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Amplifying prestige: Herodotus and the Lindian Chronicle in 99 BCE

Simone Oppen

Columbia University

            The Lindian Chronicle—an inscription found in 1904 during excavations at Rhodian Lindos (Blinkenberg, 1912: 317-20)—has received recent attention primarily for the list of votive dedications it alleges that the sanctuary of Athena Lindia once displayed. Higbie (2003: 243) and Shaya (2005: 434-5), for example, suggest that this inscription’s extant list of 37 votives, spanning the mythological through the Hellenistic eras, glorifies a selective version of the past in response to Roman hegemony in 99 BCE. This paper instead focuses on how the Chronicle communicates the enduring prestige of the sanctuary of Athena Lindia in its present moment by highlighting its ability to preserve local documents and engage with literary sources.

            By citing letters and public records, which are first named in the decree that begins the inscription (A.6-7, Lindian Chronicle citations from Higbie, 2003), the Chronicle insists that the authority of these local documents is (at least) equal to that of literary sources. The letters of two priests of Athena Lindia ([ἐπ]ιστολᾶν Α.7) are cited frequently in the list of votive dedications comprised of sections B and C, alongside authors of histories, annals, and encomia (B.5-8, 13-14, 21-22, 35-36, 40-1, 52-3, 60-1, 66-8, 71-2, 76-77, 80-1, 85-6; C.53-5 [letter of Ἰερόβουλος only]). For Alexander’s (C.108), Ptolemy’s (C.113), and Philip’s dedications (C.131), however, the public records held by the sanctuary of Athena Lindia (χρηματ[ισμῶν Α.7) are cited alone, seemingly elevated above literary sources.

            The Chronicle thus displays the sanctuary of Athena Lindia’s function as a document repository. This is corroborated by other inscriptions: proxeny decrees before the 408/7 BCE synoikismos of Rhodes (Hansen and Nielson, 2004: 1196) were published in the sanctuary (Lindos II 15a.5-7; Lindos II 16 App.9–10); and a fourth-century BCE document from Rhodian Kamiros was also deposited there (Tituli Camirenses 105.15-16). The Chronicle’s citation practice suggests that its compilers may use this repository to engage with literary sources. We have fragments of seven of the 21 literary sources that the Chronicle cites alongside local documents. However, only Herodotus survives in full. Accordingly, comparison to Herodotus provides an unparalleled opportunity to examine how the Chronicle is positioned in relation to its literary sources.

            The way in which the Chronicle cites and may respond to Herodotus suggests subtle competition with the historian. Herodotus Book 2 is cited for the thread count of the Egyptian king Amasis’ dedication to Lindos (C.36-9). This dedication is mentioned in Book 2 (2.182.1, Herodotean citations from Wilson, 2015), but the precise number of threads cited by the Chronicle appears only in Book 3 (3.47.3) where Herodotus says another corselet dedicated by Amasis had 360 threads and was similar to the Lindian one. The Chronicle’s amalgamation of two books of Herodotus suggests a combative stance towards the historian in service of the sanctuary's further glorification. This stance appears elsewhere as well. Section D (26-47) of the Chronicle describes how a storm, during the Persian siege of Lindos in the 490s BCE, led the Median commander Datis to dedicate to Athena Lindia and strike a friendship agreement with the besieged people. Herodotus records Datis’ respectful interactions with Delos in 490 BCE (6.97.1-2; 6.118.1), but does not describe this earlier episode of his patronage and friendship at Lindos (Hornblower and Pelling, 2017n.6.95.2). The Chronicle’s analeptic expansion on Datis’ behavior in Herodotus may imitate the way that certain Hellenistic authors agonistically respond to their predecessors (e.g. Theocritus Idyll XI and Odyssey 9).

            Comparison to Herodotus arguably illuminates aspects of the Chronicle’s still-mysterious purpose (Bresson, 2006: 531-49). As Chaniotis stresses, its conventional name is misleading in this respect: the term “chronicle” (ἀναγραφή) applies to the list of votives in sections B and C, but does not fully encompass Athena’s epiphanies in section D (1988: 53-4). By engaging with Herodotus in its votives list and epiphanies, the Lindian Chronicle claims: 1) its place between temple inventories and histories written on other substrates; and 2) the sanctuary’s prestige in being able to write its own story in 99 BCE.

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Herodotus and Thucydides

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