[Herodotus, Histories 7.129.] surrounded on all sides by mountains, its rivers would have filled the basin if it would not have had an outlet throught the Tempe canyon. This is correct. In the north is Mount Olympus; in the west are the Pindos mountains with the sources of the rivers Peneius, Pamisus, Onochonus; in the south is the Othrys with the sources of the Apidanus and Enipeus; in the east is the Ossa, which touches the Othrys behind Iolkos (modern Volos) and is separated from the Olympus by the Tempe.
So, Thessaly was a basin, but there was an outer circle: the Magnesian peninsula with the Pelion mountains, stretching into the Aegan Sea like a big tail, Achaean Phthiotis, and Malis. The outer borders were, therefore, the Olympus, Pindus, Thermopylae, and the Aegean Sea.
- Early settlement: Sesklo (Neolithic)
- Mycenaean: Dimini, Iolcus, and Petra
- Echoes from this age in later Greek mythology, like the stories about the Argonauts
- After the demise of Bronze Age Greece, probably several migrations
- The inhabitants of Thessaly spoke the Aeolic dialect, also known from Boeotia, Lemnos, and the Aeolian towns in Asia Minor
Archaic and Classical Age
- Seventh century: conquest of Perrhaebia in the north, the Magnesian Peninsula, Achaean Phthiotis, and Malis (the perioikoi, "those living around")
- Towns with aristocratic governments: Pharsalus (under the Echecratids), Larisa (under the Aleuads), Crannon (under the Scopades), etc.
- Unlike Central Greece, where hoplite warfare becomes the important, Thessaly maintains cavalry
- Sixth century: intervention in Central Greece (First Sacred War) and temporary control of Phocis
- Cooperation with the Pisistrads in Athens
- The Aleuads, the leading dynasty of Larisa, reorganize Thessaly; large parts of the population are unfree penestai (not unlike the helots of Sparta); the leader of the united Thessalian aristocrats is a magistrate called tagos
- c.500 BCE: After a battle at Thermopylae, the Thessalians lose Phocis, but retain four votes in the amphictyony of Delphi, plus control of the amphictyony of Anthela
- After the Persians have conquered Macedonia, the Aleuads offer earth and water to the Persians; they are forced to cooperate wit Persia after the Greeks are unable to defend Greece at Tempe
- 480 BCE: Xerxes can proceed through Tempe, passes through Larisa, crosses into Achaean Phthiotis, visits Halos, and proceeds to Thermopylae.
- The Persians retreat from Central Greece in the winter of 480/479 and remain in Thessaly; in 479, they are defeated at Plataea
- After the Persian War, the Spartan king Leotychidas leads an army to the north to punish the Aleuads for collaboration and puts an end to their seizure of the tageia. The Echecratids of Pharsalus now start to dominate Thessalian politics. They conclude an alliance with Athens.note[Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 1.102.]
- In the Thessalian League, the tagos loses import;ance; there is a new office, the polemarch; during the Archidamian War and Decelean War, Thessaly usually supports Athens, although some aristocrats support Sparta and allow Brasidas' expedition to the north
- In the fourth century, there is a new Thessalian power: Pherae, with its leader Jason. In 375, he concludes an alliance with the other rising power, Thebes.
- 370: Assassination of Jason of Pherae; confused situation; Thessaly is taken over by the Macedonian king Philip II, who acepts the Thessalian cavalry in the Macedonian army and proceeds to interfere in Central Greece. After the Third Sacred War, he is in control of Delphi.
- 338/337: Thessaly becomes an independent member of the Corinthian League and supports Alexander's attack on the Persian Empire
- Although Alexander's empire desintegrates, Thessaly remains dependent on Macedonia; attempts to regain independence are prevented by Polyperchon and Demetrius Poliorcetes
- 294: Demetrius builds a new capital near Iolcus, Demetrias
- 283: Death of Demetrius, who is succeeded by Antigonus II Gonatas
- The Galatians break through and are defeated by Antigonus
- Brief reign of Pyrrhus of Epirus, who seizes power and guarantees the independence of Thessaly, but is killed in Argos (272)
- In the end, Antigonus Gonatas is capable of making one kingdom of Macedonia and Thessaly
- 239: Death of Antigonus, outbreak of the Demetrian War (r.239-229): the Aetolian League and the Achaean League try to conquer Thessaly.
- Antigonus' successors Demetrius II (r.239-229), Antigonus III Doson (r.229-221), and Philip V (r.229-179) retain control of Thessaly
- After the Second Macedonian War, in which the Romans defeat Philip V of Macedonia (Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BCE), Thessaly becomes independent again but loses Magnesia, which becomes independent
- A new constitution: in Larisa is one annual magistrate called strategos and a council
- The Thessalian marble quarries are opened; they produce the type of marble that is known as verde antico
- King Perseus of Macedonia tries to regain control in Thessaly, but the Romans intervene and defeat him in the Battle of Pydna (168 BCE)
- 148: The Romans annex Thessaly and Magnesia and add them to their newly created province Macedonia
- 48 BCE: In the decisive battle in Rome's Second Civil War, Julius Caesar defeats his rival Pompey the Great near Pharsalus
- Generally speaking, the Roman age was quiet. An interesting sketch of daily life in the Roman age is Apuleius' The Golden Ass
- 254: Looted by a Gothic army that was finally defeated at Thermopylae
- In the age of Diocletian (r.284-305), the province of Macedonia was broken up and Thessaly was divided into two successor provinces, which are known as Thessalia Prima and Thessalia Secunda.
- In the Byzantine age, many towns were fortified and Thessaly became one of the main areas of monastic life (Meteora)