In his 2004 book on Greek mercenaries in the Archaic and Classical periods, Matthew Trundle argues that a fighter could only be considered a mercenary if he was under contract to fight. Within this model, the label “mercenary” – that is, a fighter whose interest in a conflict is solely the fact that he is being paid to be there – becomes a temporary status, not a permanent identity. This fits with the notion that, in Greek culture, a mercenary need not have been the product of particular social conditions but could, in theory, be any man who might, in other circumstances, be a citizen soldier taking up arms for his own polis.
Although there are indirect indications of contracts, the only inscription that has been securely identified as a mercenary contract is OGIS 1.266, which details terms for the mercenaries fighting under Attalos I at Attaleia and Philoteira after some dispute between the king and his soldiers. Scholars have argued about whether this document represents Attalos as a good or bad employer, commenting upon the extent of its terms, which include care for widows and orphans, and the right to export goods tax-free after leaving the service. The document has been compared to a handful of Cretan alliance treaties that, because they set the terms of payment for allies, have been dubbed as “state-sponsored mercenary contracts.”
This paper proposes to reverse the comparison, and argues that OGIS 1.266 bears resemblence to interstate documents because it establishes terms to provide mercenaries abroad with artificial civic standing. The documents issued by independent poleis –especially those on Crete, which largely remained out of the direct control of dynasts for most of the Hellenistic period – were designed to establish the limits of an autonomous polis’ power, while at the same time opening circumscribed channels for sharing economic benefits, citizenship privileges, and/or military aid with other states or foreign citizens. Just because Attalos’ mercenaries were not citizens in the places where they were stationed does not mean that they were not citizens somewhere else. Through OGIS 1.266, the king was able to grant these men legal standing, with the sorts of rights and protections to which a citizen would be entitled, without asking the poleis where they are stationed to make them citizens.
Epigraphy and Civic Identity