previous next


SYMMO´RIA (συμμορία). The symmories at Athens were, in the fourth century B.C., groupings of citizens for two main purposes--for for the contribution (when required) of the war-tax (εἰσφορά), and for the fitting out and general supervision of ships of war (τριηραρχία). The obscurity of the subject, which is great, arises partly from the scantiness of the evidence, partly from the doubt how far we can assume that the groupings or symmories for the war-tax were the same as those for the navy.<

I. The symmories for the war-tax came first in point of time. They were instituted at an important era of Athenian history, the archonship of Nausinicus in B.C. 378, when Athens renewed the confederacy with the islands in the Aegean, and assumed maritime sway for the second time. Of this date we are informed by Philochorus (as quoted by Harpocration, s. v. συμμορία); but it is Polybius (2.62) who tells us that at this time the Athenians made an entire revision and classification of their landed and personal property. Aristotle, indeed (Polit. 5.7, 6), implies that such revisions were frequent in Greek states: but not, clearly, on such a scale as this under Nausinicus, which was a systematisation of taxation of a kind never before attempted at Athens. The fourfold Solonic classification of Athenian citizens into Pentacosiomedimni, Hippeis, Zeugitae, and Thetes, was not necessarily abolished by the symmories; but it seems to have been of little practical importance after this date; though Dem. c. Macart. p. 1067.54, and Isaeus, de Apollod. Hered. § 14 (quoted by Boeckh, 4.5), imply some retention of the old terms.

The first and most difficult question which meets us in consideration of the war-tax symmories is this. Were the 1200, who undoubtedly constituted the trierarchical symmories, also the main (or perhaps the entire) constituents of the war-tax symmories? The most recent German scholarship has answered this question in the negative and the present writer on the whole adheres to this decision. Those who desire merely to know results may therefore pass on to the next paragraph; but meanwhile, these are the arguments for and against. For the connexion of the 1200 with the war-tax symmories, Isocrates (de Antid. § 145) speaks of “the 1200 who pay the war-tax and perform liturgies” (τοὺς διακοσίους καὶ χιλίους τοὺς εἰσφέροντας καὶ λειτουργοῦντας.). It must be admitted that this is a strong argument; but Isocrates is a rhetorical writer, and, writing at a time when the 1200 were prominent, he may have used the term simply as synonymous with “the richest men.” Isaeus, whose career is reputed to have terminated at any rate not long after the institution of the trierarchical symmories, also spoke of “the 1200” in his speech against Ischomachus (as we learn from Harpocration, s. v. χίλιοι διακόσιοι). Still, the speech against Ischomachus may have been delivered after the establishment of the trierarchical symmories, and the reference may be to these. Lastly, the commentator Ulpian, writing on a passage at the close of the second Olynthiac of Demosthenes, gives an elaborate sketch of the constitution of the war-tax symmories, affirming them to have had 1200 members. But Ulpian is demonstrably wrong in important points; for instance, he affirms that there were two bodies of 300 at Athens, making up 600 citizens, accounted the richest. But from the orators it is absolutely clear that there was only one body of 300; and Ulpian probably got his 600 from a misinterpretation of the passage on which he was commenting. Hence his authority is but small. Now for the arguments against the connexion. [p. 2.737]Demosthenes (c. Meid. p. 564.155), speaking after the establishment of the trierarchical symmories, refers to this measure as the first occasion when the Athenians made 1200 associates (ὅτε πρῶτον μὲν διακοσίους καὶ χιλίους πεποιήκατε συντελεῖς ὑμεῖς), an expression which certainly seems to imply that 1200 associates did not previously exist in the war-tax symmories. Secondly, the historian Philochorus treated of the symmories formed under Nausinicus in his fifth book, but did not treat of the 1200 till his sixth book (Harpocration, s. vv. συμμορία and χίλιοι διακόσιοι); it must be inferred that the 1200 were appointed at a later date than the original symmories. Thirdly, it seems undoubted that the whole number of citizens who paid the war-tax was more than 1200: Boeckh (4.9) has shown this convincingly; but yet why should 1200 citizens be appointed at all in connexion with the war-tax, if not to be the sole payers of it? They would not be separated in this definite way merely because they paid more than the rest; and they seem too many to have been appointed for the sake of the προεισφορά, or prepayment of the tax in times of pressing need. Fourthly, the phrase used by Demosthenes (c. Euerg. et Mnesib. p. 1145.21), in describing the appointment of the trierarchical symmories, should be noticed: “The law of Periander, in accordance with which the symmories were constituted.” If the 1200 had been constituted before the law of Periander, why should they need to be constituted again by the law of Periander? for it is a most farfetched supposition to think that two different bodies of 1200 existed, each designed to contain the wealthiest citizens, one intended for the payment of the war-tax, the other for the trierarchy.

It seems therefore that the 1200 had nothing to do with the war-tax symmories. But there was another body, whose connexion with the war-tax symmories it is impossible to deny; and that is the Three Hundred, who so constantly recur in the pages of the Attic orators; whom from Isaeus (de Philoct. hered. § 60) we know to have been established a considerable time before B.C. 364, and who by that orator are spoken of almost as if they were the sole payers of the war-tax; an expression which we may fairly construe by Dem. c. Phaenipp. p. 1046, as being the sole persons bound to prepay it on behalf of others, or, in other words, under the obligation of the προεισφορά. But what was the connexion? Were they the “leaders of the symmories,” ἡγεμόνες συμμοριῶν, so often mentioned? So it has often been supposed; and if it was so, then we must hold that the symmories were very large bodies, comprising the whole number of taxpaying citizens. But, though this view of the matter has something to commend it, the evidence on the whole tends to another view. The passage in the Meidias in which the “leaders” are mentioned (p. 565) gives the idea that they were a much smaller body than 300; and it is hardly possible to resist the impression which that passage (or rather p. 564) conveys, that Meidias was one of the 300, whereas Demosthenes distinctly states that he was not a “leader” ('ἡγεμών). If then the Three Hundred were not the leaders of the symmories, what were, they? Only one other conclusion seems possible; they were, themselves, the symmories. Not, of course, that they were the sole taxpayers; the bulk of the taxpaying citizens would be attached to them (προσνενέμησθε, Dem. 2nd Olynth. p. 26) by the tribal tie (for we must hold true of the war-tax symmories, what from Dem. de Symm. p. 184 we know to be true of the trierarchical symmories, that they were tribal bodies); but distinctly, the symmories themselves were small, and not large bodies. Nor is this view at all devoid of evidence. For first, assuming that there were two symmories to each tribe, as we know (Dem. l.c.) that there were in the trierarchical symmories, or twenty symmories altogether; then Hyperides (ap. Harpocr. s. v. συμμορία) tells us that there were 15 men in each symmory; and 20 [multi] 15 = 300. (It is true that Harpocration, who is puzzled by--the statement of Hyperides, interprets συμμορία as equivalent here to συντέλεια, or the association of trierarchs who managed a single ship; and Lipsius agrees with this. But the terms συμμορία and συντέλεια were perfectly distinct; moreover there was no fixity in the numbers of a συντέλεια, and it is rather curious that while we have 5, 6, 7, 16 συντελεῖς mentioned as taking charge of a ship, the number 15 is nowhere mentioned in this relation.) Again, there is a passage in Dem. c. Boeot. de Nomine, p. 997.5, which clearly shows that the symmories were bodies of limited extent. The speaker, Mantitheus, who is clearly a person of considerable property, is contending against the claim of a certain Boeotus to assume the name of Mantitheus, and pointing out the inconveniences that will ensue if it be allowed; and he instances this: “In what manner will the generals enrol the name, if they enrol Mantitheus into a symmory, or appoint him trierarch?” (τίνα δ᾽ οἱ στρατηγοὶ τρόπον ἐγγράψουσιν, ἂν εἰς συμμορίαν ἐγγράφωσιν, ἂν τριήραρχον καθιστῶθιν); It is impossible to say that the war-tax symmory is not here meant, for Mantitheus runs through every possible duty which Boeotus and himself might be required to perform; and if the war-tax is not intended by this expression, it occurs nowhere in the list. Clearly, then, the war-tax symmory was a body to which Mantitheus might be appointed, but to which he did not necessarily, as a taxpaying citizen, belong. What, then, can the war-tax symmories have been, but the Three Hundred? and the form of the expression in Dem. c. Phaenipp. p. 1040.5 ( “the generals were arranging the exchanges for the 300” ), does at any rate very aptly correspond with this supposition.

If this be so, then the reform under Nausinicus included, besides a revision of the entire property of Athenian citizens, also the establishment of a body of Three Hundred, thirty from each tribe, every thirty being divided into two symmories of fifteen each, and the whole number being the richest men in Athens. For what purpose, then, were these Three Hundred set apart? Doubtless there would be a convenience in having the richest men in the state catalogued and known, even for the mere payment of the war-tax. But for a specific measure of this kind, some more stringent motive seems needed; and such a motive is found in the need for prepayment [p. 2.738]of the war-tax, in order that the state might obtain the money without delay. How important this prompt payment was to the state can be readily understood; and while the Three Hundred were permitted to recover from the less wealthy citizens their share of the tax in due course, the advance of the money was a real burden on themselves. The προεισφορὰ (by which name the prepayment was known) cannot be shown to have been in use before B.C. 378: whereas Lipsius (in Jahrbuch der Philologie, 1878, pp. 297-299) has given strong reasons for thinking that this advance of the war-tax became the normal method after the reform introduced under Nausinicus. And Dem. c. Phaenipp. p. 1046.25 (before referred to), is strong authority for thinking that the Three Hundred were the only persons liable to pay this advance of the war-tax. At the same time, when the Three Hundred once became an established institution, it is not necessary to suppose that the original motive which prompted their establishment was always borne in mind: thus there can be little doubt that Demosthenes in his minority (when he would not be required to advance the προεισφορὰ) belonged to them, just as in the trierarchical symmories there were many members who could not be called upon to discharge the office of trierarch (Dem. de Symm. 182.17).

At all events, this view gives an intelligible meaning and purpose to the war-tax symmories; while we need not deny that the reform under Nausinicus may have included other elements, as, perhaps, a fresh estimate of the ratable value of each man's property according to his wealth (in the case of the richest persons the ratable value was one-fifth of the whole, Dem. c. Aphob. i. p. 816.9); but of this we can say nothing. Nor can we absolutely say that no change was introduced into the war-tax symmories when the trierarchical symmories began (B.C. 358); but there is no evidence to this effect, unless the expression of Isocrates (l.c.) be regarded as evidence. At all events the opinion of Harpocration (whatever that may be worth--it occurs s. v. συμμορία) may be added to the evidence above given that the symmories were essentially limited bodies.

The difficulty of the whole subject is however so great, that it is desirable that a brief summary of the views previously held about it should be here given.

Ulpian considered that the members of the war-tax symmories were 1200 in number, and that they were the sole payers of the tax.

Boeckh considered that the members of the war-tax symmories were 1200 in number, but that they were not the sole payers of the tax; and apparently he regarded the re-arrangement of degrees of taxation as the real, and a sufficient, reason for the symmories altogether.

Lipsius was the first to suggest (l.c.) that the 1200 did not belong to the war-tax symmories at all. In substantial meaning, his view does not differ much from that which has been here given; but in nomenclature it differs. He holds that the symmories comprised the great body of taxpaying citizens, and that the Three Hundred merely stood at their head; whereas here the Three Hundred have been described as being, actually, the symmories. Nor is it clear what Lipsius thinks was precisely the object of the symmories--whether a re-arrangement of taxation, or the convenience of the prompt payment of the tax. Here the latter has been said to be the main object, through the προεισφορά.

II. The trierarchical symmories were established in consequence of the attempt of the Thebans upon Euboea in B.C. 358, which occasioned sioned an urgent need for ships of war. That need was for the moment supplied by voluntary efforts (Dem. de Cor. 259); but this proved the starting-point of a new system, and a law was introduced by Periander (Dem. c. Euerg. 1145) and carried, whereby a new set of symmories, of 1200 members, was constituted expressly for the purpose of furnishing triremes expeditiously. For the working of this law, the article TRIERARCHIA must be consulted; but the constitution of the symmories must be briefly stated here, as far as we know it. First, the Three Hundred formed an important part as leading members of the Twelve Hundred (Deinarch. c. Demosth. § 42; and compare Aesch. c. Ctesiph. § 222; Hyperides ap. Harpocrat. s. v. συμμορία; and Dem. c. Meid. 564); the intention no doubt was that the Three Hundred should still pay the greater part of the expense of a trireme, but for a long time they managed to escape this, and to keep their own contributions down to the level of the poorer members of the Twelve Hundred, until the reform carried by Demosthenes (Dem. de Cor. 260, 261). Secondly, we do know with absolute certainty here that there were altogether 20 symmories (Dem. de Symm. 182), 2 symmories to each tribe (Id. p. 184), and 60 members to a symmory; but of the whole number of 1200 many were ineffectives (Id. p. 182). The speech of Demosthenes, de Symmoriis, was in part intended to correct this; but it had no practical effect. The members of a symmory (5, 6, 7, or even 16) who provided a single ship were called συντελεῖς, or collectively συντέλεια, which last word must be carefully distinguished from the συμμορία out of which the συντελεῖς were taken.

With respect to the tribal relations of the symmories, Boeckh has shown (cf. See-Urkunden, p. 185, and the passages there referred to) that members of different tribes might unite in the management of one ship; yet Demosthenes (de Symm. 184) seems to show that the tribal relation was always intended to exist, and we must remember that a tribe might sometimes be represented by a citizen not belonging to itself. Thus Demosthenes stood in a relation of peculiar alliance to the tribe Pandionis, of which he was not a member (cf. c. Meid. 511, 519).

It remains to say a few words on the officers of the symmories. Every symmory, whether for the war-tax or for the trierarchy, had a leader (ἡγεμών). It does not, however, appear that the leader had any formal duties; influence no doubt he had. Probably Boeckh is right in thinking that the person whose name is attached, in inscriptions, to the name of the symmory, was the “leader.” Every trierarchical symmory had, besides the “leader,” an “overseer” (ἐπιμελητής). That the overseer had occasionally very difficult duties in the way of recovering public property, and that he was very inefficiently supported in these duties, is obvious from Dem. c. Euerg. et Mnesib. passim. The [p. 2.739] “overseers” were probably the same as the “twenty,” mentioned in an inscription referred to by Gilbert (Griech. Staatsalterth. i. p. 352, note 4) as connected with the strategi in the choice of trierarchs. Necessarily also in close connexion with the. symmories were the officers called διαγραφεῖς, who drew up lists of property, and of the rates due. (Bekker, Anecd. 236, 9; Harpocrat. s. v. διάγραμμα.

The symmories of the resident aliens (μετοικικαὶ συμμορίαι), mentioned by Pollux, 8.144, must be dismissed with merely a reference; we can hardly be said to know anything about them.

Perhaps the powers, elective and judicial, which the generals (στρατηγοὶ) exercised over the symmories have not been definitely enough stated in the preceding paragraphs. It is another proof of their tribal character for the generals were tribal officers.

For the rest, the tenor of this article has been to show that the trierarchical symmories were neither identical with, nor yet wholly distinct from, the war-tax symmories; but a development and enlargement of them. And it is to such a conclusion as this, surely, that à priori probability points. We have every reason to suppose that the symmories of both kinds lasted as long as Athens continued an independent state.

The principal works that may be consulted on the subject are: Boeckh, Staatshaushaltung der Athener (Berlin, 1886--with Fränkel's notes); the same writer's See--Urkunden (Berlin, 1840); Thumser, de Civium Atheniensium Muneribus (Vienna, 1880); Lipsius (Jahrbuch der Philologie, 1878, pp. 289-299); and Gilbert's Handbuch der Griechischen Staatsalterthümer (Leipsic, 1881).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: