BMCR 1995.01.01

1995.01.01, Figueira, Excursions in Epichoric History

, Excursions in epichoric history : Aiginetan essays. Greek studies. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993. 433 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 9780847677917 $67.50 (cloth).

In the past dozen years, Figueira, a professor of Classics and Ancient History at Rutgers, has been the most prolific scholar working on the history of Aigina. To two previous books, Aegina: Economy and Society (New York 1981/2) and Athens and Aigina in the Age of Imperial Colonization (Baltimore 1991), he now adds a third, in which he collects eleven earlier articles (here revised) and three new pieces.

The Introduction (“Aigina and Epichoric History”) announces F.’s goal: not only to investigate the local (“epichoric”) history of Aigina, but also to “force an evaluation of the thesis that epichoric history compels a reconsideration of mainstream, Athenocentric, or panhellenic Greek history.”

In Chapter 1 (“Aiginetan Independence”), F. takes the beginning of Aiginetan coinage (“after c. 600” [p. 29], but cf. “580-550” [p. 10] and “540 at the latest” [p. 63]) and the foundation of the Aiginetan sanctuary at Zeus at Naukratis (after 610) as termini ante quem for Aiginetan independence. After surveying (arguably) contemporary events in Epidauros, Corinth, Samos and Argos, he places the “Argive domination of Aigina” in the period before “c. 640 (?)” and “Epidaurian control of Aigina” under the tyrant Prokles in the immediately following years down to “c. 618-613,” when he begins the “independent oligarchy on Aigina”. Because so many of the underlying “facts” and “dates” are uncertain, the argument is necessarily hypothetical at several crucial points.

F.’s late seventh-century date for Aiginetan independence leads him in Chapter 2 (“Herodotus on the Early Hostilities Between Aigina and Athens”) to place Aigina’s first war with Athens, the origin of their ἔχθρη παλαιή (Hdt. 5.81.2), in the years “c. 595-590,” about a century later than the usual date of “hardly … later than the early seventh century” (A. Andrewes in CAH III 2.3 372, citing T.J. Dunbabin, ABSA 37 [1936/7] 83-91), and also later than the “black and white” style pottery which S.P. Morris ( The Black and White Style: Athens and Aigina in the Orientalizing Period [New Haven 1984], 36, 112-116) argued had been produced on Aigina c. 670-40 in response to an Aiginetan ban on Attic pottery imports. But he sees no need to suppose continuous hostility from c. 595 down to the Aiginetan raids on Attica in c. 506 which began the πόλεμος ἀκήρυκτος (Hdt. 5.81.2-3, 89.2), the latter motivated in F.’s view by contemporary commercial and naval rivalry.

In Chapter 3 (“Athenians, Aiginetans, and the Solonian Crisis”), published for the first time in this volume, F. argues that, although the tradition that Solon had replaced the Pheidonian/Aiginetan systems of weights, measures and coins has been shown by archaeological evidence to be anachronistic, the tradition is understandable “as a symbol of the Solonian differentiation or alienation of Athens from Aigina.” He boldly hypothesizes (a) that the Aiginetans had been offering Athenian aristocrats “status-raising” luxury goods and foreign slaves in exchange for Attic grain and hektemoroi to be used as slaves on Aigina, (b) that Solon ended this trading relationship with sumptuary legislation (not really supported by the evidence cited: [Dem.] 43.62-3; Athen. 15.687A), a ban on most Attic agricultural exports, and the repatriation of enslaved Athenians, and (c) that the result was the ἔχθρη παλαιή.

In Chapter 4 (“Aiginetan Membership in the Peloponnesian League”), after noting that there is no positive evidence for Aigina’s membership, F. sets out to make “the best possible case” against membership, and indeed for a consistent Aiginetan policy of aloofness from both the Spartan and the Athenian alliances. Among his most interesting arguments are (a) that Corinth, as an undoubted ally of Sparta, would not have made a bargain sale of twenty ships to Athens for use against Aigina (Hdt. 6.89) if Aigina also had been an ally of Sparta, (b) that Sparta, as a distant land power, would have been less appealing than Argos as an ally to Aigina in its (almost exclusively naval) rivalry with Athens, and (c) that even if there were a clause in the Thirty Years Peace guaranteeing autonomy to Aigina (Thuc. 1.67.2, 139.1), which F. denies in Chapter 10, it is difficult to see how Aigina, as a member of the Delian League without fortifications or fleet after c. 456, could have qualified as “autonomous”, or a fortiori as a member of the Peloponnesian League: “Spartan concessions to Athens in the Thirty Years Peace take on a much more limited extent. Sparta handed over to Athens no ally.” This seems to me to be one of F.’s most convincing chapters.

In Chapter 5 (“The Chronology of the Conflict Between Athens and Aigina in Herodotus Book Six”), F. argues, principally against N.G.L. Hammond ( Historia 4 [1955] 371-411; CAH IV 2 498, 501-2), that most of the events recounted by Herodotos (6.49-94.1) took place after the Battle of Marathon. Although F. makes a number of detailed points (including that Sparta is unlikely to have asked Athens to return the Aiginetan hostages [Hdt. 6.86] before Marathon), his main argument—which I find persuasive—is that it is difficult to cram so many events into the fourteen months from July 491 to September 490, and he thinks that Herodotos himself was uncertain about the chronology of these events.

Chapter 6 (“Xanthippos, Father of Perikles, and the Prutaneis of the Naukraroi”) concerns the ostrakon which attacks Xanthippos as one of the “accursed prytaneis” (Meiggs & Lewis #21, p. 42 [with Wilhelm’s supplements]). F. argues that these were the prytaneis of the naukraroi, originally “accursed” because of their connection with the execution of the Kylonian conspirators (Hdt. 5.71.2), and now attacked because their failure to provide “battle-worthy” ships had caused the failure of Nikodromos’ coup on Aigina (Hdt. 6.88-93). One wonders, however, why there was a four-year delay between Nikodromos’ coup (dated by F. in Chapter 5 to 488) and Xanthippos’ ostracism in 484 (Ath. Pol. 22.6).

Chapter 7 (“Residential Restrictions on the Athenian Ostracized”) concerns the requirement, instituted in c. 481, that ostracized citizens dwell inside [or outside?] Capes Geraistos and Skyllaion ( Ath. Pol. 22.8: “outside” requires emendation). Drawing on (a) the literary sources, (b) practical considerations (ease of communication by boat within the Saronic Gulf), and (c) the known residences of ostracisees before (esp. Aristeides) and after 480, F. offers a very careful and comprehensive defense of emendation, concluding that the new restriction forced the ostracisees to dwell outside the capes in order to prevent their meddling in Athenian politics from bases nearby, viz. (it will not surprise the reader by now!) Aigina.

Chapter 8 (“Thoukydides, Melesias, and the Aiginetans”), published for the first time in this volume, suggests that Thoukydides inherited his father Melesias’ role as mentor/advocate of aristocratic Aiginetans, and that after returning in 433 from his ostracism (not spent in Aigina, F. argues in Chapter 7), Thoukydides (“the wrestler”) led the attacks on Perikles, and also may have advocated a reduction in Aigina’s tribute and her “autonomy within the arkhe” (p. 222, cf. Chapter 10, where it is argued that “autonomy within the arkhe” is incompatible with tribute-paying status).

Chapter 9 (“Draco and the Attic Tradition”) deals with the notice in the Suda (Δράκων, Ἀθηναῖος νομοθέτης [d 1495 Adler]) “which recounts a journey of Draco to Aigina in order to legislate that ended in his suffocation at the hands of over-ardent Aiginetan admirers.” F. sees this as a pejorative reworking by Athenian democratic imperialists of a story by which the Aiginetans had attempted to link their own oligarchic regime with the patrios politeia of the Athenians themselves. It is in this context that F. also locates the story of “Draco’s constitution” ( Ath. Pol. 4).

In Chapter 10 (“Autonomoi kata tas spondas [Thucydides 1.67.2]”), F. argues in greater detail (than in Chapter 4) that Aigina could not have qualified under the Athenian definition of αὐτόνομος at any time after c. 456, and that the autonomy asserted in 432-31 derived not from the Thirty Years Peace of 446 but from pledges made at the formation of the Hellenic League in 481 (Hdt. 7.145.1) and later repudiated by the Athenians in 463/1 (Thuc. 1.102.4). In an “Endnote” F. argues that the existence of Aiginetan coinage after c. 456 is no indication of “autonomy” (but he had regarded it as an indication of “independence” in Chapter 1).

Chapter 11 (“Four Notes on the Aiginetans in Exile”) collects and discusses the evidence for communities of Aiginetans at Thyrea, Kydonia (hypothetical) and Naukratis, after their expulsion from Aigina by the Athenians in 431. A new section (pp. 308-310) takes into account the recently published SEG XXXIX 370, where, however, the donor on the Side, lines 15-19, is probably a Spartiate rather than a Lokrian.

Chapter 12 (“Aigina and the Naval Strategy of the Late Fifth and Fourth Centuries”) makes a useful distinction between Athenian “fleet raids” and Peloponnesian privateering (“entrepreneurial, opportunistic and low risk”—and largely ignored by Thucydides), and goes on to study Aigina’s relations with Philip II and Alexander.

Chapter 13 (“An Aiginetan Elite Family of the Fourth Century B.C.”) is a reconstruction of the activities of two Aiginetans named Onesikritos, both connected with seafaring. F. is inclined to date the involvement of Onesikritos I and his sons with Diogenes the Cynic (Diog. Laert. 6.75-76) to the 350s, before Diogenes was captured off Aigina and sold into slavery, and he suggests that Onesikritos II, the Alexander historian, is the grandson of Onesikritos I.

In Chapter 14 (“Notes on Hellenistic Aigina”), published for the first time in this volume, F. concludes that “the Aiginetans focused their energies on staying out of the grasp of the incumbent ruler of Macedonia, moving away from Cassander into the Antigonid camp; then possibly moving toward the orbit of Egypt; and finally aligning themselves with the Greek leagues when suitable opportunities presented themselves…. It was the location of Aigina that made it significant for the balance of power in the late third and early second centuries and not (it seems) by virtue of any physical or human maritime assets.”

A reflective “Conclusion” reemphasizes F.’s theories that before the Peloponnesian War some members of the Athenian upper class acted as “patrons” of Aigina on a continuing basis, and that Aigina’s insular locale in the Saronic Gulf strongly affected its internal development and its relations with its neighbors. This is followed by a useful “Chronological Table,” a “Select Bibliography,” a “Select Index of Sources” and an “Index.” The Bibliography and Index would have been more helpful had they included all books, articles and names mentioned in the book.

There are relatively few misprints in this well-produced book, but the English prose is sometimes arresting, e.g. (p. 161): “But alas, hindsight advised the composer of the distich, and given Xanthippos’ ostracism, to an extent, presumably a majority of the Athenians, that this action was gravely unjust.”

F. accomplishes both goals announced in the Introduction. First, he “throws a concentrated beam” (p. 322) on so many epichoric details that almost all future investigations of Aiginetan history will have to take his work into account. Second, by looking at the (mostly Athenian) evidence from an Aiginetan perspective, he has stimulated a reconsideration of that evidence: its fragmentary state allows him to do a lot of speculating and some readers will feel that he strains too hard to find an Aiginetan connection with every possible episode in Greek history, but his book is a salutary challenge to our usual Athenocentric view.