BMCR 2006.01.35

Progetti di riforme costituzionali nelle epigrafi greche dei secoli IV-II a.C

, Progetti di riforme costituzionali nelle epigrafi greche dei secoli IV-II a.C. Tarsie ; 1. Bologna: Lo scarabeo editrice, 2003. xvi, 430 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm.. ISBN 8884780535 €40.00.

[[Note from the editor: a PDF version of introduction, first chapter and two indexes is available online.]]

This is a collection of inscriptions focusing on a specific object, the resettling of population and the shaping of constitutional forms by rulers of the Hellenistic age. Bencivenni (henceforth B.) describes these processes in terms of “projects”. The chronological range goes from the age of Alexander the Great to the beginning of Roman rule in Asia minor; Asia is also the most represented region, with six cases; three more instances stem from the adjoining islands of Chios and Lesbos, and there are single examples from Greece and Cyrene.

The first case considered is a letter from Alexander the Great to the people of Chios: precise chronology is debated, but it should most probably fall after 332 BC, when the island was definitively recaptured by Alexander’s general Hegelochos. In the document (be it a letter or a “diagramma”, as B. aims to show), Alexander is ordering the reintegration of former exiles and the prosecution of those who had betrayed the city to the barbarians, a probable pointer to the Persian recapture of the island in 333 BC.

A provision of Alexander concerning the return of exiles might be the reason behind two decrees of Mytilene. It does not seem immediately evident that the two documents should refer to one and the same instance, except that both deal with the reintegration of exiles. In the shorter inscription there is however no reference to any external figure of authority, while in the longer decree the decision of a king (however anonymous) is mentioned, and the city deliberates the sending of an embassy to him: whether this king should be identified with Alexander the Great (either in 334, 332 or 324 BC) or some later dynast (for example Philip the IIIrd in 319 BC) remains a matter of speculation.

Case 3 encompasses a dossier of documents from the city of Eresos (also on the island of Lesbos): this for some time had been under the tyranny of the brothers Apollodoros, Hermon and Heraios (ca. 338-334 BC whose expulsion was carried through by Alexander’s general Alkimachos.1 Some time later the city fell under the new tyranny of Eurysilaos and Agonippos (332 BC): the latter, after having been expelled, appealed directly to Alexander, but he and his fellow Eurysilaos were handed back by the king to the Eresians to be judged: from the acts of the trials we happen to know that Eurysilaos had been a looter of temples and a mass-murderer, unrespectful of dead bodies; probably his comrade Agonippos had not fared much better. On such premises the verdict is condemnation, and it only remained to be determined, for the Eresians, by which way they had to die. The families of all these tyrants, however, continued to haunt the city for decades, down to the reigns of Philip the IIIrd and Antigonos Monophthalmos: the latter finally ordered the reintegration of Agonippos’ and Eurysilaos’ descendants in their properties, but could not overcome the opposition of the Eresians, who appealed to a former contrary decision of Alexander.

Chapter 4 also deals with a provision of Alexander concerning the restoration of all exiles to their fatherlands, the well known edict of Susa of 324 BC,2 and its application in Peloponnesian Tegea: the decree of this city3 addresses a number of issues concerning restitution of properties and the litigations that might ensue, allowing only a short term of sixty days for appeal. A whole paragraph (lines 37-48) deals with questions involving payments to the sanctuary of the Goddess (Athena Alea): I cannot therefore follow B. in her suggestion (p. 90), that Tegea’s decree (lines 4-57) is substantially a rewording (in Doric dialect) of the original edict of Alexander; against this also speaks the provision (line 35) that the nearby city of Mantinea should serve as a court of appeal: this cannot of course have been in the general edict.

There follows in chapter 5 a study of the so called Magna Charta Cyrenarum, that is the “diagramma” of Ptolemy establishing the constitution of Cyrene: citizenship was granted by Ptolemy to a limited body of ten thousand, including offsprings begotten to Greeks by native women; there would be in the city a council of 500 and a senate of 101 men, both admitting in principle only members older than fifty years. Ptolemy reserved for himself the lifelong position of general, but a board of five generals ( στρατηγοί) was also elected from the body of citizens to conduct ordinary business and petty wars, eventually raised by (or against?) the natives. For this document is now widely accepted a chronology soon after the war fought in Cyrenaica by Ptolemy’s general Ophellas.4 Decisive in rejecting the lower chronology (248/7 BC referring the diagramma to the re-conquest of Cyrene by Ptolemy III Euergetes, is the lack of any regal title in association with Ptolemy’s name.

A very recent find from the ancient site of Latmos (document nr. 6) is a law regulating the union into one civic body of the formerly independent cities of Latmos and Pidasa: this law prescribes that a new tribe, bearing the name of Asandris, should be added to those already existing in Latmos, and that the former citizens of Pidasa be distributed into all of them. Since Asandros was the brother of Alexander’s general Parmenion, and became satrap of Caria in 323 BC, the inscription certainly belong to the age of the Successors.5 In order to regulate the process of sympolity it is also prescribed that “the Latmians for one year will provide lodgings for the Pidasians” (ll. 19-20): this has been mistranslated by B. who takes σταθμοί for a weight measure, although there is no mention here of grain, nor of any other supply.6 The most startling disposition of the law is that regulating marriages: in order to facilitate the fusion of the two original citizenships into one body, for the next six years the Latmians and the Pidasians will not be allowed to marry inside their original community, but only with members of the adjoining one. There follows an oath to be taken by two hundred Latmians and by only one hundred Pidasians, proportionally representing the demographic strength of each community. Since we happen to know of both Latmos and Pidasa from later mentions, it has been surmised that the sympolity, if it ever actually did take place, was very short lived: this was probably due to the fall of Asandros at the hands of Antigonos in 313 BC.7

Document # 7 is a now lost inscription containing two epistles of king Antigonos Monophthalmos to the people of Teos: the Teians, like the Latmians of the previous case, were to receive the Lebedians into their city space, yelding them a certain percentage of buildings spared by an earthquake that affected Ionia in 304/3 BC.8 Contentions arising between the Teians and the Lebedians were to be settled through the mediation of Mytilene. A long paragraph concerns the provision of grain for the Lebedians. Moreover, since these were not inclined to simply accept the laws of Teos, nor could they force the receiving city to accept their own, they obtained from Antigonos that the whole sympolity adopt en bloc the laws of a third city, Cos. A few years later king Lysimachos definitively razed to the ground what remained of Lebedos and transferred the rest of its population to his own refoundation of Ephesos/Arsinoe: this does not necessarily imply, in this reviewer’s modest opinion, that the synoecism devised by Antigonos had not effectively taken place.9

An imposing block of grey marble, now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, contains three decrees of Smyrna (nr. 8): the city, after king Seleukos II had retired beyond the Taurus into the ancestral domain of Seleukis, seeks an agreement with the soldiers settled in nearby Magnesia ad Sipylum, and despatches three envoys to them. The second decree encompasses the terms under which the people of Smyrna and the soldiers settled in Magnesia will be friends: the colonists are granted the privileges of Smyrnaean citizenship, on condition that they take an oath not to offend the city. In a third document the same privileges are also extended to the military settlement of Palaimagnesia.

Case # 9 is a dossier representing Mylasa’s efforts to gain control of the sanctuary at Labraunda. The city had appealed to Olympichos, a dynast representing Seleukos’ II interests in Caria, against Korris: the latter was the high priest of the sanctuary, and had sent a letter to Seleukos II accusing Mylasa of depriving him of his customary gifts and prerogatives. A slightly different stage recurs some 20 years later, when the royal house of Macedonia had taken over in Caria: now Mylasa despatches an embassy to Philip V, complaining about the new high priest, recently appointed by Philip’s adoptive father, Antigonos Doson. Writing in response to the Mylaseans Philip acknowledges their claims on the sanctuary, based on a constitution of Seleukos II: in a further epistle Philip V addresses the everlasting dynast Olympichos, authorizing him to restore the rights of the city on Labraunda.

The case of Cilician Arsinoe is documented through a stele preserving a letter written by the dynast Thraseas and a decree of the neighbouring town of Nagidos: we are thus informed that the dynast Aetos, a citizen of Aspendos, but also of Nagidos, had founded the colony of Arsinoe naming it after the sister (and wife) of Ptolemy II. His son Thraseas, also acting as Ptolemaic στρατηγός in the area, is now asking the Nagideans to acknowledge the attribution of a portion of their territory to the new foundation: in return the Cilician Arsinoites are going to be called “colonists of the Nagideans” and will take part in the sacrifices publicly offered at Nagidos for the sake of Harmony. But no Nagidean magistrate or politician will be allowed, under severe penalty, to revoke the grants made by them once and for all to the Arsinoites. And these are going to have their separate body of laws.

The last case is also a study of a very recent find, a stele reporting three letters of the Attalid king Eumenes II to the Phrygian community of Toriaion (in literary sources more often Tyriaion). In the first letter Eumenes addresses the questions raised by an embassy of the town, who met him in a nearby spot: after stressing that his authority over Tyriaion, granted by the victorious Romans, is now the only effective authority, he is ready to grant to the community the status of a polis. In the second letter, addressing for the first time the magistrates of Tyriaion, he authorizes the purchase of oil for the gymnasium out of the royal revenue from the markets. The third letter was written as a response to a second embassy from the town, but is almost entirely lost.10

After some concluding remarks, the text is augmented by a comprehensive bibliography, indexes of epigraphic and literary sources, and a register of ancient personal names. An index of Greek words is missing: instead, at the end of each chapter there is a complex study of terminology, however not as easy to use. A word that deserves a specific attention is the plural ἀρχεῖα, which is to be found at least in case # 6 (lines 25-26), # 7 (lines 42 [ ἀρχεῖον ], and 65), # 10 (line 27): B. constantly translates this term as “magistrates”, but I wonder whether a less specific translation — able for example to include the well attested meaning of “archives” — would not be more appropriate.

There are several pictures of the surviving inscriptions, or of squeezes taken thereof: printing the pictures on art paper would probably have given even better results. Cross-references throughout the text are not clearly explicated, sometimes referring directly (as on p. 97) to the original publications. In case of very long inscriptions (as for ## 7, 8) it would have been expedient to number the lines of the translation. Also, B.’s ability to build up exhaustive commentaries does not avoid schematism at times, but most of all offers lengthy treatments, which I suspect may be unfriendly to foreign readers.

As for the Greek texts, one might in general remark that the fonts are very small (significantly, much smaller than those adopted for the bibliography) and that B.’s policy of reproducing the better edition available, refraining from personally intervening in the text, prevents her from taking full responsibility of the results.11

To sum up: the category of “projects” that literally pervades B.’s text,12 is not always to be found in the inscriptions themselves. However, to B.’s credit, one has to admit that she has mastered into a complex body a potentially very rich material, producing a volume that looks like a substantial achievement in the field of Hellenistic epigraphy and history.1314


1. Arrianus I, 18, 1-2, cfr. III, 2, 7. Curt. Ruf. IV, 8, 11. Alexander’s intervention against the tyrants of Eresos was prompted by the native philosopher Theophrastos: Plutarchus, Moralia, 1097 B; 1126 F.

2. Diod. Sic. XVIII, 8, 2-5. Cfr. also the Samian inscription reported in W. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, 3rd ed., I, nr. 312.

3. As in the former three cases, B.’s text is based for this inscription on a treatment by A. J. Heisserer, either in Alexander the Great and the Greeks, Norman 1980 (cases ## 1, 3, 4), or in A. J. Heisserer — R. Hodot, “ZPE” 63, 1986 (case # 2). The Tegean decree was engraved on a stele found in the French excavations of Delphi.

4. In 322 BC: Diod. Sic. XVIII, 21, 9 and the other sources quoted by B. on p. 132, note 56. Other possilities are reported in B.’s comment (129-133), including that of L. Criscuolo for 320 BC: the latter has also drawn an interesting parallel with Antipater’s constitutional reform in Athens (Diod. Sic. XVIII, 4-5).

5. Diod. Sic. XVIII, 3, 1; cfr. 39, 6.

6. The right interpretation had been given by the first editor Bluemel in “EA” 29, 1997, p. 138. Cfr. also lines 5-6 of document 7 A, where it is stated that the Teians will provide lodgings for the Lebedians until they will be ready with the building of their new homes.

7. Diod. Sic. XIX, 62, 2; 68, 5; 75, 1.

8. Marmor Parium (FGrHist 239), B 24.

9. Of the sources listed on p. 183 concerning the synoecism of Ephesos, Pausanias VII, 3, 4-5 is the only one effectively mentioning Lebedos.

10. This text is also reproduced by Filippo Canali De Rossi (ed.), Iscrizioni Storiche Ellenistiche, vol. III, Rome 2002, nr. 196, missing in B.’s bibliography.

11. The following faults appear in the Greek texts: 1) #4 on p. 81, ll. 0-1 π|[ρ]έσβεας. 2) #11 on p. 334, line 14, ἐπι[ν]εῦσαι. 3) #11 on p. 334, line 37, ἔργ[ω]ν. I do not know why only under cases # 6, 9, 10, 11 are the inscriptions provided with a critical apparatus.

12. I pick up only a very few out of many examples: # 2, p. 39: “il progetto di Alessandro per Mitilene”; # 3, p. 55: “il progetto di Alessandro per Ereso”; # 6, p. 151 “il progetto di Asandro per Latmos …”; # 8, p. 203: “il progetto di Seleuco II per Smirne”, cfr. p. 230, “la caratterizzazione del progetto”, p. 231, “il secondo progetto”, p. 235, “il progetto per Palaimagnesia”; # 9, p. 247, “il progetto di Seleuco II per Milasa”, p. 280, “il progetto originario di Seleuco II”, p. 289, “il progetto di Seleuco II”, p. 293 “schema e contenuti del progetto di Seleuco II”; # 10, p. 299, “il progetto di Thraseas per Arsinoe”, p. 320 “il piano di Thraseas”, etc.; # 11, p. 333, “il progetto di Tyriaion”, etc. This terminology belongs to contemporary rather than to ancient political culture.

13. The book is in general well written and printed. There occur, however, the following faults and misprints: 1) p. 4, 5, 376 and 389: Moretti. 2) p. 15, Rnach. 3) pp. 52-53 faulty numbering of paragraphs. 4) p. 84 the faulty translation should be simplified thus: “Riguardo alle case, ciascuno in base al diagramma”. 5) p. 129, footnote 46: is also a widely attested variant of Ecdelo, as Megalofane is of Damofane. 6) ibid.: Polyb. , 22, 3. 7) p. 130, line 20: “in occasione del{la} recupero”. 8) p. 157 “la mancata della promessa opera di Louis Robert”. 9) p. 261, note 9 and p. 370, line 7: Gygax is the complete surname. 10) p. 310, line 11: un{‘} opportuno.