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SYMBOLAEON, SYNALLAGMA, SYNTHE´CE (αυμβόλαιον, συνάλλαγμα, συνθήκη) are all words used to signify a contract, but are distinguishable from one another. Συμβόλαιον is used of contracts and bargains between private persons, and peculiarly of loans of money: thus συμβαλεῖς εἰς τἀνδράποδα is to lend upon the security of the slaves, Dem. c. Aphob. p. 822.27, cf. Isae. Aristarch. § 10;--Dem. c. Zenoth. p. 884.7; c. Phorm. p. 907.1; c. Timoth. p. 1185.2; c. Dionysod. p. 1284.4). Συνάλλαγμα signifies any matter negotiated or transacted between two or more persons, whether a contract or anything else (Dem. c. Onet. p. 867.12; p. 869.21;--c. Apat. p. 896.12;--c. Timocr. p. 760.192; p. 766.213). Συνθήκη is used of more solemn and important contracts, not only of those made between private individuals, but also of treaties and conventions between kings and states (Thuc. 1.40, 5.18, 8.37; Xen. Hell. 7.1, 2; Dem. de Rhod. lib. p. 199.20; c. Aristog. i. p. 774.16, etc.). Here we may observe, that συνθῆκαι is mostly used in the plural, instead of συνθήκη, the only difference being, that strictly the former signifies the terms or articles of agreement, in the same manner as διαθῆκαι, the testamentary dispositions, is put for διαθήκη, the will. Συμβολαὶ and later σύμβολα (Harpocr. s. v.) signified originally a compact between two states, in late Greek between two private persons [SYMBOLON, DIKAI APO].

As to the necessity or advantage of having written agreements between individuals, see SYNGRAPHE National compacts, on account of their great importance, and the impossibility of otherwise preserving evidence of them, were almost always committed to writing, and commonly inscribed on pillars or tablets of some durable material (Thuc. 5.23,47: see Aristoph. Ach. 727). Upon a breach, or on the expiration, of the treaty, the pillars were taken down (Dem. pro Megalop. p. 209.27).

For breaches of contract various actions were maintainable at Athens: (1) in a general way συμβολαίων (Lys. de Pec. Publ. § 3, λαχὼν πατὴρ παντὸς τοῦ συμβολαίου Ἐρασιστράτῳ), or [p. 2.734]συνθηκῶν παραβάσεως δίκη (Poll. 6.153; 8.31); (2) more specially χρέους (Poll. 8.31), wherever a debt had become due by reason of some previous contract; (3) ἀργυρίου (Bekk. Anecd. p. 201, sub fin.;--Dem. c. Boeot. i. p. 1002.25; c. Olympiod. p. 1179.45); Callippus brought this action against Apollodorus, because the latter's father, the banker Pasion, had paid over a certain sum of money deposited with him by Lycon of Heraclea to Cephisiades instead of to Callippus, the proxenus of Heraclea. (4) ἀφορμῆς (Dem. pro Phorm. p. 943, argument. and p. 948.12: cf. Caillener, Le Contrat de prêt à Athènes, p. 28 ff.). Apollodorus brought this suit against Phormio, claiming after his father's death a sum of twenty talents alleged to have been transferred to Phormio by his father as part of the working capital of the business; and (5) γλάβης, e. g. the action against Dionysodorus for the non-fulfilment of a contract ([Dem.] c. Dionysod. p. 1291.27). The main point of difference might be this: that in a general action for breach of contract, the plaintiff went for unliquidated damages, which the court had to assess; whereas, upon a claim to recover a debt or certain sum, the court had nothing more to do than to determine.whether the plaintiff was entitled to it or not; the ἀγὼν was ἀτίμητος. All such actions were tried before οἱ τετταράκοντα (Att. Process, ed. Lipsius, pp. 675 f., 697 f.; p. 220 f.).

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