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Out of Bounds: Reassessing IG II² 204

Joseph McDonald

This paper offers a new interpretation of IG II² 204 (RO 58), an Attic decree dating from 352/1 BCE. The exact circumstances and motivations leading to its enactment have long been disputed, thanks both to the damaged state of the stone itself and to the unsatisfactory literary evidence for the circumstances of the decree. I argue that the inscription does not show a scrupulous Athens piously restoring sacred boundaries that have been neglected or tampered with, as has been previously conjectured (Rhodes and Osborne, Prott and Ziehen), but instead an aggressive Athens who, by manipulating religious discourse and institutions, moves to expand the boundaries of the sacred orgas and finally settle, in her favor, Eleusis’ long-disputed border with Megara.

            The inscription, found in Eleusis and first published in 1889 by Foucart, establishes a commission of Athenian citizens to reassess, under the supervision of the Eleusinian hierophantes and daidoukhos, the disputed boundaries of the sacred orgas (lines 5-23). It also directs a commission of Athenian citizens to ask the Delphic oracle, through an elaborate double-blind procedure, whether it would be preferable for the Athenians to rent out cultivated areas of the orgas lying outside the border stones in order to finance building projects in Eleusis or to allow the areas in question to lie fallow for the goddesses (lines 23-53). It later provides for the placing of new boundary stones ἀντὶ τῶν ἐκπεπτωκό[των] (lines 65-75).

            Ascertaining the status of these old boundary stones at the time of the inscription is critical for our understanding of the situation as a whole, but the issue remains unsettled. The participle ἐκπεπτωκό[των] has been variously interpreted as meaning that the boundary stones were moved by Megarians who disputed the Athenian boundaries of the orgas (Rhodes and Osborne), dilapidated (LSJ s.v. ἐκπίπτω), or somehow made to vanish (Prott and Ziehen, Scafuro). These interpretations, I argue, miss the mark because they assume the boundary stones in place before this decree somehow no longer function as before, whether due to tampering or time. As Parker argues (Miasma 161 n. 99), the land in question in IG II² 204 is outside the sacred orgas proper and should be identified as the adjoining γὴ ἀόριστος whose cultivation, along with that of the sacred orgas proper, fueled Athenian complaints against Megara reported by Thucydides at 1.139.2. The testimony of the 4th-century Atthidographers Androtion and Philochorus (FGrH 324 F 30, 328 F 155) supports this interpretation, referring to the disputed land in 352/1 as αἱ ἐσχατιαί. The reason for establishing the new boundary was to include the previously unbounded area adjoining the sacred orgas. I propose, therefore, that Megarian tampering with the boundaries of the orgas did not provoke the drafting of IG II² 204. The old stones were instead ἐκπεπτωκότες, “made obsolete,” by the new delineation of the sacred orgas that expanded it to encompass the previously unbounded land. We should interpret the Athenians as asserting once more, as in the 430s, that Megarian cultivation of this disputed border land was sacrilegious.

            Scafuro has remarked with respect to this inscription that the Athenians are making a provocative and antagonistic move by unilaterally establishing the boundaries of the sacred orgas through diadikasia instead of a process of negotiation and arbitration. This impression of an Athens brazenly asserting her will only becomes stronger when one considers that Athens was not responding to recent trespasses on the areas marked out as sacred, but reviving a religious scruple to establish firm control of an area whose status had been disputed as far back as the 430s. I argue that both the motion to reassess the boundaries of the orgas and the elaborate consultation of the Delphic oracle have an underhanded purpose despite their pious pretentions. They effectively assert Athenian territorial hegemony at the expense of her Megarian neighbors because the choice presented to Apollo makes Athenian ownership of the disputed area a foregone conclusion.

Session/Panel Title

Athenian Frontiers

Session/Paper Number

29.4

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