Gallery of Philologists
0378 - c0320

Fragmentary Text of an Athenian Treaty (IG i3 150), dated to 0450/0405

What we call "philology" seems to begin, in both China and Greece, with disputes over the legal or cultural force of ancient traditions: their power to affect personas and properties in the present.

Theopompus of Chios was banished thence for Spartan sympathies, though allowed to return in 0333 thanks to the influence of Alexander the Great. At Alexander's death he was banished again, and after various wanderings reached Egypt, where he was put to death by Ptolemy I. Meanwhile he had found time to write a continuation of Herodotus's history, and his own very extensive Philippica, a universal history organized on Macedonian lines. He was thus no particular friend of Athens, the major rival of Macedonian power. He was esteemed in antiquity for his careful researches as a historian, though criticized for his digressions. Into Book 25 of the Philippica he inserted a digression on the Lies of the Athenians, claiming that Athens had repeatedly falsified its own history. One of his examples was the Peace of Callias, a treaty supposedly negotiated in 0449 by the Athenian Callias with King Ataxerxes of Persia. The treaty is said to have limited the Persian military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, leaving Athens with a free hand on the coast of Asia Minor. This would have been a remarkable achievement: Persia was a major power, and much closer than Athens to the Greek cities of Ionia, which were situated along that coast.

A monument to Callias had been erected in Athens, recording this magnificent achievement and giving the text of the treaty. The text was written in the Ionic alphabet (in which, for example long and short "e" were distinguished by the letters epsilon e and eta h). Theopompus wryly pointed out that the Ionic alphabet had displaced the earlier Attic alphabet only in 0403.

In the preceding Attic script, both "e" vowels had been written with the letter epsilon. See the feminine accusative form of the word "the" in the sixth line (counting from the left) of the fragment above, which is written TEN rather than THN; this is thus an Attic inscription, and it was accordingly dated by the editor David Lewis to the period c0440-c0405, before the change to Ionic. Theopompus, reasoning similarly, concluded that the supposed treaty of Callias must be a later patriotic fabrication, and that there had originally been no treaty at all.

The fragment above is evidently from an early Athenian treaty, though the occasion is impossible to identify. Lewis, noticing the letters OL (OL) at the bottom of the sixth line, suggested the Olynthioi (Olynthians) or the Olophyxioi. At any rate, it was not the Persians, and this is not a piece of the missing genuine treaty of Callias.

The Peace of Callias, and the Athenian greatness which it emblematizes, tend to be embedded in the minds of those who hold Athens dear; they are part of the home mental territory of the Hellenists. It was not until Mitford (1795) and Thirlwall (1835) that Theopompus's point was raised seriously among scholars. Raphael Sealey followed with a short paper in 1955, leading to a debate which percolated across the rest of the century. It has been a conservative century, and in OCD3 it is felt that the Callias side has won. Samples of that discussion are given below as an introduction, not to philology, Goodness no, but to the ways of scholars with a philological question.

If there was not a treaty, there nevertheless came a point in time when the idea came to be current in Athens that there had been a treaty. It would be useful to know when that was. Demosthenes, for example, a contemporary of Theopompus himself, assumes the existence of such a treaty. The reaching of that position, whether or not it was correct, is itself part of the history of Athens. For Demosthenes as part of the political history of that time, see the next to last item below.

Articles accepting the Peace are marked with +, those rejecting it with -, clarifications by ~

  • -Raphael Sealey. The Peace of Callias Once More. Historia 3 (1955) 325-333
  • +J H Oliver. The Peace of Callias and the Pontic Expedition of Pericles. Historia 6 (1957) 354-255
  • -Raphael Sealey. Athens and the Archidamian War. PACA 1 (1958) 61-63.
  • +H T Wade-Gery. The Peace of Callias; in: Essays in Greek History (Oxford 1958) 212-213.
  • -D Stockton. The Peace of Callias. Historia 8 (1959)
  • -Raphael Sealey. Theopompos and Athenian Lies. Journal of Hellenic Studies v80 (1960) 194-195. Argues for a gradual construction of the "Peace of Callias" myth in the early 04th century
  • +A Andrewes. Thucydides and the Persians. Historia 10 (1961) 1-18
  • C Habicht. False Urkunden zur Geschichte Athens im Zeitalter der Perserkriege. Hermes v89 (1961) 1-35.
  • H B Mattingly. The Athenian Coinage Decree. Historia 10 (1961) 161-162
  • Russell Meiggs. The Crisis of Athenian Imperialism. HSCP v67 (1963) 1-36.
  • A E Raubitschek. Treaties Between Persia and Athens. GRBS v5 (1964) 151-159
  • K Kraft. Bemerkungen zu den Perserkriegen. Hermes v92 (1964) 158-171
  • H B Mattingly. The Peace of Kallias. Historia v14 (1965) 271-281.
  • ~A E Raubitschek. The Peace Policy of Pericles. American Journal of Archaeology v70 #1 (1966) 37-41. The diagram on p38 is suggestive. The conclusion favors a de facto, not a de jure, peace in 0449
  • ~Russell Meiggs. The Dating of Fifth-Century Attic Inscriptions. Journal of Hellenic Studies v86 (1966) 86-98; note the tables on p92 and p94. The Peace is mentioned in passing at p96; p98 is a defense of paleography against M I Finley which will be applauded by all right-thinking persons.
  • W Robert Connor. Theopompus and Fifth-Century Athens. Oxford 1968. A reconstruction and detailed examination of the Theopompus digressions, including the one of interest here.
  • +Samuel K Eddy. On the Peace of Callias. Classical Philology v65 #1 (1970) 8-14.
  • Oxford Classical Dictionary. 2ed Oxford 1970, sv Callias (1). Notes the controversy.
  • +Wesley E Thompson. Notes on the Peace of Callias. Classical Philology v60 #1 (1971) 29-30
  • -C L Murison. The Peace of Callias: Its Historical Context. Phoenix v25 (1971) 1-31. If there is time to read only one of the items listed here, this should be the one.
  • ~Russell Meiggs. The Athenian Empire. Oxford 1972; see the summary at p487-495
  • Raphael Sealey. Demosthenes and His Time. Oxford 1993
  • Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3ed Oxford 1996, sv Callias, Peace of. Cites chiefly those who accept the reality of the treaty.

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