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THEO´RICON (τὸ θεωρικόν: τὰ θεωρικά, sc. χρήματα). Under this name were comprised the funds expended by the Athenian state on festivals, sacrifices, and public entertainments.

There were, according to Xen. de Rep. Ath. 3.8, more festivals at Athens than in all the rest of Greece. Some festivals of course were confined to the members of a particular tribe, deme, or house (DEMUS; PHYLOBASILEIS), and these were provided for out of the private funds of the community which celebrated them. But there were also many public festivals, open to the whole body of the people. At the most important of these, as the DIONYSIA, PANATHANAEA, or THARGELIA there were not only sacrifices, but processions, theatrical exhibitions, gymnastic contests, and games, celebrated with great splendour and at great expense. A portion of this expense was defrayed by the individuals upon whom the burden of a λειτουργία fell for the year, but a considerable part [p. 2.826]was met by the public treasury (τὸ δημόσιον, τὸ κοινόν). Thus Demosthenes (p. 50) complains that a Dionysiac or Panathenaic festival cost more than any military expedition. The religious embassies, too [THEORI], to Delos or Delphi, or to the Olympic and other great games, drew largely on the public exchequer, though a part of the cost fell on the wealthy citizen who conducted the embassy (the ἀρχιθέωρος: see Plut. Nic. 3; Thuc. 6.16).

But, besides these expenses, the festivals brought with them largess to the people. The Attic drama was at first performed in a wooden theatre, entrance to which was free. But the crowding to get in was inconvenient and dangerous, and after an accident to the timbers about B.C. 500 it was resolved to charge an entrance-fee of two obols, διωβελία ([Dem.] de Synt. p. 169.10). This fee was paid to the lessee of the theatre (θεατρώνης, θεατροπώλης, ἀρχιτέκτων), who, beside paying a sum to the state for the contract, undertook to keep the theatre in repair. The payment continued to be exacted after the theatre was built of stone. Pericles (Plut. Per. 9), to relieve the poorer citizens, passed a law entitling them to receive the price of admission from the state--perhaps because plays were part of a religious ceremony from which it would be impious to exclude citizens. But a direct grant to the lessee, or a reduction of his contract, would have been a measure less liable to abuse. The system ended for a time with the distresses of Athens at the end of the 5th century, but was renewed by Agyrrhius.

The donation was presently extended to entertainments other than theatrical, e. g. the Panathenaea (Dem. Leoch. p. 1091.37), the sum of two oboli a day being given to each citizen who attended. To multiply two oboli thus by the number of days seems the best way of explaining passages in which the amount of the Theoricon is put higher; as at one drachma by Philochorus in Harpocration, and perhaps by Lucian, Dem. Encom. § 36; or at four obols, by Demosthenes (Proem. p. 1459): but there is no direct proof to be had. The money was paid by demes (Dem. Leoch. l.c.). Popular leaders promoted such a use of public money; the appetite of the populace for largess kept growing; and in the time of Demosthenes the well-to-do citizens also seem to share in the distribution ([Dem.] Phil. iv. p. 141.38. But the passage is not quite clear, and the speech in which it occurs, the Fourth Philippic, is not genuine). Boeckh (Staatshaushaltung, ed. 3, vol. i. p. 284) calculates that the sum thus spent annually was 25-30 talents or more.

This mode of expenditure naturally starved other state-services. Surplus revenue should, by the old law ([Dem.] c. Neaer. p. 1346.4), have been carried to the military fund, and Isocr. de Pace, § 82, may mean that surplus φόρος was the original theoric fund; but now everything that could be spared from other branches of expenditure was diverted to the Theoricon: οἱ νόμοι τὰ στρατιωτικὰ τοῖς οἴκοι μένουσι διανέμουσι θεωρικά (Dem. Olynth. iii. p. 31.11); and the supplies needed for war were left to depend on extraordinary contributions or property-tax (εἰσφορά). In B.C. 350 Apollodorus carried a decree empowering the people to determine whether the surplus revenue might be applied to military purposes, but he was fined for this under a γραφὴ παρανόμων and the decree annulled (c. Neaer. pp. 1346-8). Eubulus then tried to perpetuate the existing system by a law making it a capital offence to propose to divert the theoric fund. By this law Demosthenes was embarrassed in his attempts to find money for operations against Philip (see his Olynthiac speeches, 1 and 3), and he has to approach the question of the theoric fund very gradually (p. 14). The law of Eubulus was at last repealed in 338.

Money appropriated to the theoric fund was probably at first disbursed by the Hellenotamiae. After the Peloponnesian War, however, it was controlled by a manager or board of managers (οἱ ἐπὶ τῷ θεωρικῷ, Dem. de Cor. p. 264.113; ἐπὶ τῷ θεωρικῷ ἀρχή, Aeschin. 57), who were perhaps elected, one from each tribe, at the period of the Great Dionysia. (But it is uncertain whether there was more than one official; see Boeckh, vol. i. p. 225, and his editor's notes.) The board drew to itself the control of all surplus funds and of many other branches of the administration, as the management of civil expenditure, the office of Apodectae, the building of docks, arsenals, and streets. This encroachment was due to the anxiety of the people that no part of the revenue should be diverted from the theoric fund.

(Harpocr. and Suidas, s. v. θεωρικὸν and Εὔβουλος: Libanius, Argument to Demosth. Ol. 1; Ulpian on Demosth. Ol. 1; Boeckh, Staatshaus-haltung der Athener, ed. 3.) [F.T.R]

(Appendix). According to 100.43 of Ἀθ. πολ. the superintendents of the θεωρικὸν were elected, not chosen by lot: from the same chapter it is clear that there were more than one, since the plural τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ θεωρικὸν is contrasted with the singular παμίας στρατιωτικῶν. It is even more impossible to get over (by such an argument as Gilbert uses for the passage in Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 25) the words in 100.47, μετὰ τοῦ ταμίου τῶν στρατιωτικῶν καὶ τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ θεωρικὸν ᾑρημένων ἐναντίον τῆς βουλῆς κατακυροῦσιν, &c. The evidence therefore from this treatise is opposed to the view supported by Gilbert (Gr. Staatsalt. 1.230) and Fränkel (note on Boeckh, Staatsh. i. p. 225), and may incline us to hold, with Boeckh, that there were more than one.

As regards the payment of two obols [see DIOBELIA; THEATRUM, p. 819 b; THEORICON p. 526 a], there is a passage in Ἀθ. πολ. 100.28, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα κατέλυσε Καλλικράτης Παιανιεὺς πρῶτος ὑποσχόμενος ἐπιθήσειν πρὸς τοῖν δυοῖν ὀβόλοιν ἄλλον ὄβολον. If this means that Callicrates raised the θεωρικὸν for any continued period to 3 obols for a single spectacle, it is at variance with other authorities. But the words πρῶτος ὑποσχόμενος, &c. seem to imply that it was a promise of a demagogue, imitated afterwards by others, which was either never carried out at all or revoked soon after. This would illustrate Arist. Pol. 2.7.19 = p. 1267 b.

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.16
    • Plutarch, Nicias, 3
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 9
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