Sithonia in antiquity
Sithonia is the middle peninsula of Halkidiki. It spreads between Toroneos and Sigitikos Gulf and ends up in cape Drepano.
According to a mythological tradition Sithonia was called this way due to the King of the Thracian tribe of Odomantas, Sithon, son of the God Poseidon. Sithon had two daughters from the nymph Mendiida, Pallini and Ritia. Pallini will be won as a wife in a duel with one of the suitors by Cleitos who will inherit Sithon in the throne. The homonymous then peninsula of Halkidiki was called Pallini (known today as the peninsula of Kassandra).
Sithonians, as an ancient race, are memorized by Stravon: “Hedoni and Visaltians occupied Macedonia up to the Strymon. From these people, the Visaltians were named like this, Visaltians, while from the Idons; others were called Migdons, other Idons and other Sithons…”
According to the results of recent surveys, it is supported today that Sithons were initially o Phrygian race, which is then merged with the Thracians, which were either already established or settled in there later, probably in the 8th century BC. That’s the reason why the Sithons previously referred to as a Thracian tribe.
In the ancient times in the area thrived Sermyli, Fyskella, Siggos, Parthenopoli, Galipsos, Toroni, Derra, Ampelos, Sarti, Piloros, Assa and Sithonia.
Toroni was colonized by the Chalkidons in the end of the 8th century BC. It forced by Xerxes to contribute in his invasion to Greece in 480 BC. After the Persian wars, it acceded in the first Athenian Alliance. It defected in 424 BC and acceded to Vrasidas, the Spartan general, but during the Peloponnesian War it constituted the bone of contention between the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians that’s why Thucydides memorizes often.
In 348 BC it was conquered by Philippos the 2th of Macedonia. In 168 BC after the battle of Pydna and the breakdown of the Macedonian Kingdom, it was conquered by the Romans. The ancient city was one of the biggest and richest cities of Halkidiki.
Other settlements in antiquity
There were organized settlements in Sithonia around the classic and Roman period, especially by the sea, were remains of residences have been found in Elia, Saint George, Kastri and Lagomandra. The area between Kastri and Saint John beach (Agios Ioannis) of today’s Nikiti is considered to be a very possible location of the ancient city Galipsos which is mentioned by Herodotus. Roman writers mention the city Fyskella in the area. Some historians as Leake supports that it is about the same city. The changing of the name was required because there was also another city called Galipsos in a relatively close distance eastern of the river Strimonas.
However the local name “Fyskella” is Thracian and probably previous of the name Galipsos, if we consider that the Thracians inhabited Halkidiki before the colonists from Southern Greece. In any case there seems to be continuous habitation of the area during antiquity.
Sithonia would have been a quiet area for the standards of the era. It was far from the main trade roads, while there wasn’t any special strategic point of significance to be an issue of conflict. The sparse settlements were organized mainly by the beach and the people were occupied with fishing and agriculture. The residents, like in most areas of Macedonia, had become Christians which was a legal religion of the Roman State since the era of Konstantinos (beginning of 4th century AD) while it is declared the official religion of the state from Theodosius the 1st in the end of the 4th century AD. The religion was of course very important for those early Christians, what’s why we have so many monuments of the early Christian period (Sophronius Basilica).