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SYLAE (σῦλαι). When a Greek state declared war against another (Xen. Hell. 5.1, 1 and Schol.; Dem. c. Mid. p. 570.173; Dem. c. Timocr. p. 703.12, and Wayte's note, etc.), or when it or any of its members had received an injury or insult from some other state or some of its members, and the former was unwilling, or not in a condition, to declare open war, it was not unusual to give a commission or grant public authority to individuals (who sometimes. formed a kind of company: οἱ ἐπὶ λείαν οἰχόμενοι, Dig. iv. de Coll. [ERANI]) to make reprisals. This was called σύλας or σῦλα διδόναι τινὶ κατά τινος (Dem. c. Lacrit. p. 931.26; Bekk. Anecd. p. 303, 27: σῦλα δοῦναι κατὰ τῆς Χαλκηδονίων πόλεως: ἐπιγράψαι τῆν πόλιν λῃστεῦσαι) or λάφυρον ἐπικηρύττειν, ῥύσια καταγγέλλειν τινί (Plb. 4.26, 36, 53, etc.). Suidas explains σύλας by συλλήψεις (cf. schol. Dem. c. Lacrit. p. 927, and Etym. M. s. v. σῦλαι). Scheibe (Jahrb. f. class. Philol. Suppl. i. p. 352 f.) distinguishes thus between σῦλαι and σῦλα:σῦλον valere praedam ipsam, σύλας autem pignora quae ob pecuniam debitam auferantur (fere i. q. ῥύσια);” but see [Arist.] Oecon. ii. p. 1347 (2.10 Didot), σῦλον ἔχειν κατά τινος. Thus, when the Lacedaemonians thought the Athenians had broken the treaty with them by making incursions from Pylus, they issued a proclamation that any of their subjects might commit depredations on the Athenians (ληΐζεσθαι τοὺς Ἀθηναίους, Thuc. 5.115). In Lys. c. Nicom. § 22, we read Βοιωτοὺς σύλας ποιουμένους, because the Athenians were unable to repay two talents which the Boeotians had probably advanced to the Athenian exiles (for the support given to these, cf. Lys. fr. 78; Dinarch. c. Dem. [p. 2.733] § 25). Demosthenes (de Coron. Trierarch. p. 1232.13) declares that the deputy-captains of triremes so misbehaved themselves in foreign countries, plundering everybody they came near, that no Athenian could travel safely διὰ τὰς ὑπὸ τούτων ἀνδροληψίας καὶ σύλας κατεσκευασμένας, where ἀνδροληψίας refers to the arrest of the person, σύλας to the seizure of goods (see also de Cherson. p. 96, § § 25, 28). In the ναυτικὴ συγγραφὴ in the speech of Demosthenes (c. Lacrit. p. 927.93), one of the conditions is that goods may be landed only ὅπου ἂν μὴ σῦλαι ὦσιν Ἀθηναίοις, i. e. wherever the Athenians have no rights of reprisal, and where therefore Athenian ships in their turn were not in danger. When any booty was taken by Athenian subjects, the people of Athens reserved to themselves the right of determining whether it was lawfully. taken, whether it ought to be kept or restored, and what should be done with it (Dem. c. Timocr. p. 703.12, ὡς ἀποχειροτονήσαθ̓ ὑμεῖς μὴ φίλια εῖναι, cf. argumentum, p. 695 f.; Minerva of the Parthenon received the tithe, p. 741.129, cf. Lys. c. Polystr. § 24; Boeckh, Sthh. i.3 p. 399). The same practice prevailed in other cities, e. g. in Chalcedon: ὑπὲρ δὲ τῶν συλῶν διεδικάσαντο: τοῖς δὲ μὴ δικαίως συληθεῖσιν πόλις ἀπὸ τῶν προσόδων ἀπεδίδου, [Arist.] Oecon. ii. p. 1347. It would seem that special treaties were made between states for the protection of property against reprisals: thus the covenant between Oeanthia and Chaleion (Rangabé, Ant. Hellén. No. 356 b = Hicks, Gr. Histor. Inser. No. 31) prevented either state from injuring foreign merchants whilst visiting the other's port, and gave moreover certain rules for the court at either city before which a foreigner who had unjustly suffered seizure might get redress (cf. Bull. d. Corresp. hell. ix. p. 162). Sometimes as a special privilege ἀσυλία was granted to individuals: C. I. A. ii. No. 46, cf. C. I. G. No. 2056, εἴσπλους καὶ ἔκπλους καὶ πολέμου καὶ εἰρήνης ἀσυλεὶ καὶ ἀσπονδεί, etc. The theatrical artists enjoyed it: cf. C. I. A. ii. No. 551, 1. 19 if.: μὴ ἐξέστω δὲ μηδενὶ ἄγειν τὸν τεχνίταν μήτε πολέμου μήτε εἰρήνης μηδὲ συλᾶν πλὴν ἐὰν χρέος ἔχων πόλει ὑπόχρεως καὶ ἐὰν ἰδίᾳ ἰδιώτου ὑπόχρεως τεχνίτας: 50.84, μηδὲ συλᾶν μηδὲ ῥυσιάζειν: cf. Le Bas, As. Min. No. 84, ἀσυλία καὶ ἀσφάλεια καθὼς καὶ τοῖς Διονυσιακοῖς τεχνίταις. The Athenian grain fleet was usually accompanied by a convoy of men-of-war to protect them against the privateers (Dem. de Cor. p. 251.77; c. Polycl. p. 1211.17). The ancient practice may be compared with the modern one of granting letters of marque. (Salmasius, de Mod. Usur. p. 211 ff.; R. Dareste, Revue des Études Grecques, 1889, p. 305 f.; Büchsenschütz, Besitz und Erw. p. 543 ff.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.115
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 5.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.53
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.26
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.36
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