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Writing, Memorialization, and Stasis in the Reconciliation Decree from Telos (IG XII 4 1 132)

Matt Simonton

Arizona State University

In 2010, the Inscriptiones Graecae volume for Kos debuted a new, largely unpublished decree for foreign judges (IG XII 4 1 132; recent commentary: Thür, Scafuro, Gray). Foreign judges—citizens sent by one polis to adjudicate politically sensitive lawsuits in another polis—represented an important institution for resolving civil conflict in the Greek cities of the Hellenistic period (Robert, Crowther, Gauthier). Most decrees for foreign judges are highly formulaic and non-specific. The new inscription, which records the results of a reconciliation agreement following an episode of stasis on the small island of Telos, thus stands out for the richness of its testimony (it is 142 lines long). In this paper I will address a specific aspect of the inscription, its status as a medium of memorialization. The extensive description of the resolution attests to the magnitude of the crisis at Telos, and thus to impressiveness of the feat achieved by the Koan mediators. At the same time, however, the willingness of the decree to specify the relevant litigants and to record their names for posterity threatens, by its very publicity, to exacerbate civic strife at Telos. Memorialization is a double-edged sword.  

The decree describes an apparently successful attempt by the mediators to reconcile “the damos of the Telians” and “those of the Telians at odds (diapheromenoi) with the damos” (ll. 40-41). The identity of the warring parties is already highly unusual, in that decrees for foreign judges usually avoid factional language and speak more neutrally of “citizens” being in conflict with each other (e.g. Tit. Cal. 17, IG XII 6 1 95). We know from additional decrees and coins that Telos was fiercely democratic at this time, and so we might wonder how disinterestedly the “damos of the Koans” (ll. 5-6) could adjudicate the dispute.

The reconciliation reincorporates the named offenders, who had been punished with fines and property confiscation, back into the community on the condition that they expend their restored property on public sacrifices and the renovation of the altar of Asklepios (ll. 46-57). Interestingly, these are precisely the kinds of expenditures (sacrifices and building projects) recommended by Aristotle to oligarchs to mark their accession to public office (Pol. 1321a35-40): such actions habituate the demos to the rule of the few, while the oligarchs have “memorials of their expenditure” (mnemeia tes dapanes). The Telian reconciliation presents an inversion of this situation, in which the majority force the elite to contribute to the public good. The listing of their names is no longer a “memorial” of benefits freely bestowed but a reminder of their subordination to the democracy.

Finally, tensions over writing are not merely implied by the overall context of the reconciliation: the decree itself reveals a concern over written records. The elite litigants complain about fines inflicted on them, for which they have been “publicly registered” (en koino anagegrammenoi, ll. 71-72). The agreement promises to release them from this “register” (anagraphe, l. 76), presumably by erasing their names from the relevant stelai. Inscribed lists of names could perpetuate infamy, as in the stele of Hipparchos (Lyc. 1.117-19), the Attic stelai (IG I3 421-30), and the decree recording the sale of the property of the Thirty (SEG 32.161) (Culasso Gastaldi, Ober, Shear). Notwithstanding the terms of the reconciliation, the Telian decree itself allowed the damos to have the last laugh, by preserving the names of the elite for future generations. The reconciliation appears at first glance to be conciliatory but in fact represents a provocative act by a democratic faction that felt itself to have the upper hand in the situation. The text is thus simultaneously a plea for peace and a form of “memory sanction” (Flower), opposition to which could reactivate stasis.

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Stasis and Reconciliation in Ancient Greece: New Approaches

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