Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.07.06

Andrzej S. Chankowski, L'Éphébie hellénistique: Étude d'une institution civique dans les cités grecques des îles de la Mer Égée et de l'Asie Mineure. Culture et cité, 4.   Paris:  De Boccard, 2010.  Pp. 621.  ISBN 2701803050.  €85.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Nigel M. Kennell, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that I have known the author for over a decade and discussed several of the issues addressed in this review with him during his stay in Athens.

Chankowski's long-awaited book is an admirable achievement, assembling a wealth of scattered and little-studied epigraphical material to produce a detailed institutional study of citizen training in the Greek and Hellenized cities of the Aegean islands and Asia Minor.

In the introduction, Chankowski contrasts his institutionally based approach with that of scholars following Vidal- Naquet's vision of "the ephebe" as the emblematic Black Hunter, which Chankowski characterizes as "historical anthropology." He then sets out the geographical and chronological parameters of his study, spending several pages (34-42) on a justification of his choice on the grounds that the period after Alexander represented a turning point in the political and institutional history of cities in the region (and elsewhere).

In the following five substantial chapters, Chankowski presents an in-depth and very detailed examination of the ephebate. Beginning with a survey of the occurrences of ἔφηβος and related words (45-142), Chankowski first argues that ἔφηβος was an Athenian coinage of the early fourth century BCE specifically to denote a young male enrolled in Athens' newly instituted citizen training system. He demolishes the commonly accepted idea that "ephebe" represented a primeval age designation that survived into the Classical period, showing that only later in the Hellenistic period did it acquire the general meaning of "young man." Along the way are sections on the age of majority in the Greek world (62-71), the meaning of ἐπὶ διετὲς ἡβῆσαι (73-82), medical age designations and Spartan age grades (82-90), agonistic age categories in Athens and elsewhere (90-114). The remaining pages are again devoted to Athens, with discussions of the date the ephebate was founded, its nature before and after the reform of Epicrates, whether or not service was obligatory (it was not, but social pressure was intense), and the ephebic oath.

What Chankowski sees as the Athenian ephebate's wide influence over the development of similar systems in other Greek cities forms the subject of the next chapter (143-233). Starting with the Eretrian ephebate, whose foundation he would now date to after 319/8 BCE,1 he assesses the evidence for ephebates before the middle of the third century, both within and beyond the ostensible geographic limits of his study. Examples of the latter are the cities in Boeotia, whose ephebates came from a reform in the early third century; Troezen, whose supposed fourth-century ephebate must in fact date later on the basis of the epigraphical evidence, though Chankowski is unaware of Swoboda's proof that the relevant inscriptions come from after 248 BCE;2 and Egyptian Alexandria, whose ephebate he courageously assigns to Alexander, despite the extremely narrow chronological window. The triakatioi at Libyan Cyrene were not epheboi, properly speaking, despite the ancient lexicographical evidence, but rather un groupe analogue (219). Closer to home, Coresia on Ceos did not possess a proper ephebate (210-214), nor did Rhodes, though cities in its Peraea did (198-206). The chapter's three-part conclusion (227-233) begins with a section justifying Chankowski's contention that the Athenian ephebate represented "a sort of model" for all others based on the diffusion of the word itself. In the second section, he draws a distinction between ephebates and maturation rituals in general, while in the short third part he attributes variation in the nomenclature of several cities' training systems to a desire to distance their institutions from the Athenian ephebic model.

The middle chapter, on the ephebes' status in the gymnasium (236-317), is a grab bag of loosely related topics by means of which Chankowski, refining Gauthier's statement that the gymnasium was the "privileged domain of the ephebes and neoi," argues that ephebes were the principal group using the gymnasium.3 He covers the differing ages of entry into ephebic service and the length of that service (usually one, two, or three years); the other age groups (paides, neoi/neaniskoi, neoteroi, and aleiphomenoi) using the gymnasium, where his discussion of how the terms neoi and neaniskoi were used both in a restricted and a general sense for either the gymnasial age group older than the ephebes or for the gymnasial community as a whole is particularly useful;4 registration procedures and whether citizenship was a criterion for entry (not necessarily); and the festivals of the ephebic year including, naturally, those at Athens. As is well known, the most popular festivals were the Hermaia and Herakleia, which leads Chankowski to consider references to donning or doffing the ephebic cloak (chlamus) symbolizing entry or departure from the ephebate. Surveys of some relevant ephebic lists and the extant non-Athenian evidence for ephebic oaths (including cities on Crete) then follow.

One of the most noticeable shifts in scholarly perspective in recent years has taken place in our view of the Hellenistic ephebate's continuing military function, not as an active element in a city's defense but as an organization for training future citizen warriors. Chankowski's fourth chapter (319-382) follows this trend, and his conclusions are not surprising: the effectiveness of civic armed forces was the aim of compulsory training in various military subjects such as javelin throwing, archery, the catapult, and the requirement in some cities that ephebes or "the youth" march out regularly into the hinterland under arms. In a few cities, group contests such as the euandria and pyrriche helped engender a collective mentality (330-339). Chankowski, following Gauthier on the euandria at Sestus (and at greater length than the original), argues that it was not a male beauty contest but a sort of military tattoo.5 His treatment of young men in battle starts strangely, with two essentially irrelevant studies (344-366) of the (h)orophylax, extensively attested in the Roman period but with only a single earlier occurrence (at Carian Amyzon, 320/19 BCE), and the peripoloi, squads of young men who are known to have patrolled the countryside in central and northwestern Greece but appear nowhere in Asia Minor or the Aegean islands. On the important subject of the identity of the military neaniskoi mentioned in many literary texts (366-378), Chankowski strikes a note of caution: very often the word simply denoted local soldiers, not necessarily young soldiers. His detailed examination of the relevant inscriptions, especially the decree for Apollonios at Metropolis (I. Metropolis I), will require a response from those of us who still believe the word retained some of its primal force in this context.

Chankowski's most original contribution comes in his final chapter, where he considers ephebes on parade, using an approach that has paid dividends in the study of medieval cities (383-440). Particularly interesting is his reconstruction of the parade order and the prominent place afforded ephebes in various cities. He then discusses the sacrificial repast, the parade in Xenophon's Ephesiaca (revealed as a generic description of no particular festival), and Heliodorus's Aethiopica. The chapter concludes with Chankowski showing how ephebes come into their own as civic representatives when participating in the official greetings (apanteseis etc.) of distinguished foreign visitors. This chapter displays more synthesis of the evidentiary material than usual elsewhere in the book, making it a more satisfying read.

The extensive catalog of cities which concludes the book (441-543) contains much of interest and disagreement, but the scope of this review does not permit a proper assessment.

L'Éphébie hellénistique is an impressive work, obviously the fruit of much diligent labor over many years. As the first synoptic study in a modern language of such an important civic institution as the ephebate, it will be consulted and will provoke debate for years. Some of Chankowski's conclusions, particularly his full discussion of the word ἔφηβος and the relationship between neoi and ephebes, should have an impact beyond the book's specialist readership. In other cases, that impact has been lessened somewhat by the lengthy process of publication. Though the preface is dated 2008 and the book 2010, it was not on the market until 2012. Some important works, for instance Chaniotis' War in the Hellenistic World (2005) and Perrin-Saminadayar's Éducation, culture et société à Athènes (2007), are missing from the bibliography. Even more importantly, Brelaz's La sécurité publique en Asie Mineure sous le Principat, though published in 2005, seems to have appeared too late to influence Chankowski's study of civic security forces (345 n. 111).

The delay in publication was evidently due, in a certain degree, to the author's approach to presenting the material, as he himself more or less admits (7). "Inclusive" might be one way of describing it. The text is shaped entirely by the evidence, which in each section is examined exhaustively, item by item, and followed by a short conclusion. There is, frankly, a lot of extraneous detail and repetition here, which cry out for an editor's blue pencil. On the other hand, the book is marked by omissions surprising in such a lengthy work: nothing on the evolving role of the gymnasiarch, and little on the ephebes' instructors, for example. Chankowski does note that the appearance of Romans in ephebic lists marks a significant break and is "digne d'intérêt mais qui dépasse notre sujet" (278). Surely this does deserve some examination, at the very least as a manifestation of cultural interpenetration -- the Hellenization of Romans and the Romanization of Hellenes. But Chankowski focuses on institutions, not so much on the people in them.

Such reservations aside, Chankowski is to be congratulated for bringing these widely dispersed texts together and subjecting them to searching examination. By doing so he has shown that students of the ephebate need not confine themselves merely to Athens or a few other well known Hellenistic centers. After L'Éphébie hellénistique, it is to be hoped that historians will no longer view ephebates merely as mines of prosopographical material, for Chankowski has above all laid a solid foundation for further work on this fascinating institution.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos 7-9
Avertissement 11
Abréviations 13-18
Introduction: L'éphébie et la polis hellénistique 19-43
Chapitre I: Le terme ephèbos et la question des origines de l'éphébie 45-142
Chapitre II: Les premiers cas d'éphébie hors d'Athènes (avant la deuxième moitié du IIIe siècle) 143-233
Chapitre III: Le statut des éphèbes dans le gymnase 235-317
Chapitre IV: Le rôle militaire de l'éphébie 319-382
Chapitre V: Les éphèbes dans les processions et dans les cérémonies d'acceuil 383-440
Catalogue 441-543
Cartes 545-547
Bibliographie 549-578
Index des sources 579-589
Index général 590-610
Table des matières 611-621


1.   Cf. A. Chankowski, "Date et circonstances de l'institution de l'éphébie à Érétrie," DHA 19 (1993): 17-44.
2.   H. Swoboda, "Studien zu den griechischen Bunden II," Klio 12 (1912): 45 n.1
3.   P. Gauthier, "Notes sur le rôle du gymnase dans les cités hellénistiques," in M. Wörrle and P. Zanker, eds., Stadtbild und Bürgerbild im Hellenismus (Munich 1995), 3-7.
4.   I have reached the same conclusion: "Who were the Neoi?" in P. Martzavou and N. Papazarkadas, eds., Epigraphical Approaches to the Post-classical Polis (Oxford 2012), 217-232.
5.   P. Gauthier, "Trois décrets honorant des citoyens bienfaiteurs," RPh 56 (1982): 226-229; Chankowski, L'Éphébie, 330-336.

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