1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amphictyony
AMPHICTYONY (Gr. ἁμφικτνονἰα, i.e. a body composed of ἁμφικτἱονες, ἁμφικτύονες, “dwellers around”), an association of ancient Greek communities centring in a shrine. As the extant sources do not define the term, and as they apply it to but five or six associations, the majority of which are little known, modern scholars are in doubt as to the essential character of the institution, and hesitate therefore to extend the name beyond this limited list. The word itself indicates that the association primarily comprised neighbours, though the Delphic amphictyony came in time to include relatively distant communities (Strabo ix. 3, 7). For the origin of the institution it is safe to assume that neighbouring communities, whether tribes (ἒθνη or cities, desiring friendly intercourse with one another chose the sanctuary of some deity conveniently situated, at which to hold their periodical festival for worship and their fair for the interchange of goods. If the limited use of the word according to our sources is not purely accidental, at all events there were many Greek leagues, not expressly termed amphictyonies, which had the characteristics here stated.
The Delian amphictyony probably reached the height of its splendour early in the 7th century B.C. The Hymn to the Delian Apollo, composed about that time, celebrates the gathering of the Ionians with their wives and children at the shrine of their god on the island of Delos, to worship him with music, dancing and gymnastic contests (vv. 146-164; cf. Thuc. iii. 104). The later misfortunes of the Ionians caused a decline of the festival. Peisistratus, taking possession of Delos, seems to have used the sanctuary as a means of extending his political influence. When after the great war with Persia the Aegean cities under the leadership of Athens united in a political league (477 B.C.), they chose as its centre the temple of the Delian Apollo, doubtless through a desire to connect the new alliance with the associations of the old amphictyony. How far the council and other institutions of the Delian confederacy were based upon the amphictyonic organization cannot be determined. The removal of the treasury to Athens in 454 B.C. deprived Delos of political importance, though the amphictyony continued. The council gradually dwindled, and probably came to an end without formal abolition. In 426 B.C. the Athenians purified the island and instituted a great festival to be held under their presidency every four years (Thuc. iii. 104). In 422 they expelled the Delians (Thuc. v. 1). At the end of the Peloponnesian War Athens was deprived of Delos along with her other possessions, but she appears to have regained control of the island after the victory of Cnidus (394). An inscription of 390 B.C. proves that at this date Athenian authority had been restored. The affairs of the temple were managed by a board of five Athenian amphictyons, assisted by some Delian officials (inscrr. in Bull. Hell. viii. 284, 304, 307 f.); and in the 4th century we again hear of a council in addition to the board (CIG. i. 158). At this time the amphictyony is known to have embraced both the Athenians and the inhabitants of the Cyclades; but a strong Delian party bitterly opposed Athenian rule (cf. inscr. in Bull. Hell. iii. 473 f.), which came to an end with the supremacy of Macedon. The dissolution of the amphictyony soon followed.
Far more famous is the Delphic, or more strictly, the Pylaeic-Delphic, amphictyony. It was originally composed of twelve tribes dwelling round Thermopylae—the Thessalians, Boeotians, Dorians, Ionians, Perrhaebians, Magnetes, Locrians, Oetaeans, Phthiotes, Malians, Phocians (Aeschin. ii. 116), and Dolopians (Paus. x. 8. 2). The name of the council (pylaea) and of one set of deputies (pylagori), together with the important place held in the amphictyony by the temple of Demeter at Anthela, near Thermopylae, suggests that this shrine was the original centre of the association. How and when Delphi became a second centre is quite uncertain. The council of the league included deputies of two different kinds—pylagori and hieromnemones. The latter were twenty-four in number, two from each tribe. As the league was originally made up of neighbours, the Dorian tribe must have comprised simply the inhabitants of Doris; the Locrians were probably the eastern (Opuntian) branch; and the Ionians were doubtless limited to the adjacent island of Euboea. Afterwards, by affiliating themselves to Doris, the Peloponnesian Dorians gained admission, and Athens must have entered as an Ionian city before the first Sacred War. Henceforth Athens monopolized one of the two Ionian votes, while the other passed in rotation among the remaining Ionic, perhaps only among the Euboeic, cities. In the same way Doris held one Dorian vote and the other passed in rotation among the Dorian cities of Peloponnesus; and the east and west Locrians came to have one each. When after the second Sacred War the Phocians were expelled, Macedon received their two votes (346 B.C.) About the same time the Perrhaebians and the Dolopians were deprived of half their representation, and the two votes were transferred to the Delphians (inscrr. in N. Jahrb. f. cl. Philol. clv. 742, cf. 743, 753; Bull. Hell. xxi. 322, cf. 325; Bourguet, Sanct. Pyth. 145, 147). In the following century the Aetolians gained such dominance in the amphictyony as to convert the council into an organ of their league. Recent research has made it appear certain (cf. Pomptow, ib. 754 ff.) that they were never formally admitted to membership, but that they maintained their supremacy in the council (Livy xxxi. 32. 3; Polyb. iv. 25. 8) by controlling the votes of their allies, who—called Aetolians in the inscriptions—were often in the majority. They made no material change in its composition, which, accordingly, after the dissolution of their league by the Romans is found to be nearly as it was after the second Sacred War. A few minor changes came in under the supremacy of the Roman republic; and finally Augustus increased the number of votes to thirty, and distributed them according to his pleasure. In the age of the Antonines the association was still in existence (Paus. x. 8. 4 f.).
Although the hieromnemones of the Thessalians, who held the presidency, and perhaps of a few other communities, must have been elected, the office was ordinarily, as at Athens, filled by lot. As a rule they were renewed annually (Aristoph. Clouds, 623 f.; Foucart, in Bull. Hell. vii. 411, 413 f.). Each hieromnemon was accompanied by two pylagori, elected semi-annually (Demosth. xviii. 149; Aeschin. iii. 115; Tim. Lex. Plat., s.v. Άμφικτὑονες), and representing the same tribe, though not necessarily the same city. On one occasion Athens is known to have sent three. The hieromnemones were formally superior, but because of the method of appointment they were necessarily men of mediocre ability, inexperienced in speaking and public business, and for that reason they readily became the tools of the pylagori, who were orators and statesmen. In the literary sources, accordingly, the latter are rightly given credit for the acts of the council; it was the pylagori who set a price on the head of the traitor Ephialtes (Herod. vii. 213), and who on the motion of Themistocles rejected the proposition of Lacedaemon for the expulsion of the states which had sided with Persia (Plut. Them. 20). The pylagori had a right to propose measures and to take part in the deliberations; they as well as the hieromnemones were required to take the juror’s oath; and the acts of the council were inscribed officially as resolutions of the hieromnemones and pylagori conjointly. The hieromnemon, however, cast the vote of his community, though in the record his two pylagori were made equally responsible for it. The necessary inference from these facts is that the vote was determined by a majority of the three deputies (inscr. in Bull. Hell. xxvii. 106-111, A 20-33; B 1-10). The council decided all questions which fell within its competence. Matters of greater importance, as the levy of an extraordinary fine on a state or the declaration of a sacred war, it presented in the form of a resolution to an assembly (έκκλησία), composed of the deputies, the amphictyonic priests, and any other citizens of the league who chanced to be present (Aeschin. iii. 124; cf. Hyp. iv. 7, 26 f.). This assembly was relatively unimportant, however, and is mentioned only by the two authorities here cited.
It is now well established by epigraphic evidence (Bull. Hell. vii. 412 f., 417; Pomptow, in N. Jahrb. f. cl. Philol. cxlix. 826-829) that the amphictyons met both in the spring and in the autumn at Delphi, and the literary sources should alone be sufficient authority for meetings in the same seasons at Thermopylae (Hyp. iv. 7, 25 ff.; Strabo ix. 3, 7, 4, 17; Harpocration, s.v. Πὐλαι). It is known, too, that the meeting at Thermopylae followed that at Delphi (inscr. in Bull. Hell. xxiv. 136 f.).
The primary function of the council was to administer the temporal affairs of the two shrines, of which the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi claimed by far the greater share of attention. The hieromnemones were required periodically to inspect the lands belonging to this god, to punish those who encroached, and to see that the tenants rendered their quota of produce; and the council held the states responsible for the right performance of such duties by their respective deputies (CIA. ii. 545; inscr. in Bull. Hell. vii. 428 f.). Another task of the council was to supervise the treasury, to protect it from thieves, and by investments to increase the capital (Strabo ix. 3, 7; Isoc. xv. 232; Demosth. xxi. 144; Plut. Sull. 12). Naturally, too, it controlled the expenditure. We find it, accordingly, in the 6th century B.C. contracting for the rebuilding of the Delphic temple after it had been destroyed by fire (Herod. v. 62; Paus. x. 5. 13), and in the 4th century creating an Hellenic college of temple-builders for the purpose (inscrr. in Bull. Hell. xx. 202 f., 206, xxi. 478, xxiv. 464), adorning the interior with statues and pictures (Diod. xvi. 33), inscribing the proverbs of the Seven Sages on the walls (Paus. x. 24. 1), bestowing crowns on benefactors of the god (CIG. i. 1689 b), preparing for the Pythian games, awarding the prizes (Pind. Pyth. iv. 66, x. 8 f.), instituting a board of treasurers (inscr. in Bourguet, Sanct. Pyth. 175 ff.) and issuing coins. It was also in the material interest of Apollo that the council passed a law which forbade the Greeks to levy tolls on pilgrims to the shrine (Aeschin. iii. 107; Strabo ix. 3, 4), and another requiring the amphictyonic states to keep in repair their own roads which led towards Delphi (CIA. ii. 545). A law of great interest, dating from the beginning of the institution, imposed an oath upon the members of the league not to destroy an amphictyonic city or to cut it off from running water in war or peace; but to wage war upon those who transgressed this ordinance, to destroy their cities, and to punish any others who by theft or plotting sought to injure the god (Aeschin. ii. 115). In this regulation, which was intended to mitigate the usages of war amongst the members of the league, we have one of the origins of Greek interstate law. Though other regulations were made to secure peace at the time of the festival (Dion. Hal. iv. 25. 3), and though occasionally the council was called upon to arbitrate in a dispute (cf. Demosth. xviii. 135), no provision was made to compel arbitration.
For the enforcement of such laws and for administrative efficiency in general it was necessary that the council should have judicial power. As jurors the deputies took an oath to decide according to written law, or in cases not covered by law, according to their best will and judgment (CIA. ii. 545). The earliest known amphictyonic penalty was the destruction of Crisa for having levied tolls on pilgrims (Aeschin. iii. 107; Strabo ix. 3, 4; cf. Paus. x. 37. 5-8). This oftence was the cause of the first Sacred War. The second and third Sacred Wars, fought in the 4th century B.C., were waged by the amphictyons against the Phocians and the Amphissaeans respectively for alleged trespassing on the sacred lands (Aeschin. iii. 124, 128; Diod. xvi. 23, 31 f.). In the 5th century the council fined the Dolopians for having disturbed commerce by their piracy (Plut. Cim. 8), and in the 4th century the Lacedaemonians for having occupied the citadel of Thebes in time of peace (Diod. xvi. 23, 29).
The judgments of the council were sometimes considered unfair, and were occasionally defied by the states affected. The Lacedaemonians refused to pay the fine above mentioned; the Athenians protested against the treatment of Amphissa, and were slow in accepting the decisions given under the influence of Macedon. The inability of the council to enforce its resolutions was chiefly due to its composition; the majority of the communities represented were even in combination no match for individual cities like Athens, Sparta or Thebes. The council was a power in politics only when manipulated by a great state, as Thebes, Macedon or Aetolia, and in such a case its decrees were most likely to give offence by their partisanship. Although the council sometimes championed the Hellenic cause, as could any association or individual, it never acquired a recognized authority over all Greece; and notwithstanding its frequent participation in political affairs, it remained essentially a religious convocation.
In addition to the three associations thus far mentioned there was an amphictyony of Onchestus (Strabo ix. 2, 33). It may be inferred from a comparison of Paus. iv. 5. 2 with Herod. vi. 92 that there was an amphictyony of Argos of which Epidaurus and Aegina were members. An amphictyony of Corinth has, with less justification, been assumed on the strength of a passage in Pindar (Nem. Od. vi. 40-42).