Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.5.04


A. Geoffrey Woodhead, The Athenian Agora, vol. xvi, Inscriptions: The Decrees. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1997. Pp. xvii + 527; 1 plan; 32 plates. $100. ISBN 0-87661-216-8.


Reviewed by P. J. Rhodes, Department of Classics, University of Durham.

As has been pointed out before (e.g. Rhodes, Phoen. 30 [1976], 194, reviewing vol. xv), the Athenian Agora is a distinct site in the sense that there is a defined area within which the American School has the responsibility for excavation, but in another sense it is just a part of that larger site which is the city of Athens, and there is no generic difference between public inscriptions found in the American School's site and public inscriptions found in other parts of the city. The concept of a corpus of public inscriptions found in the Agora is therefore a dubious concept (it is not, of course, to be blamed on Woodhead).

Meritt and Traill were able to include in vol. xv all inscriptions honouring prytaneis and bouleutai, whether found in the Agora or not, and thus presented a satisfactory generic corpus; likewise I think Lalonde and colleagues have included in vol. xix all the texts in their categories (they have certainly included some non-Agora texts); but Bradeen limited vol. xvii to those funerary monuments of which at least a fragment was found in the Agora.

Given the volume of material, W. could not reasonably be expected to include all Athenian decrees, whether found in the Agora or not, but has had to follow the policy of Bradeen in vol. xvii and limit himself to texts of which at least a fragment was found in the Agora. The Agora in fact accounts for only a small proportion of surviving Athenian decrees. Of those earlier than 403, IG i3 has 258, while W.'s volume has 28 (+ 2 found after his cut-off date); of those from 403/2 to 308/7, the elderly IG ii2 has over 500, while W.'s volume has 78 (+ 9); from 307/6 to c. 200, IG ii2 has about 500, while the Agora's contribution, though now greater, is still comparatively small, and W.'s volume has 148 (+ 9).

W. was at work on this volume for a long time. In principle he has limited himself to stones found not later than 1967 (as far as inventory no. I 7029): post-1967 stones are included when they form part of previously-known texts but otherwise are briefly mentioned in appendixes at the ends of the chronological sections. Although the book was not published until 1997, it was completed in 1991, and only a few changes could be made after that.

W. has included decrees of all kinds, emanating from tribes, demes and other bodies within the Athenian state as well as from the council and assembly; and from the fourth century he has also included laws enacted by the nomothetai. He has not included the decrees in honour of prytaneis and bouleutai published in vol. xv; nor ephebic documents (I 3068 = Hesp. 9 [1940], pp. 59-66 no. 8 = Reinmuth 9, for instance, would have qualified for inclusion), which I hope are destined for a separate collection; but he has included some texts which appear also as leases in vol. xix.

The material is arranged in five chronological sections, divided at 403, 307, 200 and 86 B.C. For the first section there is a complete recent corpus, IG i3 (decrees in fasc. 1, 1981): indeed, W. was one of the editors who worked on that collection. Usually the two texts differ only by the occasional dot or placing of a bracket; in a couple of cases (14 = IG i3 70, 17 = IG i3 90) W. first prints a minimally restored text and afterwards quotes speculative reconstructions; for 18 = IG i3 182 he follows M. B. Walbank (whose help he acknowledges in the Preface) in rearranging the fragments and offering more reconstruction than was given in IG. For texts later than 403 the relevant parts of IG ii2 were published in 1913 and 1916 (part 1, fascs. 1-2); plans for a new edition are currently under consideration. The majority of W.'s texts are now texts not in IG (for instance, in his second section, covering 403/2-308/7 [not 307/6, as in the headings], out of a total of 78 + 9, 16 + 2 are texts in IG to which the Agora has added further fragments). There have also, of course, been new texts found elsewhere in the city, so IG and W.'s volume do not between them provide a complete corpus of decrees. For these post-403 decrees W. mostly repeats the text of the latest editor, but sometimes allows doubts or suggestions of his own to modify it.

For each of his texts W. gives details of its finding, a description of the stone, and a list of previous publications, in the standard Agora style familiar from Hesperia; the Greek text; and a short commentary, which begins with the lettering and doubtful readings, and when possible goes on to discuss the content and the context. Though space for commentary is limited, he is able to say more than could be said in IG. He pays particular attention to questions of orthography, chronology and the Athenian calendar (the calendar is a subject which has been attracting less attention than in the past since B. D. Meritt died and W. K. Pritchett has concentrated on other matters), formulaic expressions (a subject studied particularly by A. S. Henry, another scholar whose help to W. is acknowledged in the Preface), and prosopography. Where only a small fragment survives, as is all too often the case, such questions are frequently the only ones that can be profitably discussed. Where we have a substantial text, and larger issues arise, W. is not unaware of them, but he tends to deal with them simply by referring to the work of others rather than by making comments of his own (e.g. 34 = Tod 101, the alliance of 395 between Boeotia and Athens; 73, the law of 337/6 threatening the Areopagus with suspension in the event of an attempt to overthrow the democracy; 75, the law and decree of the 330's on the Lesser Panathenaea; but he allows himself to say more than usual in connection with 48 = Tod 137, Athens' protest to the Aetolian League in 367/6). Obviously the space available to W. was limited, but this treatment of the larger issues makes the collection look like a book for connoisseurs rather than one which invites historians to use it as much as they ought.

In accordance with his chronological interests, whenever one of his decrees is precisely dated, W. inserts a general note on the year in question, the assignment of the archon to that year and what can be reconstructed of the calendar of the year, and he lists the other texts which are dated to the same year. (He follows other Agora epigraphists -- as indeed do I -- in refusing to believe with Pritchett that the longer prytanies must always have been those at the beginning of the year because that is what is stated in Ath. Pol. 43. 2.) But this exercise reminds us that an Agora corpus is an incomplete corpus, since such notes are provided for those years, but only those years, to which one of W.'s texts is dated: we are thus given a good deal of material on the Athenian calendar and on the dating of third-century and later archons, but not a full study of either subject.

This volume embodies a very large amount of meticulous, detailed work, but inevitably some corrections can be suggested. I mention, not in a carping spirit, a few points which I happen to have noticed.

Pp. 82-3 (no. 52): In line 1 W. prints my [E)/DOCEN TW=I DH/MWI: E)RE]XQHI\S ..., but, noting that this first decree is of 402-399, and comparing other decrees of the early fourth century which surprisingly omit reference to the people, he comments that "the correction [of TH=I BOULH=I, IG; TH=I BOLH=I, D. M. Lewis] may ... be unnecessary". At that date either formula would indeed be possible, but here the whole formula has to be restored, and it should not be supposed that what I suggest is a "correction" of something which is attested.

P. 84 (no. 53): W.'s citation of Mikalson suggests that he has the wrong interpretation of PRW/TOUS META\ TA\ I(ERA/ (but Henry, whom he cites also, was right): the reference is not to the religious ceremonies which began the meeting but to the religious business which had priority in the meeting. See Rhodes with Lewis, The Decrees of the Greek States (1997), 14 n. 19 (citing IG ii2 772, where an item of religious business is to be raised E)N I(EROI=S), 543-5 (noting that in the hellenistic and Roman worlds "royal" and "Roman" business was granted similar priority).

P. 99 (no. 61, a decree lacking a full prescript): There may have been a motion formula (with DEDO/CQAI or E)YHFI/SQAI) after the E)PEIDH\ clause, but there is not likely to have been an enactment formula at that point.

Pp. 112-3 (no. 73): Hansen later retracted his view that the proedroi for the enactment of nomoi were the proedroi of the council and assembly (C&M 32 [1971-80], 103 n. 17). W. does not express a view of his own on the matter, or here on S. Alessandri's claim that grammateus tes boules and grammateus kata prytaneian were not after all alternative titles for the same secretary. However, p. 191 (no. 120) assumes, as I do, that the usual belief in two titles for the same secretary is right and points out that in The Athenian Boule I had overlooked the fact that from the end of the fourth century some decrees are published by a secretary styled grammateus tou demou. Probably that was yet another title for the same secretary (Ferguson, Brillant), though W. would not rule out the possibility that this was a different secretary, to whom the duty of publication was given on some occasions.

P. 116 (no. 75): W. is over-condensing when he writes that "the decree was primarily a nomos enacted by the nomothetai"; fr. a is a nomos (cf. line 7), and fr. b is a psephisma, most of what survives being an amendment to the probouleuma (cf. lines 32-3).

Pp. 118-9 (no. 77): W. is not among those who have had access to D. M. Lewis's paper "On the Financial Offices of Eubulus and Lycurgus" (now published in his Selected Papers in Greek and Near Eastern History [1997], 212-29), but he has seen work by me which was influenced by that paper. He holds unquestioningly to the view, which Lewis and I both rejected, that Lycurgus' three quadrennia were Great Panathenaic quadrennia and began in 338. Lewis suggested [O(/PWS H)=I TA\ I(]ERA\ QU=SAI in line 11 of the inscription.

P. 250 (no. 174): W. adheres to the traditional view that we should distinguish between régimes under which payments were made by a single official epi tei dioikesei and régimes under which they were made by a board. I have argued, particularly in connection with Hesp. 52 (1983), 48-53 = SEG xxxiii 115 (not in this volume), that at any rate from 287 onwards we should believe what Ferguson finally believed from 229 onwards, that there was always a board but some inscriptions referred to a single member of it (Tria Lustra ... J. Pinsent [1993], 1-3, cf. The Decrees of the Greek States, 38-9).

The volume includes 330 photographs, particularly of stones published here for the first time, stones originally published elsewhere than in Hesperia and stones imperfectly illustrated in early volumes of Hesperia. There is a plan of the Agora, with a grid to allow the location of find-spots. There are full concordances and indexes.

W. ends his Preface by remarking sadly, "That this volume will meet general welcome and approval is a hope but not an expectation. Reviewers ... will emphasize inadequacies and occasions for disagreement" -- and I fear I have done that. But my chief complaint has been of the omissions imposed on W. by the nature of his undertaking, which make this a frustratingly incomplete book. He has laboured valiantly, and much has been included between its covers that will make it very useful in spite of its incompleteness.