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GELEONTES (γελέοντες), the name of one of the four old-Ionic tribes in Attica. We shall here discuss only the form and etymological meaning of the word, treating the political organisation under GENOS and TRIBUS (Greek).

The four names of the tribes are not peculiar to Attica; they occur in other Ionic states, as at Cyzicus and Teos (Schömann, Antiq. 1.129, E. T.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.109, n.). The other three names--Ὅπλητες, Ἀργαδεῖς or Ἐργαδεῖς, and Αἰγικορεῖς--point not obscurely to some system of castes or hereditary occupations; and the fourth tribe must no doubt be explained in a similar manner ( δὲ [Ἴων] πρῶτον μὲν εἰς τέτταρας φυλὰς διεῖλε τὸ πλῆθος, εἶτα εὶς τέτταρας βίους, Strabo viii. p.383; see also Plut. Sol. 23; Plat. Tim. 24 A). We are not to suppose that the limitations of caste existed in Attica in historic times, though Plato's ideal republic is essentially a caste system, based on what he believed to have once been the rule in Greece. The name comes down to us under different forms: Herodotus (5.66) is a witness for γελέοντες, Euripides (Τελέων μὲν ἔσται πρῶτος, Ion, 1579, where however Dindorf after Canter reads Γελέων), and Pollux (8.111) for τελέοντες: while in Plutarch (l.c.) the MSS. vary between τελέοντες and γεδέοντες ]Sintenis corrects γελέοντες], and in Stephanus Byzantinus s. v. Αἰγικορεῖς) between γελέοντες and τελέοντες. The letters Γ and Τ, Λ and Δ are so easily confused that these variations prove nothing, and many scholars have preferred τελέοντες as capable of the readiest explanation; either “priests” or, following Plutarch, “cultivators” (γεωργοί), from different senses of the verb τελεῖν. The fact that our two oldest and best authorities, Herodotus and Euripides, agree in ranking this tribe first among the four, makes the latter view impossible; a priestly caste, taking precedence of the Ὅπλητες or military men, is at least conceivable. But the unerring evidence of inscriptions is decisive in favour of the less intelligible form γελέοντες: in the Cyzicene marble and at Teos (C. I. G. 2.928, 3078-9, 3664-5), as well as in Athens itself (Διὸς Γελέοντος ἱεροκήρυξ, in Ross, Demen p. vii. = C. I. A. 3.2). It remains to assign a meaning to the word; and the bearing on this question of a gloss in Hesychius (γελεῖν λάμπειν, ἀνθεῖν) was seen long ago by Hemsterhuis. He explained it as the “noble” or “illustrious,” and was followed by Wesseling (on Herod. l.c.), Creuzer (Mythol. 3.62), and Schömann (Assemblies, 1819, as well as Staatsalterth. 1871). The word has been thoroughly discussed of late years by Bergk (Neue Jahrb. für Philol. 65.401), and especially by Hugo Weber (Etym. Untersuch. 40 ff.; cf. Curtius, Gr. Etym. 173); it belongs to a widely diffused root expressive of “shining,” seen in glacies, Germ. glänzen, Eng. glass, glance, glint, perhaps also in γάλα and gelu. The Geleontes, the (self-styled) brilliant or shining ones, were situated in the best part of the country, the neighbourhood of Athens itself [DEMUS p. 615 b.].

This difficulty was left unsolved not only by Thirlwall and Grote, but by such recent writers as Stein (on Herod. l.c.) and Liddell and, Scott (ed. 7; s. v. τελέοντες); it has therefore been. thought worth while to give full proofs. (Schömann, Assemblies, p. 356 = 336 tr. Paley; Antiq. 1.318, 319, E. T.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.109.)


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