Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.2.22


Maureen B. Cavanaugh, Eleusis and Athens, Documents in Finance, Religion and Politics in the Fifth Century B.C. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996. Pp. xv, 238, 2 pl., 4 fold-out tables. $44.95 (hb). $29.95 (pb).


Reviewed by Vincent J. Rosivach, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT 06430, rosivach@fair1.fairfield.edu.

Cavanaugh's book is in fact two separate studies concerned, in different ways, with financial arrangements for the sanctuary of the Two Goddesses at Eleusis. Part I is an attempt to re-date IG I3 78, the First Fruits Decree, to c. 435; Part II offers a new text and detailed commentary for IG I3 386 and 387, two account-inventories for the shrine.

Cavanaugh's goal in Part I is to date IG I3 78, which lays out procedures for the reception and disposition of the harvest first fruits sent as tribute to the Two Goddesses at Eleusis. Included in the decree is a call to all Greek states to send a similar tribute to the Goddesses. Once Athens had incorporated Eleusis and its sanctuary into its own polis-structure, she could claim that Demeter had given Athens the gift of grain, which she then handed on to others. The call to the other Greek states in the First Fruits Decree thus has a clear political purpose, to secure their recognition of this claim, and so to project Athenian dominance in Greece via the religious sphere. Knowing exactly when Athens did this would be of obvious interest to the historian.

Cavanaugh's dating of IG I3 78 begins with the epistatai, a board of supervisors of the Goddesses' finances created by an amendment to a decree recorded in IG I3 32, which Cavanaugh dates to the late 430's (see below). Since IG I3 78 does not mention the epistatai, according to Cavanaugh it must be dated earlier than IG I3 32.

As groundwork for her argument Cavanaugh examines in Chapter 1 the available evidence, all epigraphic, for the role of the epistatai in the fifth and fourth centuries, their name, composition and length of term. IG I3 32, the amendment creating the board of epistatai, assigns them overall supervision of the Goddesses' finances (E)PISTH=NAI TOI=S XRE/MASI TOI=S TOI=N QEOI=N, lines 11-12), including both income (20-22) and expenditures (28-30). While there were some changes in details over time (Cavanaugh does not mention the nomos of Khairemonides [known from an amendment of 353/2 recorded in IG II2 140]), the overall function of the board remained the same throughout the fifth and fourth centuries, to judge from the epigraphic record.

Chapter 2 provides a text and translation of IG I3 32 and discusses its dating. (Cavanaugh should have mentioned that the text is that of Meiggs-Lewis, not IG I3.) IG I3 32 specifies that the new board of epistatai is to exercise its functions KAQA/PER O(I E)PI\ TOI=S E)N PO/LEI E)/RGOIS E)PE/STATON TWI= NEWI= KAI\ TWI= A)GA/LMATI (lines 12-13), whom Cavanaugh takes, not unreasonably, as the epistatai in charge of the construction of the Parthenon and the chryselephantine statue of Athena. IG I3 32 should thus be dated sometime after 433/2, when their work was completed (note the imperfect E)PE/STATON), but soon enough after that their memory would still be fresh enough to serve as a convenient model. The difficulty with such a late date, however, is the use of three-barred sigmas in the inscription, which should point to an earlier date. Cavanaugh is aware of this difficulty but does not address it head-on, arguing only that "[i]t makes much more sense to assume that one or more stone cutters continued to use an older form of sigma for another fifteen years or so than to resort to the desperate measures employed in support of a date in the early 440s" (pp. 26-27), although she does mention, albeit in footnotes, two recent articles which have challenged the usefulness of the three-barred sigma as a dating device.

Chapter 3 is an extensive review of scholarship on the dating of the First Fruits Decree. Most of this chapter could have been easily omitted, and the parts relevant to Cavanaugh's arguments included in Chapter 4, her own discussion of the First Fruits Decree.

In Chapter 4 Cavanaugh notes that our earliest evidence for the financial arrangements at the Eleusis sanctuary (IG I3 6, dated by letter forms to before 460) shows the hieropoioi in charge of the Goddesses' money. This responsibility was transferred to the epistatai by the amendment in IG I3 32, which, as we have seen, Cavanaugh dates to shortly after 433/2. Since the First Fruits Decree lays out procedures for the hieropoioi to follow in the collection and disposal of the first fruits and makes no mention of the epistatai , Cavanaugh concludes that it must fall between IG I3 6 and IG I3 32, and chooses c. 435 as a likely date in terms of what is known of Periclean foreign policy at this time.

There is another possible explanation, however, for the absence of the epistatai from the First Fruits Decree. The first fruits were only part of the finances of the Eleusis sanctuary. Equally importantly, they were a part with which the hieropoioi remained involved even after the epistatai assumed overall responsibility for the administration of the Goddesses' finances, as we know from IG I3 391, a four-year record (422/1-419/8) of funds from the first fruits transferred by the hieropoioi to the epistatai. From the combined evidence of the First Fruits Decree and IG I3 391 it would appear that even after the creation of the board of epistatai the hieropoioi continued to be responsible for the collection of the first fruits and their conversion into cash (A)PODO/MENOS, IG I3 78.40-41; cf. A)RGU/RION A)PO\ TO= SI/TO TH=S A)PARXH=S, IG I3 391.12-13, 19-20); this cash was then used for sacrifices and, on occasion, for dedications to the Goddesses (A)NAQE/MATA, line 41, on which see further below). Any surplus cash which the hieropoioi had on hand at the end of their term of office were then added to the XRE/MATA of the Goddesses, which were under the administrative responsibility of the epistatai. We might imagine then the hieropoioi as having full responsibility for the first fruits up to the point when the cash from their sale entered the treasure of the Goddesses, after which point they became the sole responsibility of the epistatai. From the point of view of the epistatai the hieropoioi and the funds they provided from the first fruits were just one of several sources of income for the Goddesses. For Cavanaugh's argument to hold, she must show that the epistatai , once created, performed the same tasks assigned to the hieropoioi in the First Fruits Decree, but the evidence is not there, at least not for the fifth century which is Cavanaugh's concern. Indeed, the transfer of funds from hieropoioi to epistatai in IG I3 391 would argue, if anything, for distinct functions, rather than shared jurisdiction as Cavanaugh (p. 79) would have it.

In a study that seeks to date an inscription Cavanaugh gives surprisingly short shrift to letter forms and linguistic changes. As to the former, she does not consider the letter forms herself, but relies instead on Wilhelm, the publisher of the Acropolis version of the First Fruits Decree (JOEAI 6 [1903]), who felt its lettering bore closest resemblance to IG I3 285 (dated 421/0), but who also saw similarities with the earlier stones IG I3 364 (dated 433/2) and IG I3 52 (dated 434/3), from about the time to which Cavanaugh wishes to date the decree (pp. 48-49, 80-81). As to linguistic changes (omission of the aspirate, changes in the form of the dative, etc.), Cavanaugh denies their usefulness as anything more than very broad indicators of termini post quem and ante quem non (p. 80). In particular she notes that the presence of both "old" and "new" forms in our text makes it impossible to date it absolutely according to the presence or absence of particular forms (p. 49). Cavanaugh might have argued the point in greater detail however, perhaps with examples of "new" forms found in inscriptions that can be dated with confidence to 435 or earlier.

In the second part of Eleusis and Athens Cavanaugh gives us a new text of IG I3 386-387, inventories prepared by the epistatai of 408/7 of the possessions of the Goddesses which they took over from their predecessors and handed on to their successors, along with an account of income and expenditures during the year. The text is accompanied by a description of the inscribed stone, a bibliography, an apparatus of readings and restorations, and epigraphical commentary (Cavanaugh has examined the stone herself, and provides several new readings), a more general commentary, photographs of the stone, and a summary conclusion.

The heart of this second part is the general commentary, where Cavanaugh both discusses restorations and supplies the background information a reader would need to understand what is being catalogued and why. As I read through this commentary I imagined myself following the epistatai through the Goddesses' properties as they took their inventory, constantly asking "what's this?," "what do you use that for?", "how did those things get in here?", and always getting the answer -- and more information that I had not even thought to ask for -- from Cavanaugh's commentary. Among Cavanaugh's interesting suggestions: the various stone blocks stored at Eleusis may well be building materials ordered but then not used when construction plans were changed (p. 160); the wood listed as XSU/LA E)K TW=N A)LKIBIA/DO, and perhaps other supplies, may have been purchased by temple agents looking for good bargain when Alkibiades' confiscated property was put up for public sale (pp. 181-82, 214); the variety of tools and building materials found in the inventory shows how the sanctuary of the two Goddesses -- rather like a modern academic or municipal institution -- kept on hand the supplies and equipment it would need for a wide range of repairs and maintenance of its buildings (pp. 213, 215).

In a commentary that covers so many points there will almost inevitably be some disagreement (I find it hard to believe, for example, that wooden architraves could still be in condition to be reused as load-bearing members after over eighty years in storage [p. 173]) and occasional puzzlement ("hAKU/L[ON DG| Cf. Threatte 495," the complete entry for IG I3 387.69), and occasionally one would like to add to Cavanaugh's comments (e.g. on p. 155, since the A)NAQE/MATA of IG I3 78.40-44 were to bear an inscription indicating who of the Greeks had offered the first fruits from which the dedications were made, they were probably a one-time event related to the panhellenic component of the first-fruit offerings mentioned there [E)PIGRA/FEIN TOI=S A)NAQE/MASIN ... KAI\ hELLE/NON TO=N A)PARXO/MENON], and we should not expect that proceeds from the ordinary Attic First Fruits were normally converted into dedications). But these are all quite minor points, and should not distract from the real interest and charm of this work. Cavanaugh's text and commentary make available to us a fascinating picture of the financial underpinnings and some of the day-to-day operations of one of Greece's major religious shrines.