Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.08.31

P. M. Nigdelis, G. A. Souris, Anthupatos legei. Ena diatagma tôn autokratorikôn chronôn gia to gumnasio tês Beroias. Tekmêria. Sumboles stên Istoria tou Ellênikou kai Rômaikou Kosmou. Parartêma 1.   Thessaloniki:  Athanasios A. Altintzis, 2005.  Pp. 159.  ISBN ISSN 1106-661X.  

Reviewed by Nigel M. Kennell, American School of Classical Studies at Athens / College Year in Athens (
Word count: 1723 words

With the publication of Ανθύπατος Λέγει (The Proconsul Speaks), the Macedonian city of Beroia strengthens its claim to be one of the most important sources of epigraphical evidence for the gymnasium in the later Hellenistic and Roman periods. Though in a fragmentary state, the proconsular edict studied here by Nigdelis and Souris (N & S), who characterize it as the most extensive surviving document of its kind from the whole empire, nicely complements the gymnasiarchical law from the early second century BCE which was the object of the well-known monograph by Gauthier and Hatzopoulos.1 The inscription records the intervention of a previously unknown proconsul of Macedonia, Memmius Rufus, in the internal affairs of the city to correct a situation he calls "utterly disgraceful" (αἴσχιστον Fr. B, line 6) -- the closure of the city's gymnasium for extended periods of time due to a lack of funding.

After an account of the discovery of the inscription's four fragments, from 1912 to the early years of this century, and the editors' identification of it as a proconsular edict (15-22), the text is presented (23-28), followed by a more extensive discussion of its nature and formal sections (29-34). The bulk of the book is taken up with a commentary on the surviving portion -- slightly less than half of the original text -- concentrating on what the edict can tell us about the economics of the Beroian gymnasium and the dynamics of the relationship between the Roman governor and the city's elite (34-105). Then comes a short section on the edict's date, where the editors show that the appearance of the gentilicium Flavius and the lack of any Aurelii place it chronologically after 69 CE and before 212 CE, although they would date it to the end of the first century or the first half of the second, on the less reliable basis of letter forms (106-108). The main text of the book concludes with a "Historical Interpretation" (108-117) where N & S set the crisis in the gymnasium at Beroia into a wider financial context, speculating on the possible causes for the funding shortfall and emphasizing the radical nature of Rufus' solution. They also attempt to illuminate the precise procedure whereby the solution was decided upon and implemented. An appendix follows (119-126) which collects references to all the known (non-Egyptian) decrees of provincial governors in both Latin and Greek. Then come an index to the inscription and a general index (127-144). At the very end is a well-written summary in English (145-150), followed by clear (and readable) photographs of the various fragments of the inscription.

The edict has appeared before, in the first volume of Επιγραφές Κάτω Μακεδονίας devoted to the inscriptions of Beroia, but with only the briefest of epigraphical commentaries.2 The editors present here a highly conservative text with a few, mostly minor, changes from the earlier version. The only major addition comes in line 8, where N & S offer a possible reference to the members of the senatorial class of the province of Macedonia (καὶ τῶν κ[ρατίστων ἀνδρῶν τοῦ τε ἔθνους]) working with the governor to find a solution. With their focus narrowly on economic matters, N & S subject the surviving parts of the inscription to a rigorous examination which enables them to extract a surprising amount of information, although many questions of interpretation remain open.

Some portions of the discussion deserve comment. Early on, N & S (38-41) stress the slipperiness of the term proteuousa as applied to Beroia, which does not necessarily mean caput provinciae. Rhetoric, however, gets out of control when the authors spend over a page (41-43) belaboring the point that the phrase λειτουργῶν ἔνδειᾳ refers to a lack of gymnasiarchs to run the gymnasium. They make the interesting observation that Rufus' attention might have been drawn to the problem of the gymnasium because it may have been closed during the celebration of the Olympia at Beroia, which was a provincial festival (43). The edict's reference to negotiations with people called protoi and the Beroian boule (line 11) lead N & S to a review of the scholarship on protoi in cities of the Greek east. Rather than identifying them as any sort of legally recognized body, they prefer to recognize the 'first people' simply as the wealthiest, most influential members of the community, whose participation in the process to find a solution for Beroia's problem was desirable because of their influence and experience as former magistrates (49-53).

The solution the governor's discussions produced was a radical one: possibly rejecting suggestions that monies be loaned out from the annual budgets of incoming magistrates to keep the gymnasium open (54-55), Rufus authorized the establishment of a new gymnasial fund (ἐνθήκη) to come into operation in the following year with a principal of about 100,000 denarii and projected annual income of 6,000 denarii to cover expenses, including the provision of olive oil (ἄλειμμα) (lines 10-14). This large amount of money was to be collected by emptying several foundations set up earlier by prominent Beroians (lines 17-39), not all of which were originally intended for the gymnasium -- for instance, the income from one was to fund a procession of a phallus in a Dionysiac festival (line 30). N & S identify the various sorts of foundations as far as the fragmentary text allows and the income expected to accrue from each (55-63, 72-76). The wholesale annulment of the donors' expressed wishes gives some point to the common prohibitions in foundation decrees about re-directing the funds generated by the gifts from their original purposes.3 It also might explain why the governor became involved, if, as seems quite plausible, the Beroian 'first people' could not agree among themselves on changing the provisions of these bequests (113).

Apart from the foundations, a portion of the amount collected for the fund consisted of money from the local "water machines" (ἀπὸ τῶν ὑδρομηχανῶν) (line 28), a new word, which N & S (surely correctly) argue means "water mills" (64). Although the exploitation of water for industrial use at Beroia is known only from the later Middle Ages, they point out that the edict shows that the use of hydraulic energy, probably for grinding grain, was widespread at Beroia during and perhaps even a generation before Rufus promulgated his edict (63-70). If so, this text would provide yet more important evidence for the systematic use of water power in the early Roman Empire (71-72).

After setting out provisions for collecting the money, the proconsul then directs its expenditure. Oil for the ephebes surprisingly took up a mere 8.3% of the funds annually (86), while the largest single expense (30%) was, they believe, incurred by the celebration at Beroia of games for the Macedonian Koinon, whose gymnasiarch, in charge of the distribution of oil at the games, was himself a Beroian official (83-86). I do not share N & S's confidence in their interpretation of the surviving text at this point, προστεθήσεται δὲ τῇ ἐκ τῆς πόλεως γυμνασιαρχίᾳ καὶ τῶν (line 47), which N & S construe to mean that the gymnasiarchy of the Koinon's festival was added to the civic office. γυμνασιαρχία can also be a gymnasiarchical fund rather than an office, especially when it appears close to προστεθήσεται, a word which appears often in financial contexts.4 There is also no reason that the missing feminine noun after the definite article need be γυμνασιαρχία, whether expressed or not, as N & S assume (84). It seems just as likely that Rufus was making provision for supplementing the gymnasiarchical fund with income from some other source (e.g. τῶν [δεῖνα πρόσοδος]), which, should a gymnasiarch be found, would be applied to the fund's principal. This may well be the meaning of τῳ̂ κεφαλαίῳ κολληθήσεται in the next line, which N & S find 'unclear'.

The editors on the whole do a good job of dealing with this recalcitrant text, citing copious parallels to elucidate its language and tease out something of its full significance. But there is a downside to their concentrating so exclusively on the edict's financial and administrative content. N & S sometimes ignore other subjects, such as meaning of the interesting word φιλοκαλί[α] in line 2, better known from late antique mosaic inscriptions.5 Similarly, they pass over without comment lines 42-46, which appear to be concerned with prizes and their financing. In the same passage, Rufus explicitly leaves some action having to do with "the position/post" (topos) of a magistracy ending in -chia to the sunetheia of the neoi (line 45). The reference is probably to the ephebarchy, the administration of which remains in the hands of the legally-constituted association of the young citizens enrolled in the gymnasium, as the word sunetheia, well-attested in Macedonia, should be understood to mean here.6 Nothing in the commentary. Line 42 has to do with a share (moira) of something, almost certainly meat from a sacrificial victim, which was the usual privilege (geras) granted to 'those who are gymnasiarch.' Again, no mention of this.

There are other puzzling omissions (e.g. line 50), but perhaps the most perplexing comes in line 72, another completely uncommented line, where the editors do not make the obvious restoration of the letters ιλλίους into [Ποπ]ιλλιους to provide a reference to the Popillii brothers, Ap(p)ius (or Apios) and Severus, whom the proconsul describes as "lads who wouldn't shirk from" doing the city some sort of benefaction ([Ποπ]ιλλιους Ἄπιον καὶ Σευῆρον νεανίσκους οὐκ ὀκνηροὺς προσ[), using words full of significance for an understanding of the role of the gymnasium and its members in the later Greek city.

Finally, there is one highly unfortunate (and repeated) error. At least once in the Greek text (112) and twice in the English summary (148-149), the size of the fund is said to be ten thousand denarii in place of the correct one hundred thousand ("ten myriads of denarii" in lines 10 and 39). This would mean that the fund was supposed to produce a mind-boggling 60% annual return!

Despite these problems, however, Ανθύπατος Λέγει represents, if not the final word on the inscription, a solid contribution to our understanding of the financing of a gymnasium during the Roman period and, as N & S themselves note (114), the surprising degree to which a Roman governor would become personally involved in finding a solution to its problems.


1.   P. Gauthier and M. Hatzopoulos, La loi gymnasiarchique de Beroia. Μελετήματα 16. Athens, 1993.
2.   L. Gounaropoulou and M. B. Hatzopoulos, Επιγραφές Κάτω Μακεδονίας ι. ́Επιγραφές Βεροίας. Athens, 1998, no. 7; SEG 48 (1998) no. 742.
3.   E.g. I. Kibyra 43; SEG 13 (1956) 258, lines 17-38; IG 12.7 515, lines 123-129; I. Iasos 2 248, lines 62-67.
4.   προστεθήσεται: IG 12.7 515, line 51; F. Delphes III.4 302; SIG (3) 344, line 35. Gumnasiarchia, used in this sense in line 17, is not "a non-technical expression" (59) but one commonly used to denote funds established for the distribution of oil: I. Ephesos 3066, lines 13-14; I. Kibyra 43, lines 6-7; MDAI(A) 35 (1910) p. 401 no. 1, lines 25-30; Strabo 14.5.14; Jos. BJ 1.423.
5.   L. Robert, BE 1964, no. 546.
6.   E.g. SEG 47 (1997) no. 967,2; ΕΚΜ 1, Beroia 372; IG 10.2.1 933. On sunetheia and the related term sunetheis, see L. Robert, BE 1955 no. 168; J. M. Flambard, "Observations sur la nature des magistri italiens de Délos," in Delo e l'Italia, F. Coarelli, D. Musti, and H. Solin, eds. Opuscula Instituti Romani Finlandiae 2. Rome 1983, 72-75.

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