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Recovering from Civil Strife in Classical Eretria: The Artemisia at Amarynthos

Julia Shear

Bogazici University

In about 340 B.C., the people of Eretria decided to add competitions in musical and other cultural events to the city’s biggest festival, the Artemisia, which was celebrated in honour of Artemis at her extra-urban sanctuary at Amarynthos, as we know from the inscribed decree (RO 73).  Modern scholars’ interests in both the document and the festival have been limited to providing parallels for the musical and cultural contests at the Panathenaia in Athens (e.g. Rhodes and Osborne 2005: 365-366) and to using the Artemisia as an example of a festival celebrating the city (e.g. Parker 2011: 201-202).  In so doing, they have neglected the Eretrian context of the decree, its strong emphasis in inclusion, and its relationship to recent traumatic events in the city.  Drawing on discussions of how rituals create remembrance (e.g. Young 1993: 263-281; Cressy 1992, 1994; Cubitt 2007: 181, 219-221) and how the Athenians used rituals to reconcile after the oligarchies and civil strife at the end of the fifth century B.C. (Shear 2011: 135-165, 188-217, 286-294), I shall argue that these changes to the Artemisia created an opportunity for the Eretrians to reconcile with each other after a period of tyranny and stasis and to rebuild their relationship with the goddess, whom they now also addressed as Moderator and Guardian (RO 73.5).  In this way, they could ensure the survival and stability of the democratic city.

In the middle years of the fourth century B.C., the people of Eretria were repeatedly ruled by dynasts and tyrants and the whole period involved Eretrians fighting against one another and so civil strife (e.g. Dem. 23.124; Diod. 15.76.1; Gehrke 1985: 65-66).  By the autumn of 341, when the city was once again controlled by the demos, the people of Eretria will have been all too familiar with the problem of internal divisions and the need to overcome them.  In this political context, they decided to make changes to the Artemisia in order to make it as inclusive as possible.  Thus, ‘all those participating in the musical contest are to compete in the processional hymn for the sacrifice’ (RO 73.12-14).  All the districts are to supply sacrificial animals, hence the clause specifying what will happen if one of the districts fails to produce the necessary beast (RO 73.26-32).  Anyone who wishes is allowed to sell items in the sanctuary (RO 73.32-35).  As long as they are willing to buy sacrificial animals, all private individuals are allowed to join in the procession (RO 73.35-38).  The publication clause of the decree emphasises that the festival is to happen in this way forever while the Eretrians are free and rule themselves (RO 73.41-45).  These measures, consequently, are not simply to ensure as many visitors as possible. 

When the Eretrians celebrated the festival, no Eretrian could be barred because of his previous political actions and his support for regimes other than the current democracy.  Since anyone could sell items in the sanctuary, it became a place where all Eretrians could go and none were excluded.  Artemis the Moderator invoked at the beginning of the decree (RO 73.5) is a divinity who is explicitly not favouring one side over others and could be worshipped by all Eretrians irrespective of their earlier actions.  Providing the sacrificial animals and organising the procession required members of different factions to work together for the city and not their faction.  In this way, the festival repeatedly re-unified the divided Eretrians.  The decree’s politics of inclusion should have attracted a large external audience to witness this new Eretrian unity.  Through these actions the demos also renewed its reciprocal relationship with Artemis which had been disrupted by the civil strife and the previous tyrannical regimes.  Under the care of Artemis the Guardian, consequently, the Eretrians could reunify themselves and ensure that the festival was celebrated forever on behalf of the free and autonomous city.

Session/Panel Title

Stasis and Reconciliation in Ancient Greece: New Approaches

Session/Paper Number

65.4

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