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AMPHIC´TYONES (Ἀυφικτύονες), members of an Amphictyonia (Ἀμφικτυονία or Ἀμφικτιονία). Institutions called Amphictyonic appear to have existed in Greece from time, immemorial. Of their nature and object history gives us only a general idea; but we may safely believe them to have been associations of originally neighbouring tribes, formed for the regulation of mutual intercourse, and the protection of a common temple or sanctuary, at which the representatives of the different members met, to transact business and celebrate religious rites and games. This identity of religion, coupled with near neighbourhood, and that too in ages of remote antiquity, implies in all probability a certain degree of affinity, which might of itself produce unions and confederacies amongst tribes so situated, regarding each other as members of the same great family. They would thus preserve among themselves, and transmit to their children, a spirit of nationality and brotherhood; nor could any better means be devised than the bond of a common religious worship, to counteract the hostile interests which, sooner or later, spring up in all large societies. The true derivation of the word from κτίω, with the same meaning as περικτιόνες, is given by several ancient writers (Hesychius; Anaximenes ap. Harpocrat. s.v. Androtion's Ἀτθὶς, ap. Paus. 10.8.1). The mythic founder Amphictyon, son or grandson of Deucalion, belongs. to the same region of eponymous heroes as, Hellen and his sons, and need not be seriously considered.

The causes and motives from which we might expect such institutions to arise existed in every neighbourhood; and accordingly we find many Amphictyoniae of various degrees of importance, though our information respecting them is very deficient. Thus we learn from Strabo, that there was one of some celebrity whose place of meeting was a sanctuary of Poseidon (Müller, Dorians, 2.10.5; Strab. 8.6, 14) at Calauria, an ancient settlement of the Ionians in the Saronic Gulf. The original members were Epidaurus, Hermione, Nauplia, Prasiae in Laconia, Aegina, Athens, and the Boeotian Orchomenus (Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. i. p. 375); whose remoteness from each other makes it difficult to conceive what could have been the motives for forming the confederation, more especially as religious causes seem precluded by the fact, that Troezen, though so near to Calauria, and though Poseidon was its tutelary god, was not a member. In after-times, Argos and Sparta took the place of Nauplia and Prasiae, and religious ceremonies were the sole object of the meetings of the association. The unnamed Amphictyony to which the Messenians were ready to refer their differences with the Spartans [p. 1.103]Paus. 4.5.1) may have been that of Calauria; though the existence of another at Argos, including all the Peloponnesian Dorians, and having either the Argive Hera or the Pythian Apollo for its tutelary divinity, has been conjectured by some modern scholars (Schömann, Alterth. 2.25; De Sainte-Croix, Des Anciens Gouvernemens Fédératifs, Paris, 1804, p. 129; K. O. Müller, Dorians, 1.154). Better attested is that of Onchestus in Boeotia, where the gathering was round a famous temple of Poseidon (Strab. 9.2, 33; Paus. 9.26.3). Near Samicum in Elis was also a temple of Poseidon, the centre of worship to the six Triphylian cities; and this is sometimes described as an Amphictyony (Strab. 8.3, 13); as is also the Euboean festival of the Amarynthia. [AMARYNTHIA]

One of the most important was that of Delos, the religious metropolis or ἱστίη νήσων (Callim. Hymn. in Del. 325) of the neighbouring Cyclades, where musical and gymnastic contests were celebrated every fourth year (a πεντετηρὶς) in honour of the Delian Apollo. Thucydides, describing the purification of Delos by the Athenians in 426 B.C., attests the great antiquity of this festival, quoting two passages from the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (Thuc. 3.104; Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. 146 ff. and 165 ff.). Plutarch (Plut. Thes. 21) ascribes the foundation of it to Theseus. The names of the states composing this Amphictyony are preserved in the inscription known as the Marmor Sandvicense, which contains the accounts of the four years 377-374 B.C., and is given by Böckh in C. I. G. 1.252 and in the appendix to his Political Economy (vol. ii., p. 78 ff.; 2nd Germ. edit.). They include the islands of Myconos, Syros, Tenos, Ceos, Siphnos, Seriphos, Ios, Paros, Icaria, Naxos, Andros, and the town of Carystus in Euboea. The θεωροὶ sent by the Athenians to Delos are well known [THEORI; DELIA]; they were also called Δηλιασταὶ. (Ath. vi. p. 234 e; Harpocrat., Hesych. sub voce

The system indeed was by no means confined to the mother country; for the federal unions of the Dorians, Ionians, and Aeolians, living on the west coast of Asia Minor, seem to have been Amphictyonic in spirit, although modified by exigencies of situation. Their main essence consisted in keeping periodical festivals in honour of the acknowledged gods of their respective nations. Thus the Dorians held a federal festival, and celebrated religious games at Triopium, uniting with the worship of their national god Apollo that of the more ancient and Pelasgic Demeter. The Ionians met for similar purposes in honour of the Heliconian Poseidon1 at Mycale,--their place of assembly being called the Panionium, and their festival Panionia. The twelve towns of the Aeolians assembled at Grynea, in honour of Apollo. (Hdt. 1.144, 148, 149; Dionys. A. R. 4.25.) That these confederacies were not merely for offensive and defensive purposes, may be inferred from their existence after the subjugation of these colonies by Croesus; and we know that Halicarnassus was excluded from the Dorian union, merely because one of its citizens had not made the usual offering to Apollo of the prize he had won in the Triopic contests. A confederation somewhat similar, but more political than religious, existed in Lycia (Strab. 14.3, 2): it was called the “Lycian system,” and was composed of twenty-three cities.

But besides these and others, there was one Amphictyony of greater celebrity than the rest, and much more lasting in its duration. This was by way of eminence called the Amphictyonic league; and differed from the other associations in having two places of meeting, the sanctuaries of two divinities. These were the temple of Demeter, in the village of Anthela, near Thermopylae (Hdt. 7.200), where the deputies or representatives met in autumn; and that of Apollo at Delphi, where they assembled in spring. The connexion of this Amphictyony with the latter not only contributed to its dignity, but also to its permanence. With respect to its early history, Strabo (9.3, 7) says, that even in his days it was impossible to learn its origin. We know, however, that it was originally composed of twelve tribes (not cities or states, it must be observed), each of which tribes contained various independent cities or states. As to the names of the twelve tribes, however, our accounts are very various. The lists in Pausanias (10.8.2) and Harpocration, s.v. differ in some particulars from that of Aeschines (F. L. § 116). The latter, who may be taken as an authoritative witness for his own time, after mentioning that there were twelve ἔθνη in the league, gives only eleven names--the Thessalians, Boeotians (not Thebans only, he remarks), Dorians, Ionians, Perrhaebians, Magnetes, Locrians, Oetaeans, Phthiots or Achaeans of Phthia, Malians or Melians, and Phocians. Recent editors have supplied the Dolopians as the twelfth name, following a conjecture of Tittmann's in his work on the Amphictyonic League (p. 40); and the list, as thus completed, is adopted by Grote (vol. ii. p. 325). Others join the Dolopians with the Perrhaebians, and reckon as a separate tribe the Aenianes who, on Tittmann's view, are included among the Oetaeans (Foucart, ap. D. and S., s. v.). It must be admitted that it is impossible fully to harmonise the ancient authorities themselves: but the list may have varied at different times, and Pausanias, who gives only ten names (omitting the Boeotians and Perrhaebians) expressly refers the ten to the mythic Amphictyon. The preponderance of the Thessalian and northern nations of Greece proves the antiquity of the institution; and the fact of the Dorians standing on an equality with such tribes as the Malians, shows that it must have existed before the Dorian conquest of the Peloponnesus which originated several states more powerful, and therefore more likely to have sent their respective deputies than the tribes mentioned. That it existed moreover before the Ionian migration, has been inferred from the Ionians of Asia having a share in the vote, and from the statement of Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.14): “Samii decreto Amphictyonum nitebantur, quis praecipuum fuit rerum omnium judicium, qua tempestate Graeci, conditis per Asiam urbibus, ora maris potiebantur.” The passage in Tacitus is, however, with more probability referred to the Delian Amphictyony.

We learn from Aeschines (l.c.) that each of the twelve Amphictyonic tribes had two votes in congress, and that deputies from such towns as [p. 1.104](Dorium and)2 Cytinium had equal power with the Lacedaemonians, and that Eretria and Priene, Ionian colonies, were on a par with Athens (ἰσόψηφοι τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις). It seems therefore to follow, either that each Amphictyonic tribe had a cycle (Strab. 9.3, 7; Paus. 10.8.2), according to which its component states returned deputies, or that the vote of the tribe was determined by a majority of votes of the different states of that tribe. The latter supposition might explain the fact of there being a larger and smaller assembly--a βουλή and ἐκκλησία--at some of the congresses, and it is confirmed by the circumstance that there was an annual election of deputies at Athens, unless this city usurped functions not properly its own.

The council itself was called Pylaea (Πυλαία) from its meeting in the neighbourhood of Pylae (Thermopylae), but the same name was given to the session at Delphi as well as to that at Thermopylae. It was composed of two classes of representatives, one called Pylagorae (Πυλαγόραι), the other Hieromnemones (Ἱερομνήμονες). Of the former, three were annually elected at Athens to act with one Hieromnemon appointed by lot. (Aristoph. Nubes, 5.623.) That his office was highly honourable we may infer from the oath of the Heliasts (Dem. c. Timocr. p. 747.150), in which he is mentioned with the nine archons. On one occasion we find that the president of the council was a Hieromnemon, and that he was chosen general of the Amphictyonic forces, to act against the Amphissians. (Tittmann, p. 87.) Hence it has been conjectured that the Hieromnemones, also called ἱερογραμματεῖς, were superior in rank to the pylagorae. (Tittmann, pp. 84, 86.) Aeschines also contrasts the two in such a way as to warrant the inference that the former office was the more permanent of the two. Thus he says (c. Ctes. § 115), “When Diognetus was Hieromnemon, ye chose me and two others Pylagorae.” He then contrasts “the Hieromnemon of the Athenians with the Pylagorae for the time being.” There is even good reason for supposing that the Hieromnemon was elected for life (Clinton, F. H., vol. iii. p. 621; Tittmann, l.c.), although some writers are of a different opinion (Schömann, de Comit. p. 283). Again, we find inscriptions (Böckh, Inscr. 1171), containing surveys by the Hieromnemones, as if they formed an executive; and that the council concluded their proceedings on one occasion (Aesch. c. Ctes. § 124), by resolving that there should be an extraordinary meeting previously to the next regular assembly, to which the Hieromnemones should come with a decree to suit the emergency just as if they had been a standing committee. Their name implies a more immediate connexion with the temple; but whether they voted or not upon matters in general is doubtful: from the two Amphictyonic decrees quoted below, we might infer that they did not, while the inscriptions (1688 and 1699), quoted by Schömann (p. 392), and the statement of Demosthenes (pro Coron. p. 277.149 f.), lead to a contrary conclusion. The narrative of Aeschines (c. Ctes. § 116) implies that they were more peculiarly the representatives of their constituent states. Probably the respective functions of the two classes of representatives were not strictly defined, and varied at different times, if indeed they are always correctly distinguished by the authors who allude to them. The ἐκκλησία, or general assembly, included not only the classes mentioned, but also those who had joined in the sacrifices and were consulting the god; and as there was a large multitude annually collected at the Amphictyonic session at Thermopylae, it was probably numerously attended. (Hesychius, s.v. cf. Soph. Trach. 639.) It was convened on extraordinary occasions by the chairman of the council ( τὰς γνώμας ἐπιψηφίζων, Aesch. l.c. 124).

Of the duties of this latter body nothing will give us a clearer view than the oaths taken and the decrees made by it. The oath was as follows (Aesch. de F. L. § 115): “They would destroy no city of the Amphictyons, nor cut off their streams in war or peace; and if any should do so, they would march against him and destroy his cities; and should any pillage the property of the god, or be privy to or plan anything against what was in his temple at Delphi, they would take vengeance on him with hand and foot, and voice, and all their might.” There are two decrees given by Demosthenes, both commencing thus (Dem. de Cor. p. 278.154): “When Cleinagoras was priest (ἱερεύς), at the spring meeting, it was resolved by the pylagorae and the assessors of the Amphictyons, and the general body of them,” &c. The resolution in the second case was, that as the Amphissians continued to cultivate “ the sacred district, ” Philip of Macedon should be requested to help Apollo and the Amphictyons, and that he was thereby constituted absolute general of the Amphictyons. He accepted the office, and soon reduced the offending city to subjection. From the oath and the decrees, we see that the main duty of the deputies was the preservation of the rights and dignity of the temple at Delphi. We know, too, that after it was burnt down (B.C. 548), they contracted with the Alcmaeonidae for the rebuilding (Hdt. 2.180, 5.62); and Athenaeus (A.D. 228) informs us (iv. p. 173 b) that in other matters connected with the worship of the Delphian god they condescended to the regulation of the minutest trifles. History, moreover, teaches that if the council produced any palpable effects, it was from their interest in Delphi; and though it kept up a standing record of what ought to have been the international law of Greece, it sometimes acquiesced in, and at other times was a party to, the most iniquitous and cruel acts. Of this the case of Crissa is an instance. This town lay on the Gulf of Corinth, near Delphi, and was much frequented by pilgrims from the West. The Crissaeans were charged by the Delphians with undue exactions from these strangers, and with other crimes. The council declared war against them, as guilty of a wrong against the god. The war lasted ten years, till, at the suggestion of Solon, the waters of the Pleistus were turned off, then poisoned, and turned again into the city. The besieged drank their fill, and Crissa was soon razed to the ground; and thus, if it were an Amphictyonic city, was a solemn oath doubly violated. Its territory--the rich Crissaean or [p. 1.105]Cirrhaean plain--was consecrated to the god, and curses imprecated upon any one who should till or dwell in it. Thus ended the First Sacred War (B.C. 586), in which the Athenians and Amphictyons were the instruments of Delphian vengeance. (Paus. 10.37.4; Clinton, F. H., vol. ii. p. 196; Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 107 ff.) The Second or Phocian War (B.C. 356) was the most important in which the Amphictyons were concerned (Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. v. pp. 263-372; Grote, ch. 87); and in this the Thebans availed themselves of the sanction of the council to take vengeance on their enemies, the Phocians. To do this, however, it was necessary to call in Philip of Macedon, who readily proclaimed himself the champion of Apollo, as it opened a pathway to his own ambition. The Phocians were subdued (B.C. 346), and the council decreed that all their cities, except Abae, should be razed, and the inhabitants dispersed in villages not containing more than fifty inhabitants. Their two votes were given to Philip, who thereby gained a pretext for interfering with the affairs of Greece; and also obtained the recognition of his subjects as Hellenes. To the causes of the Third Sacred War allusion has been made in the decrees quoted by Demosthenes. The Amphissians tilled the devoted Cirrhaean plain, and behaved, as Strabo (9.3, 4) says, worse than the Crissaeans of old (χείρους ἦσαν περὶ τοὺς χένους). Their submission to Philip was immediately followed by the battle of Chaeroneia (B.C. 338), and the extinction of the independence of Greece. In the following year, a congress of the Amphictyonic states was held; in which war was declared as if by united Greece against Persia, and Philip elected commander-in-chief. On this occasion the Amphictyons assumed the character of national representatives as of old, when they set a price upon the head of Ephialtes, for his treason to Greece at Thermopylae, and erected monuments in honour of the Greeks who fell there. Herodotus indeed (7.214, 228), speaking of them in reference to Ephialtes, calls them οἱ τῶν Ἑλλήνων Πυλαγόροι.

We have sufficiently shown that the Amphictyons themselves did not observe the oaths they took; and that they did not much alleviate the horrors of war, or enforce what they had sworn to do, is proved by many instances. Thus, for instance, Mycenae was destroyed by Argos (B.C. 468), Thespiae and Plataeae by Thebes, and Thebes herself swept from the face of the earth by Alexander (ἐκ μέσης τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἀνήρπασται, Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 133). Indeed, we may infer from Thucydides (1.112), that a few years before the Peloponnesian war the council was a passive spectator of what he calls ἱερὸς πόλεμος, when the Lacedaemonians made an expedition to Delphi, and put the temple into the hands of the Delphians; the Athenians, after their departure, restoring it to the Phocians: and yet the council is not mentioned as interfering. It will not be profitable to pursue its history further; it need only be remarked, that Augustus wished his new city, Nicopolis (B.C. 31), to be enrolled among its members; and that Pausanias, in the second century of our era, mentions it as still existing, but deprived of all power and influence. In fact, even Demosthenes (de Pace, extr.) spoke of it as the shadow at Delphi ( ἐν Δελφοῖς σκια). In the time of Pausanias, the number of Amphictyonic deputies was thirty.

A question of some interest arises with regard to the two places of meeting. Where did the association originate?--were its meetings first held at Delphi, or at Thermopylae? There seems a greater amount of evidence in favour of the latter. In proof of this may be alleged the number of Thessalian tribes from the neighbourhood of the Maliac bay, and the comparative insignificance of many of them; the assigned birthplace and residence of the mythic Amphictyon, the names Pylagorae and Pylaea. Besides, we know that Thessaly was the theatre and origin of many of the most important events of early Greek history; whereas, it was only in later times, and after the Dorian conquest of Peloponnesus, that Delphi became important enough for the meetings of such a body as the Amphictyonic; nor, if Delphi had been of old the only place of meeting, is it easy to account for what must have been a loss of its ancient dignity. But whatever was the cause, we have still the fact, that there were two places of congress; to account for which, it has been supposed that there were originally two confederations, afterwards united by the growing power of Delphi, as connected with the Dorians, but still retaining the old places of meeting. We must, however, admit that it is a matter of mere conjecture whether this were the case or not, there being strong reasons in support of the opinion that the Dorians, on migrating southwards, combined the worship of the Hellenic Apollo with that of the Pelasgian Demeter, as celebrated by the Amphictyons of Thessaly. (Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, cc. x. xliii.; Grote, vol. ii. ch. 2; Heeren, Ancient Greece, 100.7; De Sainte-Croix, Des Anciens Gouvernemens Fédératifs; Tittmann, Ueber den Bund der Amphictyonen; Müller, Dorians, book 2.3.5; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § § 11-14; Freeman, Hist. of Federal Government, ch. iii.)

[R.W] [W.W]

1 Poseidon was the god of the Ionians, as Apollo of the Dorians. (Müller, Dor. 2.10.5.)

2 There is a doubt about the reading. (See Thuc. 3.95; Tittmann, p. 52.)

hide References (17 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (16):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.148
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.62
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.144
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.149
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.180
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.200
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.37.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.8.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.26.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.8.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.5.1
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 639
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.104
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.14
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.112
    • Plutarch, Theseus, 21
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.95
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