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TAGUS (ταγός), a commander or ruler, was more particularly the name applied to the chief magistrate of Thessaly, and to magistrates of the Thessalian towns, at various periods of the history of that country. Under this head it is proposed to give a short account of the constitution of Thessaly.

The Thessalians are said to have been an Epirot tribe, which crossed the Pindus, conquered the country to which it subsequently gave its name, and either drove out or reduced to subjection the original inhabitants (Hdt. 7.176; Thuc. 1.12; Diod. 4.57). They [p. 2.756]seem to have settled originally in that part of Thessaly known as Θεσσαλιῶτις (Buttmann, Mythol. xxii. p. 262), and soon after to have completed the conquest of Πλασγιῶτις, for it was to these two districts that the Penestae, who were the remains of the earliest of the native tribes which submitted to their dominion, belonged (Archemach. ap. Athen. 6.264; see PENESTAE). They then completed the conquest of the rest of Thessaly, and reduced the neighbouring tribes of Achaeans, Perrhaebi, and Magnetes, with which they had been long at war (Arist. Pol. 2.9, 2), to the condition of permanent dependencies (ὑπήκοοι, Thuc. 2.101, 4.78, 8.3; see PERIOECI).

The princes who led the Thessalians to their new homes across the Pindus were, like the leaders of the Dorian invasion, Heracleidae (Pind. P. 1.10 sq.; Hom. Il. 2.679; Buttmann, Mythol. ii. p. 260). As the Heracleidae were found at Sparta in the families of the Agids and Eurypontids, and at Corinth in that of the Bacchiadae, so in Thessaly they were represented chiefly by the Aleuadae and Scopadae; and it is with the names first of Aleuas and later of Scopas that the organisation of Thessaly is connected. Thessaly appears as a united whole under the rule of Aleuas the Redhaired (Ἀλεύας Πύρρος), a semi-mythical personage, to whom no date can even approximately be assigned (Plut. de Fr. am. 21; Ael. de Nat. anim. 8.11). We are told, on the authority of Aristotle, that he divided the country into the four districts of Thessaliotis, Phthiotis, Pelasgiotis, and Histiaeotis, which were called τετράδες (Harpocrat. s. v. τετραρχία: Phot., Suid., s.v. Strabo. ix. p. 430). This division, which was probably based on some preceding natural division due to the mode in which the country had been conquered, continued unchanged to the latest times; and that it was not merely nominal, but had a material significance of the nature of which we are ignorant, is shown by the frequency with which it asserted itself as a real element in the Thessalian constitution. Aleuas is also said to have fixed certain regular military contingents, enjoining each κλῆρος, which was perhaps a subdivision of the τετράς, to furnish forty horsemen and eighty hoplites (Arist. ap. Schol. vac. in Eur. Rhes. 307). We are further told that the tribute to be paid by the subject states was fixed by a certain Scopas (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 19, προεῖπε δὲ καὶ τοῖς περιοίκοις πᾶσι τὸν ψόρον ὥσπερ ἐπὶ Σκόπα τεταγμένος ἦν ψέρειν), who is assigned by modern authorities to the first half of the sixth century B.C. (Gilbert, Staatsalt. ii. p. 8; Buttmann, Abh. der Berl. Akad. 1832, p. 190 sq.).

From this time to the Persian wars Gilbert thinks that there was always a king of Thessaly, and that he was chosen from the Heracleidae, though not always from the same family of this race. Herodotus calls the Aleuadae “kings of Thessaly” at the time of the Persian invasion (Hdt. 7.6), and he also states that in 510 B.C. Thessaly as a united whole (κοινῇ γνωμῇ χρεώμενοι) sent their king Κινέην ἄνδρα Κονιαῖον (Κυτιναῖον, Stein) to help the Pisistratidae (Hdt. 5.63). As late as 454 B.C. we find a certain Orestes of Pharsalus called king of Thessaly (Thuc. 1.111), and even at this period Thessaly may have been a united nation, and the noble families have still considered. themselves vassals to a king of their own race and perhaps of their own choosing. There is no evidence to show that the names βασιλεὺς and ταηὸς were interchangeable; ταηὸς may have been one of the titles of the monarch, as “dictator” and “magister populi” were probably amongst the titles of the ancient kings of Rome; and as the king at Athens became the. ἄρχων, so in Thessaly he may have become the ταηός (Buttmann, Mlythol. ii. p. 275). The office was a temporary resumption of the monarchy, chiefly in respect of its military authority, and was created for the purpose of uniting the independent states of Thessaly for some common purpose. The Tagus was apparently elected by a majority of the states (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 8) and the whole military force of the country was placed under his command: the surrounding tribes, which seem, after the fall of the monarchy, to have been dependent on particular states, as the Perrhaebi in Larisa (Strabo, p. 440), were all brought under the control of this temporary central government (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 9, πάντα τὰ κύκλῳ ἔθνη ὑπήκοα μὲν ἐστιν, ὅταν ταηὸς ἐνθάδε καταστῇ). The tribute (ψόρος), which they seem usually to have paid to the particular states on which they were directly dependent (Strabo, l.c.), was now exacted for the common purposes of the league (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 12); and they were made to furnish light-armed troops, which the Tagus levied (ib. 6.1, 9). At the same time he raised the greatest force which the free states of Thessaly were capable of affording, and which amounted on these occasions to 6,000 cavalry and more than 10,000 infantry (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 8).

But such a union of the states of Thessaly was rarely realised; and we meet with no actual instance of the appointment of a Tagus until after the Peloponnesian war. It is not known when the monarchy came to an end, but it probably continued, in name at least, down to the year 454 B.C. (Thuc. 1.111); it was followed by a general break--up of the union of Thessaly; and though the words of Thucydides (4.78, 3), τὸ πάντων κοινόν, may point to some loose confederacy or common council, and though there seems to have been a strong common democratic sentiment running through the whole country, yet the different states were largely independent of one another and almost entirely under the control of their separate hereditary oligarchies (Thuc. l.c.). Thus Larisa was governed by the Aleuadae, Cranon by the Scopadae, and Pharsalus by the Creondae (Hdt. 6.127, 7.6, 9.58; Diod. 15.61, 16.14; Schol. in Theocr. 16.34). The Aleuadae and Scopadae we know were related (Tab. 512 ; Buttmann, Mythol. ii. p. 270), and perhaps most of the great families of Thessaly were connected, at least by being Heraclidae, and therefore of the original royal race, if not by being offshoots of the Aleuadae, who, we are told, ruled in many cities (Pind. P. 10 ad fin., ἐν δ᾽ ἀγαθοῖσι κεῖται πατρωΐαι κεδναὶ πολίων κυβερνάσιες). Sometimes a powerful state, like Pharsalus, extended its rule over other smaller cities (Xen. Hell. 6.1, 8), but each of the larger states seems to have been practically independent both in foreign and domestic politics. In 431 B.C., at the commencement [p. 2.757]of the Peloponnesian war, we find that each of the cities which sent help to the Athenians appointed its own commander, and that the forces from Larisa were led by two generals, each chosen from a separate clan or faction in the city (ἀπὸ τῆς στάσεως ἑκάτερος, Thuc. 2.22); and we also find nobles, like Menon of Pharsalus in 364 B.C., arming their Penestae and taking an independent part in the wars of foreign nations (Dem. c. Aristocr. § 238). These instances point to the disorganised condition of Thessaly, which was indeed a noted characteristic of the country throughout its history (Liv. 34.51). The towns were under the control of a feudal nobility, who maintained their power the more easily through the preponderance of cavalry amongst the Thessalians, which their wealth and the character of the country enabled them to support, and the comparative unimportance of the ὁπλῖται (Arist. Pol. 4.3, 3; Thuc. 2.22; Hdt. 5.63; Dem. l.c.). The country was distracted at once by clan-feuds and by the struggles of the democracy against the dominant castes. In some states a compromise was for a time effected, as at Larisa, where a mediator (ἄρχων μεσίδιος) was at one time called in to allay the feuds in the ruling family (Arist. Pol. 5.6, 13), and where different magistrates of a democratic character, called πολιτοψύλακες and δημιουργοί, were appointed, to satisfy the claims of the popular party (ib. 5.6, 6, 3.2, 2; Etym. M. s. v. δημιουργός).

The rule of the nobility continued until the close of the Peloponnesian war; and it was not until 404 B.C. that the democratical reaction became strong enough to cause its overthrow. In this year Lycophron of Pherae attempted to raise himself to the position of Tagus of Thessaly (Xen. Hell. 2.3, 4). Unable to secure his election by constitutional means, he made himself tyrant (Diod. 14.82), and attempted to unite the whole of Thessaly under his sway. This object was actually accomplished by his successor Jason in 375 B.C. (Xen. Hell. 6.1 sq.; Diod. 15.60); but after the assassination of the latter in 370 B.C., his successors Polydorus, Polyphron, and Alexander of Pherae were unable to maintain the constitutional hegemony, and the office of Tagus developed into an irregular tyranny (Xen. Hell. 6.4, 33; Diod. 15.61), for the suppression of which the aid of the Thebans under Pelopidas was repeatedly called in.

Meanwhile we find that, about 364 B.C., an attempt was made at a reconstruction of the constitution of united Thessaly, for the purpose of joint action against Alexander of Pherae. We find again the κοινὸν τῶν πετταλῶν, composed of the four τετράδες (C. I. A. ii. n. 88). At its head stood an ἄρχων, and each τερὰς seems to have had its πολέμαρχοι, with πέζαρχοι for the command of the foot-soldiers and ἵππαρχοι for the command of the cavalry, and other officers, apparently of a religious character, called λ̔ερομνήμονες (C. I. A. ii. n. 88, where πολέμαρχοι and πέζαρχοι are mentioned; Dittenberger, n. 85--a treaty of alliance between Athens and Thessaly in 361 B.C.--50.17, τὸ κοινὸν τὸ θετταλῶν--τὸν ἄρχοντα ὃν εἵλοντο θετταλοί: 50.24, ἐξορκώσοσιν Ἀγέλαον τὸν ἄρχοντα καὶ τοὺς πολεμάρχους καὶ τοὺς ἱππάρχους καὶ τοὺς ἱππέας καὶ τοὺς λερομνήμονας καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ἄρχοντας, ὅποσοι ὑπὲρ τὸ κοινὸ τὸ θετταλῶν ἄρχοσιν). But this independent organisation was not of long duration. The subsequent usurpations of Sisiphorus and Lycophron induced the aristocracy to call in the assistance of Philip of Macedon, who deprived Lycophron of his power in 352 B.C. (Dem. Olynth. ii. p. 19.7); and this interference in the affairs of Thessaly paved the way for its subjection to Macedonia, which was effected in 344 B.C.

Philip re-organised the country by instituting tetrarchies (τετραρχίαι, Dem. Phil. iii. p. 120.35; Harpocr. s. v.) and decarchies (δεκαδαρχίαι, Dem. Phil. ii. p. 71.24); but it is doubtful whether these two modes of organisation were coexistent, and, if so, what relation the latter bore to the former. The tetrarchy was no doubt a re-institution of the division into τετράδες: and the decarchy has been variously explained as a council of ten under which each of the principal cities was placed, or as a similar council which governed each of the four divisions, or as a supreme council which was invested with the government of the whole country: this last alternative being on the whole the most probable (Dem. l.c. τὴν καθεστῶσαν νῦν δεκαδαρχίαν: see Whiston's note in loc.). Thessaly remained henceforth dependent on the Macedonian kings until the year 196 B.C., when the Romans, by the victory of Cynoscephalae, wrested it from Philip V., and restored the autonomy of the country.

From this time we get a renewal of the alliance of the Thessalian states (κοινὸν θεσσαλῶν); at the head of this confederacy stood a στρατηγός, appointed yearly, and we find the names of such στρατηγοὶ recorded both in inscriptions and on coins (Rev. Arch. 31.1876, pp. 256, 257). The tribes formerly dependent on Thessaly--the Dolopes, Perrhaebi, and Magnetes--were now constituted as independent states (Liv. 33.34; Plb. 18.30, 6; see Mommsen, Staatsr. iii. p. 658, n. 1): thus we find that the Magnetes had a general council of their own ( “Magnetum consilium,” Liv. 35.31), and a supreme magistrate who bore the title Magnetarches (Liv. 35.39 and 43). The constitution of the separate Thessalian states, as they were organised by T. Quintius Flamininus, was of a timocratic character (Liv. 34.51, “a cursu maxime et senatum et judices legit, potentioremque eam partem civitatium fecit, cui salva et tranquilla omnia magis expediebant” ). On the occasions when the states were summoned to discuss measures which concerned the whole of Thessaly, the general council met at Larisa (Liv. 35.31; 42.38, “Thessalorum Larissae fuit consilium” ).

During the Macedonian and Roman rule we find the word ταγὸς occurring frequently as a title of the magistrates of the Thessalian states; it is found in the fourth century B.C. at Pharsalus and Cranon (Cauer, nn. 395 and 400), in the third century at Larisa (Cauer, n. 409 B.C. 219 and 214), and about the year 196, at the commencement of the period of Roman rule, at Cyretiae (C. I. G. n. 1770). At Larisa and Cyretiae they were the chief magistrates; thus letters of Philip V. of Macedon and of T. Quintius Flamininus are addressed τοῖς ταγοῖς καὶ τῇ πόλει χαίρειν (Cauer, n. 409; C. I. G. n. 1770): in other states they appear as directing the proceedings [p. 2.758]of the ἐκκλησία, and as the executive and finance officers (Cauer, n. 386 a, τροστατεύοντος τᾶς ἐκκλησίας τᾶν ταγῶν ψίλωνος: Gilbert, Staatsalt. ii. p. 15). [Gilbert, Handb. der Griech. Staatsalt. ii. pp. 5-16; Buttmann, Mythologus, No. xxii. (Von dem Geschlecht der Aleuaden); Voemel, de Thessaliae incolis antiqu., Frankf. 1829; Hoew, de Thessalia Macedonum imperio subjecta, Gryphiae, 1829; Schömann, Antiq. Jur.> publ. Graec. p. 401; C. F. Hermann, Political Antiquities of Greece (Eng. trans.), § 178; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. 1.2.60, p. 106; Duncker, History of Greece (Eng. trans.), bk. ii. ch. v.]


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  • Cross-references from this page (30):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.82
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.60
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.61
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.14
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.63
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.127
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.176
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.6
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.58
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.679
    • Pindar, Pythian, 10
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.111
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.101
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.22
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.3
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.78
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.3
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.4
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 6.1
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 6.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 18.30
    • Polybius, Histories, 18.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 38
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.57
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