V. The Emergence of Pisatis

Maurizio Giangiulio

Emergence, or Re-emergence?

At the end of the nineteenth century probably no ancient historian would have doubted that the Pisatans had been the inhabitants of the Alpheios’ valley, which in the first decades of the sixth century BCE the Eleans subdued and stripped of control of the Olympic Games. Many would have shared the opinion expressed by Georg Busolt that Pisatis and Triphylia were to the Eleans what Messenia was for the Spartans. [1] Moreover, it was taken for granted that the Pisatans’ group identity did not get lost, but re-emerged in the fourth century and that key elements of the historical tradition about the Pisatans were available—at least in part—to late writers such as Strabo and Pausanias. [2] Apparently, both the Pisatan-Elean relationship of the fourth century and the late literary record could not be understood except in the light of a receding past. Everything was to be explained by admitting that before the sixth century the Pisatans had been an autonomous ethnic group.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the conception advanced in 1910 by Benedictus Niese did not find acceptance. Niese boldly tried to challenge the consensus root and branch, arguing that in the archaic age an autonomous Pisatan polity did not exist beside Elis, and that the ancient accounts of the struggles between the Pisatans and the Eleans are to be taken as late invention. [3] Niese’s view was subversive enough to be marked out by Beloch as “mistaken” and by Wilamowitz as “inconceivable”; [4] hardly ever mentioned since, it has always been dismissed. Until recently, neither Strabo’s and Pausanias’ accounts of the struggles, nor the overall picture of the Pisatan-Elean relationship as drawn by the nineteenth-century scholars have been called into question—the most notable exceptions being H. T. Wade-Gery and A. Andrewes. [5] Significantly, Ernst Meyer’s discussion of the evidence, which remains the most comprehensive and perceptive, [6] maintains that “Pisa’s past political autonomy cannot be doubted and that the tradition about Pisa’s ancient rights to the Olympic Games is so reliable that nobody in ancient times could reject it completely.” [7]
It is only in very recent times that the role played by the Pisatans in the history of Elis and the overall character of their ethnicity have been seen in a new light. Pisatan studies are now on the move. [8] Niese’s argument is now taken into account and has already stimulated new research; for instance, based on a better understanding of Pausanias’ account of Elean archaic history, we can now rule out the notion that it presupposes a genuine historical tradition going back to the archaic age. [9] As for Pisatan ethnicity, it has been persuasively argued that the Pisatans can hardly have developed a group identity before the fourth century BCE, [10] and were never able to exhibit an ethnic consciousness.
The time has come to interpret the literary record in the context of the events of the late classical age, rather than to see it in the light of a receding historical background. It is widely held, now, that our information about archaic Greek history—as J. K. Davies remarked—“is the production of a continually changing tradition which is at least semi-oral, owes a great deal more to poetic utterance and mythic modes of thought than to anything else, and is generated more by the changing needs of a continually shifting present than by a scholarly urge to reconstruct a static but receding past.” [11] From this point of view, to focus on the fourth-century dynamics which took place in the Alpheios valley can shed light not only on obscure historical events, but also on the needs of a changing present which shaped both Pisatan identity and the image of the past intentionally projected by the Eleans and the Pisatans.
In a sense, Busolt was right. Pisatis can really be seen as some sort of Messenia. But the reason is not that in both of them an ethnic group brought into subjection could finally gain its independence, rather that in both cases—si parva licet ...—it is the fourth-century historical context that triggered crucial changes as far as collective identity and perceptions of the past are concerned. [12]

Pisa and the Pisatans in the Fourth Century BCE: the Independent State

In 365 war broke out between Elis and the Arcadians. [13] The Eleans, who claimed Lasion, now incorporated in the Arcadian Confederacy, had already cut themselves off from the Boeotian-Peloponnesian alliance, and concluded alliances with Sparta and the Achaeans. [14] On the other side, the Boeotian-Arcadian alliance concluded in 370 was apparently still in place, [15] and the Arcadians had the support of Athens, Thebes, Argos, Sikyon, the Messenians and the Pisatans. [16] In the late summer of 364 the Eleans attacked the Pisatans and the Arcadians, who had gained control of the Olympian sanctuary, but were repelled after a violent struggle in the sacred precinct itself. The Pisatans, who maintained that they were the first to have had control of the sanctuary, celebrated the Olympic Games. [17] They had evidently begun to play a new role, as both their foreign policy and their claims to the Olympic Games show. It is in this context that the political community of the Pisatans came to take shape; or to put it more precisely, that Pisa was constituted as an independent state, [18] as the epigraphic evidence seems to show beyond any doubt.
More than one inscription makes clear that the Pisatans concluded international treaties. A decree of the Arcadian Confederacy, which ratifies a bilateral alliance between Pisa and Akroreia on one side, and the Arcadians on the other confirms that Pisa was backing the Arcadian Confederacy. [19] And another inscribed decree, which is to be taken as Pisatan, shows that Pisa was also allied to Sikyon and Messenia. [20] Moreover, the Pisatans created proxenoi and thearodokoi, [21] and despatched thearoi; remarkably, one of these proxenoi is a Sikyonian politician hostile to Sparta who had an important role in Sikyonian policy-making. [22] Clearly, a coherent foreign policy of the Pisatan state was at work.
As for the Pisatan state itself, the decrees and the treaties show that it now had formal mechanisms by which it made decisions; and civil magistracies were in place (three hellanodikai) which had the same name as the Elean ones, but differed from them in number and prerogatives. [23] Importantly, the Pisatan state now possessed an apparently well-defined political shape: as the treaties show, the Pisatans had a democratic politeia. [24] It cannot go unnoticed in this context that the Pisatan state minted a coinage which can be taken as evidence for civic self-expression: the gold and silver coins we know display on the obverse the head of Zeus Olympios, and on the reverse the legend ΠΙΣΑ. [25]
The newly established identity of the Pisatan community played a role at the international level. More specifically, what needs to be better understood, as Nielsen remarked quite recently, [26] is the reason why the Pisatans did not join the Arcadian Confederacy, [27] as the Triphylians did, [28] and contented themselves with concluding an alliance with it. In other words, why did the Arcadians not suggest the Pisatans should become Arcadians, when they had incorporated the Triphylians into the confederacy and made the Triphylian eponym Triphylos one of the sons of Arkas? [29] As we shall see later on, there is no need to assume that Pisatan identity was older and more “natural” than Triphylian identity, so that the Pisatans could not really be claimed as Arcadians. It may be suggested that the true reason is that Pisatan identity was especially attached to Olympia, and that the Olympian traditions could not be appropriated by the Arcadians any more than the sanctuary itself. So the Arcadian Confederacy gained control of the sanctuary by closely linking to itself the puppet state of the Pisatans and their newly constructed traditions that focused on Olympia. It is usually claimed that the Arcadians could not make the Pisatans into Arcadians and that this is precisely the reason why they kept the Pisatans outside the confederacy: they could be seen as no more than allies, or, as the mythical genealogies had it, as people descended from the husband of Arkas’ daughter. [30] But one has the impression that in those years the Arcadians had to solve the crucial problem of showing adequate grounds for celebrating the Olympic Games together with the Pisatans. On one side, the Pisatan puppet state which was claiming the sanctuary was to be related to the Arcadians, but could not be identified with them; on the other, the Olympian sanctuary itself was to be credited with an Arcadian identity: and this is the reason why Olympia, the personification of the sanctuary, came to be known as Arkas’ daughter. [31]
Before proceeding further, it may be useful to question some common assumptions about the Pisatan state. It is widely held that it embraced Pisatis, [32] that is to say the area which stretched from the Alpheios River to Mt. Pholoë and from Amphidolia and Marganeis to the Erymanthos River. [33] Moreover, the list of the “eight Pisatan poleis" known to Apollodorus of Athens in the second century BCE (Strabo 8.3.31) is taken to go back to the time of Pisatan independence. [34] Yet, it is to be pointed out that there are no strong reasons at all to think that it was Pisatis as a whole that became an independent polity; in other words, we cannot exclude the possibility that when Pisa was constituted as a polis its territory was limited to a small area surrounding Olympia. The name Pisa itself gives an interesting clue. The coins with the legend ΠΙΣΑ and the head of Zeus Olympios may suggest that we are dealing with the name of the area of the Olympian sanctuary, which in the fifth century could alternate with Olympia, as its occurrences in Pindar and Herodotus show. [35] At the time of Pisatan independence, when the Pisatans took charge of the Olympic Games, the name could aptly express the claims of the Pisatans to the sanctuary. Therefore, it seems most likely both that Pisa’s territory was limited to a fairly restricted area not extending far from the Olympian sanctuary, and that not all the local communities which ancient geographers and grammarians took as Pisatan belonged to the Pisatan state. But there is more to it than that, because it is actually far from clear that at the time of Pisatan independence a full fledged notion of Pisatis as a sub-regional unit was already in place. I would surmise that the notion of Pisatis itself is of learned origin and that it goes back to the Hellenistic age, perhaps to Demetrius of Skepsis. [36] It probably was a conception that permitted the systematic arrangement of the information collected by grammarians and geographers about the small communities in the area around Olympia.
Now, if an archaic polis called Pisa did not exist, as is generally acknowledged, [37] the collective ethnic “Pisatans” could not go back to a receding past, and it is not to be taken as having undergone a process of “politicisation”; rather, it would have been created in later times, in the context of the formation of both a Pisatan identity and a Pisatan community.
It becomes apparent, at this point, that the problem of the group identity of the Pisatans needs to be reconsidered. It can in fact be shown that such identity was constructed in the fourth century, but to take it to be merely a side effect of the formation of the Pisatan state would be simplistic. It seems more complex processes were involved.

Pisatan Identity in the Making

As for Pisatan identity, one cannot help but be struck by its attachment to Olympia. Pisatan coinage displays both the name ‘Pisa’ and the image of Zeus Olympios, and it was in this way that the newly constituted political community claimed a very close link to Olympia. It comes as no surprise, then, that when the Elean-Arcadian war came to an end, in 362, and the Eleans took charge of the sanctuary again, they too asserted their claims to Olympia: the coins they struck exhibited the image of Zeus and the personification of Olympia which the Pisatans, in turn, had appropriated by making her the wife of their mythical ancestor Pisos. [38] But there is more evidence about the Pisatan and Elean claims to Olympia. When the Pisatans celebrated the Olympic Games they maintained that they were the first to have had control of the sanctuary, and in order to assert this claim they resorted to a set of mythical arguments (τισι μυθικαῖς καὶ παλαιαῖς ἀποδείξεσι χρώμενοι). [39] This piece of information goes back at least to Ephorus, [40] and can be compared with a reference in Apollodorus of Athens to ancient stories (palaia) about the first establishment of the Olympic Games which gave expression to the Elean and Pisatan rival claims. [41] As Jacoby remarked, [42] Apollodorus was acquainted with the same information as Ephorus, which should be taken to go back to a fourth-century debate. As for the Pisatan palaiai apodeixeis, we can only guess at their content, but it is worth noticing that a well-informed source reports that the first founder of the Olympic Games had been Pisos, the eponymous hero of Pisa. [43] It goes without saying that in this way the eponymous hero is made responsible for the origins of Olympia, and, even more importantly, it is the Pisatans who founded the Games well before the arrival of Oxylos and the Eleans. Pisos, who embodies the collective Pisatan “personality,” is “the first,” and it is precisely the circulation of such stories about Pisos that explains why the Pisatans claimed to have been the first to have control of the sanctuary. So, we can safely assume that stories about the role played by Pisos in the prehistory of the Olympic Games were an integral part of the palaiai apodeixeis which the Pisatans circulated.
According to Apollodorus the Pisatans maintained that when the Trojan War broke out they were hieroi tou theou. [44] In other words, the Olympian holy truce would have been first instituted by the Pisatans. But the Eleans too claimed to be a people sacred to Zeus since the time when they took possession of the land, as Ephorus reports. [45] One should assume, then, that these claims had been an integral part of the fourth-century debate about the prehistory of Olympia, and that the mythological arguments presented by the Pisatans were meant also to support their claims to the establishment of the Olympian truce. In this way the Pisatans not only placed special emphasis on their association with Olympia, but claimed for themselves as well an extraordinary religious quality.
Now, as for the origin of the Pisatan muthikai and palaiai apodeixeis, their specific reference to Olympia makes clear that the Pisatan presidency of the Olympic Games in 364 needed a convincing set of charter-myths. This is confirmed by the genealogy of the Pisatan founder of the Games. For Pisos’ genealogy is shaped by, or fitted to, the needs of the present, namely the foreign relations of the Pisatan state in the fourth century. In fact, Pisos is provided with a wife called Olympia, who is known in mythology as the daughter of the Arcadian eponym Arkas. [46] We are evidently dealing with a genealogical manipulation to be put in the framework provided by the alliance between Pisa and the Arcadian Confederacy. The genealogy establishes a close link between the Pisatans and the Arcadians, without obliterating the Pisatans’ identity by making them Arcadians.
There remains an important point which deserves our attention. Certain hints actually suggest that the invention of a Pisatan tradition may be seen to have extended to Pisatan prehistory as a whole, rather than being limited only to the origins of the Olympic Games. This process involved, in particular, stories about Pisos, Salmoneus and Oinomaos: these deserve a closer look because they can be traced back—at least in part—to the archaic age.
As for Pisos, it is important to recall that he had been represented on the so called “Kypselos’ chest” in Hera’s temple at Olympia, [47] a Corinthian votive gift going back to the first decades of the sixth century, as is now widely agreed. [48] On the chest Pisos featured as one of the heroes participating in the funeral games for Pelias. Now, the Argonautic myth played a role in archaic Corinth, [49] and the funeral games for Pelias are a common subject in archaic art. But how are we to explain the fact that Pisos, in particular, is one of the competitors? I would surmise that Pisos was displayed on the chest because he was important at Olympia, and that the same holds true for Pelops, Hippodamia and Oinomaos. [50] There is no reason to deny that Pisos was already the eponymous hero of Pisa/Olympia.
If this is so, Pisos’ involvement in the funeral games for Pelias could have been meant to emphasize the Aeolian connection that was an integral part of the local identities of the communities of the Alpheios’ valley. Aeolus’ son Salmoneus, in fact, was the eponymous hero of the Pisatan Salmone near the river Enipeus, [51] not far from Olympia, and in the fourth century he was known as a king of Pisatis. [52] Now, Pelias was the son of Salmoneus’ daughter Tyro, and the myth of her rape by Zeus on the river Enipeus either had been originally located in the area of Olympia, as West maintains, [53] or, if it was originally a Thessalian myth, it must have aroused great interest among the people of the Enipeus’ and Alpheios’ valleys. Pisos’ genealogy itself reflects this Aeolian connection: Pisos is said to have been the son of Aeolus’ son Perieres, [54] or of Perieres’ son Aphareus. [55] This could fit the alliance between the Pisatan state and Messene in the 360s, but it does not necessarily follow from this that we are dealing with a fourth-century invention, as Astrid Möller maintains. [56] I would not discount the possibility that this genealogical detail goes back to the archaic age. If it is so, we are faced with an attempt to establish a link between Pisos and the Aeolids.
We should also take into account the possibility that in the fourth century the Pisatans appropriated and manipulated older mythological narratives centered on Oinomaos. On the one hand both Oinomaos himself and the myth of Hippodamia’s suitors are to be seen as strongly attached to Olympia; [57] on the other hand Oinomaos’ Pisatan identity is an integral part, as Pindar shows, of his mythical personality. [58] One is tempted to take Oinomaos as embodying the idea that Olympia and Pisa were almost the same thing, and it is worth remembering that Pisatan coinage implies the same idea: it is not by chance, then, that the evidence indicates many efforts made by the Eleans to discriminate between Olympia and Pisa. As for the attachment of the Pisatans to Oinomaos, it is useful to draw attention to the role played both by Oinomaos as founder of the Pisatan Harpina—and as son of Harpina herself [59] —and Hippodamia’s myth in shaping the Pisatan landscape: the tomb of the suitors was located near Harpina, [60] the grave of the mares of one of the suitors was near the River Parthenias, [61] and the river itself took its name from one of these mares. [62] Moreover, Pisa itself came to be seen as Oinomaos’ polis. [63] Given these premises, it would be surprising if Oinomaos’ mythical personality had not been intrinsic to the newly constructed collective identity of the fourth-century Pisatans. One probably should explain in the same way those traditions about Pelops which show—though Pelops was crucially important for the Eleans and for the control of Olympia [64] —that he had close links with many communities of the Alpheios’ valley. It is perfectly possible, then, that this is the reason why the Pisatans claimed Pelops’ remains. [65]
As far as we can see, in all these cases we are dealing with narratives which in the archaic age had been employed by the local communities of the Alpheios’ valley in the construction of a culturally significant past. We should assume, then, that when the Pisatans gained independence, they recovered those narratives and used them to articulate the newly constructed Pisatan identity.
We must now consider whether the sense of identity developed by the Pisatans in the fourth century is to be taken as an ethnic consciousness. We can take for granted that “ethnic identity is socially constructed and subjectively perceived,” [66] and that, consequently, it is almost impossible to determine as an objective category. But it is crucially important both to focus on what distinguishes the ethnic group from other social groups and to trace the features on which the perception of cultural uniqueness of a given group is based. From this point of view, not all of the features by which we can identify ethnic groups are to be taken as being crucial to the present discussion. Some of them, in fact, are important in other associative groups too, and so are not exclusive to the ethnic group, while not all of them are liable to be subjectively constructed as “criteria” of ethnicity. As is well known, Anthony Smith isolated six identifying marks of an ethnic group: the existence of a collective name, a myth of common descent, a shared history, a distinctive shared culture, an association with a specific territory, and a sense of solidarity. [67] Now, in the light of the above remarks, it would seem preferable to see the common myth of descent, the connection with a specific territory, and the emphasis on a shared history as ranking paramount among the features that identify an ethnic group.
To turn now to the Pisatans, the first point to be made is that the genealogical details about Pisos we are dealing with do not appear to reflect, except to a limited extent, the recognition of a putative shared ancestry. It is reasonable to doubt that the Pisatans possessed a real myth of descent. As for the connection to a territory, one should notice that no emphasis is given to the region where the Pisatans as a group reside, to the homeland of the ethnic group. And if we keep in mind that places are crucial for cultural memory, it becomes most relevant that there is no Pisatan homeland featuring as lieu de memoire, as Pierre Nora would have it. [68] It comes as no surprise, then, that we have no evidence for the name Pisatis being used as the name of a region in the fourth century. Apparently, the notion of a region called Pisatis emerged only later. It was Olympia, instead, that had a mythical and symbolic quality for the Pisatans, but even Olympia was not seen as a proper sacred centre of a homeland. It is not so much that Olympia was the centre of the Pisatan world, as that Olympia and Pisa were seen by the Pisatans as two sides of one and the same coin. One could say, in this connection, that Pisatan identity mainly consisted in claiming Olympia as Pisatan.
All in all, one has the impression that Pisatan ethnic identity remained underdeveloped and feeble. This impression becomes stronger when we ask ourselves to what extent the Pisatans possessed a shared history. We have seen that the Pisatans claimed to have founded the Olympic Games, that Oinomaos probably was of paramount importance for their identity, and that some Pisatan communities traced their origins back to him. On the other hand, there is no trace of a Pisatan genealogical history, nor, for instance, of any attempt to claim Nestor and his kingdom as Pisatan. It remains to be investigated whether Pisatan traditions about the history of the Olympic Games had existed. But before looking in detail at this problem, it deserves to be emphasised that the picture we have been drawing so far does not easily fit in with the hypothesis that in the fourth century the Pisatan independent state was built upon a Pisatan identity rooted in a receding past and a well established ethnic consciousness. In other words it is doubtful—to say the least—that it was the identity of a group calling itself “the Pisatans” that became politicised and set in motion the development which led to the formation of a new political unit. We should rather admit that it is the newly constituted Pisatan polity that played a decisive role in shaping a Pisatan group identity.
We have seen that Pisatan identity is a fourth-century cultural construct. Now, it is crucial to determine when it took shape. The role played by the formation of an independent Pisatan polity in 364 is apparent, but there are hints that a Pisatan identity started gradually to emerge earlier, in the first decades of the century.
We should take into account, then, what happened at the beginning of the century. When the Spartan-Elean war broke out, [69] the Alpheios valley, both to the north and to the south of the river, was thrown into turmoil, and many communities which had the status of subordinate allies of the Eleans, seceded from them. [70] At the end of the war with the Spartans the Eleans had to leave independent all those communities and, in addition, the Triphylian towns, Phrixa, Epitalion, Letrinoi, the Amphidolians, the Marganians, the Akroreians, and the town of Lasion. [71] So it was that Elis was deprived of her mini-empire, as Paul Cartledge put it. [72]
Although Olympia and the area surrounding it had been directly involved in the war, no community situated in close proximity to the sanctuary raised any claim to independence. Apparently, a subordinate Pisatan community acting as such did not exist, but the war set in motion an important development. According to Xenophon (Hellenica 2.2.31) the idea that the presidency of the Olympic Games belonged to the Eleans by right was questioned, and Sparta considered stripping the Eleans of the presidency, maintaining that the sanctuary did not belong to them in ancient times. This comes as no surprise, since in 420 BCE the Eleans had excluded the Spartans from Olympia. [73] But there is more to it than that. Xenophon says that some people were raising a claim to the presidency against the Eleans, but the Spartans did not trust these rival claimants because they were rustic and would not be competent to preside over the sanctuary. [74] These rival claimants must be the Pisatans, or, more probably, the inhabitants of one or more of the local communities in the district of Olympia: what happened in 364, when the independent state of Pisa and the Arcadians organized the Games, helps explain the meaning of Xenophon’s reference to the “rival claimants.” As James Roy remarked, [75] the pejorative term (khoritai) should not be pressed as evidence of any particular structure in politics or settlement, but the fact that in the area surrounding Olympia no community joined the revolt probably suggests that Sparta’s view of the rival claimants, and their lack of group consciousness or of any sense of political solidarity, are to be seen as two sides of one and the same coin.
Niese maintained that this passage of Xenophon, which is now widely held to be reliable, [76] could not have been written before 364 and that it has to be taken as a late insertion. [77] Indeed, we should allow that Xenophon’ s treatment of the Spartan-Elean war was written after 362, [78] and that this is the reason why some inaccuracies are easily traceable. [79] As for the passage about the rival claimants, it is reasonable to assume that it has been written with hindsight, but I see no strong reason to assume that Xenophon backdated the origins of the quarrel over Olympia in the light of the historical events of the sixties. Therefore, the Spartan-Elean war can be regarded as a fitting historical context for the origins of the quarrel. The claims to the Olympian sanctuary had evidently been triggered by the Spartan intervention and by the liberation of many subordinate allies of the Eleans. It is probable that, given a situation of such unrest, the communities of what became Pisatis began to feel different from the Eleans. So, the crisis of the Elean mini-empire was making way for new identities and new political organizations. It was in those years, it seems, that the idea of questioning the Elean right to control Olympia was emerging for the first time. Moreover, one gets the impression that the Elean right to control Olympia was the burning issue of the first decades of the century. Hippias’ Olumpionikôn anagraphê, probably published at the beginning of the fourth century, strongly affirmed it and projected it back into the past, [80] and we should also assume that pamphlets and logoi like Gorgias’ Olumpikos and Encomium of the Eleans discussed it. [81] Thus, the claims to Olympia raised against the Eleans are to be seen as an integral part of a wider cultural and political context, in which a discussion began to take place that contributed to the formation of a Pisatan group consciousness.

Constructing the Past

As is well known, until recently scholarship used to take for granted that an historical Pisatan tradition dating back at least to the seventh century existed, which the Eleans felt themselves compelled to manipulate. Of course, Elean traditions did exist which presupposed both the Elean presidency of the Olympic Games and the Elean rule over the Pisatans and the neighbouring communities. Probably they were not unlike the tradition reported by Pausanias 6.22.2–4, and should be seen as fiercely hostile to the Pisatans.
It may be useful to compare the other traditions on Elis’ struggle against Pisa for control of Olympia. For both Apollodorus and the ancient chronographic tradition Pisatan control of Olympia was long-lasting. [82] However, once again the Elean rights to Olympia and to Pisatis are taken for granted: the Eleans feature as the founders of the Games, and Pisatan control of the sanctuary is seen as bound to come to an end. As is well known, these traditions bulk large in modern discussions. For it is widely believed that, although we are presented with an Elean reinterpretation of Olympia’s history, reconstruction of the original events is not impossible. The Pisatans would have controlled the sanctuary from time immemorial, then, in the early sixth century, the Eleans would have conquered Pisatis and taken in charge the Olympics; but, in order to provide justification for their conquest, they would have represented themselves as the founders of the Games who had been unlawfully stripped of control of Olympia by the Pisatans.
Now, this view of the traditions we have been discussing so far is based on two assumptions that turn out to be very questionable. The first is that there existed an unchanging Pisatan tradition dating back at least to the seventh century, which the Eleans felt themselves compelled to manipulate. The second is that the Eleans could not deal with the genuine memories which recorded Pisatan control of Olympia before the Elean conquest simply by omitting them. So the Elean tradition could not help but reinterpret the historical situation and the tradition, obviously a Pisatan one, which recorded it.
As for the first assumption, one should admit that, given the Elean conquest of Pisatis in the early sixth century and its incorporation into the Elean state, two centuries later nothing would have prevented the Eleans from disposing of the early Pisatan history of Olympia. As for the existence of genuine Pisatan memories, besides noticing that there are no traces of them whatsoever, one should note that if we envisage them as a local tradition dating back to the archaic age and transmitted by word of mouth, then we must presuppose a “social surface” for that tradition and, as a consequence, an archaic Pisatan community playing an historical role as such. But this view of Elean-Pisatan relations and of the overall character of the alleged Pisatan tradition does not fit the evidence well. For instance, both the early-fifth century grant of Chaladrian citizenship to Deukalion, [83] where Pisa features as a place-name, and the mentions of Pisa in Pindar and Herodotus, [84] do not imply a Pisatan community. If previously an independent Pisatan community had existed, it surely would have left more substantial traces in the historical record.
If this line of argument is right, then we should assume that the temporary Pisatan control of Olympia featuring in these traditions, which take for granted both the Eleans’ right to the sanctuary and the original Elean rule over Pisatis, turns out to be a concession made to the fourth-century Pisatan claims. In other words, it seems probable that we are dealing with an intentional construction of the past whereby the Eleans intended to facilitate the incorporation of the Pisatan polity into the Elean state. From this point of view, it may be useful to pay attention to a whole series of traditions about the mythical and historical past of Olympia which, instead of taking the Pisatans and the Eleans as two conflicting communities, speak of their relationship in conciliatory terms. We should refer at least to the account of the foundation of the Olympic Games by the Spartan Lycurgus, the Elean Iphitos and the Pisatan Cleosthenes [85] and to the story of the Sixteen Women, who settled by arbitration the feud between Eleans and Pisatans. [86] The story of Chamynos, the loyal Pisatan, and of the role played by him in the origins of the sanctuary of Demeter Chamyne is also pertinent, [87] but may be of later origin. We are dealing with narratives which, as Massimo Nafissi remarked, [88] fit well the historical context of the years following the end of Pisatan independence in 362, when we see Olympia under Elean control and the Eleans backing the Spartans. But one should remember that homonoia ('like-minded identification') was a burning issue in those times, [89] and that the Eleans were left with the problem of the Pisatans. They had to be integrated into the Elean political organization, but their newly acquired identity could not be obliterated. Thus, we can suppose that effort was being put in by the Eleans to restructure the past according to the needs of the present. The traditions at issue clearly reflect this effort.
Thus far I have argued on one hand that neither a Pisatan community, nor a Pisatan tradition played a role in the archaic history of Elis; and on the other, that a whole complex of Elean traditions has to be seen within the framework provided by the needs of a rapidly shifting fourth-century horizon. We are left with the problem of how to understand the archaic historical context. There is no space here to discuss the early history of Olympia and of the Alpheios’ valley, both to the north and to the south of the river, but I would surmise that, if the Elean aristocracies of the Peneios’ valley had controlled the Alpheios’ valley from time immemorial, the Elean narratives about the archaic struggles for the presidency of the Olympic Games between Eleans and Pisatans could hardly have been concocted, even at the time of the independent Pisatan state. This is the reason why I am prepared to assume that there is a kernel of truth in such narratives. Perhaps they presuppose dim memories of conflicts between communities of the lower Alpheios’ valley which attached their identity to Olympia, Oinomaos and Salmoneus on one side, and the aristocracies of the Peneios’ valley on the other. As for the Pisatan “tyrants” Pantaleon, Damophon and Pyrrhus, it is impossible to know who they really were. Pantaleon and his son Pyrrhus could be seen as kings, [90] while Pyrrhus’ brother Damophon is labelled as tyrant. [91] Perhaps they cannot be taken as “true” tyrants, [92] but are to be seen as local dynasts who tried to establish a special relationship between the communities of the lower Alpheios’ valley and the Olympian sanctuary. Be that as it may, we cannot in any case take at face value the Elean tradition about the sixth century conquest of Pisatis. The Elean conquest and the archaic Pisatan state are better removed from the historical context.
The case of the Pisatans shows how even in Classical times an ethnic identity and a political community could be created, exist for a while, and then fade away. We are inclined to think that collective identities tend to go back to a receding past, and that, though processes may be at work whereby they become enfeebled for a time, they are bound to re-emerge. Yet this does not hold true for the Greeks. For them, both political organization and corporate identity depended on how communities understood and expressed themselves. Both had to meet the needs of a shifting present, and could be easily modified.
From this point of view, one should not say that the Greeks were in the grip of the past.


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[ back ] 1. Busolt 1878:171–172.
[ back ] 2. See, for instance, Viedebantt 1930.
[ back ] 3. Niese 1910:esp. 27.
[ back ] 4. Beloch, 1912:38n1; Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1922:481.
[ back ] 5. Wade-Gery 1925:544f; Andrewes 1956:62–63.
[ back ] 6. Meyer 1950.
[ back ] 7. Meyer 1950:1749.57–61.
[ back ] 8. See Nafissi 2001; Nielsen 2002:118–119; Roy 2002; Gehrke 2003; Nafissi 2003; Möller 2004; Ruggeri 2004.
[ back ] 9. For a thorough discussion of Pausanias’ account see now Nafissi 2001.
[ back ] 10. See Gehrke 2003; Möller 2004.
[ back ] 11. Davies 1994:200.
[ back ] 12. On Messenian identity see Luraghi 2001 and Luraghi 2002.
[ back ] 13. On the war see Roy 1971 (esp. 593 on the chronological problems), and Roy 1994:203–204.
[ back ] 14. Xenophon Hellenica 7.4.17.
[ back ] 15. Roy 1971:595–596.
[ back ] 16. See Xenophon Hellenica 7.1.44–45; 7.4.4–6, 17, 19–20, 27–29; for Messenia and Sikyon see also the inscription at n. 19 below; for the Pisatans see Diodorus 15.78.2.
[ back ] 17. See Xenophon Hellenica 7.4.28–32 and Diodorus 15.78.2–3 (the discrepancies can be traced back to Diodorus’ source); on Pisatan presidency of the Games see also Pausanias 6.4.2 and 6.22.3.
[ back ] 18. Niese 1910:16; Meyer 1950:1754; Roy 1971:594; Nielsen 2002:118; Ruggeri 2004:178–181, and the references cited there (n. 566). As for the date of Pisatan independence, 365 at the very latest is more probable than 364.
[ back ] 19. The text of the fragmentary decree (SEG 22.339; 29.405) is now to be read in the version of Ringel, Siewert and Taeuber 1999:414–417 (where another fragment is published which had been briefly noted by Mallwitz 1981:99–101; cf. SEG 32.411); see also SEG 49.466A and Ruggeri 2004:159–161.
[ back ] 20. SEG 22.339; 32.411; SEG 49.466B; see now Ringel, Siewert and Taeuber 1999:417–420; Ruggeri 2004:185–186.
[ back ] 21. IvO 36; Syll. 3 171 (cf. Rhodes and Lewis 1997:95 number 36), on which see esp. Perlman 2000:64–65, 175 and Ruggeri 2004:187n603, 188.
[ back ] 22. The Pisatan proxenos should be identified with the Sikyonian stratêgos appointed in 368/7 (Xenophon Hellenica 7.1.44–46 and Diodorus 15.70.3); cf. Perlman 2000:64–65.
[ back ] 23. For a thorough discussion of the Elean hellanodikai, see Ruggeri 2004:46–53.
[ back ] 24. Both in the alliance between Pisa and the Arcadians (n. 19 above, lines 8–9) and of Pisa with Sikyon (n. 19 above, line 10) occur the words damos and politeia with reference to the political regime and the constitutional order of the polis (apparently Pisa). Ringel, Siewert and Taeuber 1999:417 take the word politeia as meaning “oligarchic constitution”: for a good argument against this view, see Ruggeri 2004:160–161, 201–202.
[ back ] 25. Babelon 1901–1914:3.764–68 no. 1180–1182; Seltman 1921:3, 56–58 no. 173–174; Kraay 1976:106 figure 333; Ruggeri 2004:182n582; for a perceptive treatment of iconography see Ritter 2001.
[ back ] 26. Nielsen 2002:119.
[ back ] 27. As Niese 1910:27 and Meyer 1950:1753 maintained.
[ back ] 28. Xenophon Hellenica 7.1.126; see Nielsen 2002:255n126, 263; Ruggeri 2004:42, 140–143.
[ back ] 29. See CEG 824; cf. Pausanias 10.9.5. See Ruggeri’s contribution in the present volume.
[ back ] 30. On Pisos as husband of Arkas’ daughter (Olympia) see Oros in Etymologicum Magnum 623, 16–17. In his Ethnika, Oros (fifth century CE) could still gather reliable mythographical details, drawing on learned late-Hellenistic sources; on Oros see Reitzenstein 1897:322f and Alpers 1981:87–101.
[ back ] 31. On Olympia as personification of the sanctuary see Ritter 2001:92n10.
[ back ] 32. See, for instance, Roy 1971:584 (“Pisatis, including Olympia, became an independent state”); Roy 2000:144; Ruggeri 2004:197.
[ back ] 33. On the geography of Pisatis see Meyer 1950:1736–1744, esp. 1743–1744; Roy 2002; Ruggeri 2004:188–197.
[ back ] 34. Maddoli, Nafissi and Saladino 1999:364–65, 369; Nafissi 2001:307n16; Ruggeri 2004:197.
[ back ] 35. Siewert 1991.
[ back ] 36. See fr. 5 Gaede in Athenaeus 8.346bc; for a thorough discussion of the conceptions of ancient Pisatis advanced by Hellenistic geographers, see Meyer 1950:1739–1743.
[ back ] 37. Meyer 1950:1746.21–25.
[ back ] 38. On the Elean issues featuring Olympia, see Seltman 1921:58 no. 175 and Ritter 2001:91n8.
[ back ] 39. Diodorus 15.78.2.
[ back ] 40. As is well known, eighteenth-century Quellenforschung established that Diodorus’ Greek and Persian narratives of books 11–15 depend on Ephorus; for a brief review of the arguments see Stylianou 1998:49–50.
[ back ] 41. See FGH 416 T 5 in Strabo 8.3.30.
[ back ] 42. FGH IIIb Kommentar zu nr. 297–607 [Text], 234.29–39; [Noten], 149n34.
[ back ] 43. Phlegon of Tralles FGH 257 F 1; cf. Scholia on Plato Republic 465d, p. 230 Greene. As for Phlegon’s information, it is important to remark that besides reflecting the fourth-century Elean and Pisatan diverging traditions on the prehistory of Olympia it bears the traces of other, more “conciliatory” traditions which are apparently influenced by the historical situation of the years following the peace concluded in 363/2: see Nafissi 2001:321 and n. 57; Möller 2004:251f.
[ back ] 44. See Apollodorus of Athens FGH 416 T 5, lines 21–22.
[ back ] 45. See FGH 70 F 115 p. 72, lines 9–12 in Strabo 8.3.33; cf. Polybius 4.73.9–74.1; Diodorus 8.1; 14.17.11. We should not take for granted that Diodorus 14.17.11 ultimately derives from Hippias of Elis (for this view see FGH IIIb [Noten], 144; Bilik 1998–1999:27–28, 35–37); more probably he depends on the Oxyrhinchus Historian (Schepens 2004:46–55). Be that as it may, the holy truce (ekekheiria) should be seen as an Elean invention going back to the Classical age, and possibly to the times of the Spartan-Elean war at the beginning of the fourth century: see FGH 4A 3.1026 F 8a (J. Bollansée), Rigsby 1996:41–44, Bilik 1998–1999:27–28, 35–37.
[ back ] 46. See n. 30 above.
[ back ] 47. See Pausanias 5.17.5–19 for the description of the monument, and 17.9 for Pisos. On Kypselos’ chest see, most recently, Splitter 2000 (esp. 26–27 on Pisos).
[ back ] 48. Splitter 2000:50–51.
[ back ] 49. For the references to the bibliography see Splitter 2000:27n103.
[ back ] 50. For Onomaus, Pelops and Hippodamia on Kypselos’ chest see Pausanias 5.17.7; on their association with Olympia, see n. 57, 62 below.
[ back ] 51. Diodorus 4.68.1; Strabo 8.3.32 C 356; Apollodorus Bibliotheke I 89; Stephanus of Byzantium, v. Σαλμώνη; see also West, 1985:65n76. On Salmoneus see J. Ilberg, ML 4 (1909–15), s. v. and E. Simon, LIMC 7.1, 653–655. On Salmone see Panayotopoulos 1991; Mandl and Ruggeri 2000, and esp. Roy 2002:237.
[ back ] 52. See Ephorus FGH 70 F 115 p. 71.l.27, which makes Salmoneus the king of Epeians and Pisatans who was responsible for Aitolus’ flight from Elis to Aetolia; this implies the Elean origin of Aitolus and is to be seen, then, as an integral part of a local Elean tradition on which Ephorus drew (see Gehrke 2003).
[ back ] 53. West 1985:142–143.
[ back ] 54. Pausanias 5.17.9; 6.22.2.
[ back ] 55. Scholia on Theocritus 4.29–30b (cf. Pausanias 4.2.2).
[ back ] 56. Möller 2004:259.
[ back ] 57. See Howie 1991; Kyrieleis 1997. On Oinomaos at Olympia, see Pausanias 5.14.7; 20.6–7.
[ back ] 58. Pindar Olympian 1.70; cf. Strabo 8.3.31 C 356; Diodorus 4.73.1; Pausanias 5.1.6; 5.20.6.
[ back ] 59. Pausanias 6.21.8; Dyspontion too was founded by Oinomaos’ son Dysponteus (Pausanias 6.22.4; but he is a son of Pelops in Stephanus of Byzantium 245.12–246.2).
[ back ] 60. Pausanias 6.21.9.
[ back ] 61. Pausanias 6.21.7.
[ back ] 62. Pausanias 6.21.7.
[ back ] 63. Diodorus 4.73.1.
[ back ] 64. On the Olympic ritual for Pelops (Pindar Olympian 1.90–93; Pausanias 5.13.1) see Slater 1989 and Krummen 1990:158–168; for his role as founder of Olympia and of the Olympic Games see Pindar Olympian 1.24, 94f; Pausanias 5.8.2; Phlegon FGH 257 F 1, 6; cf. Lee 2001:48–51.
[ back ] 65. On Pelops’ remains in Pisa see Pausanias 5.13.4 (cf. 6.21.1: Pelops had ruled over the Pisatans). For Pelops’ association with other communities see Pausanias 6.22.1 (his remains in Harpina); Lycophron 53–54; Pausanias 6.22.6 (one of the sons of Pelops as founder of Letrinoi).
[ back ] 66. Hall 1997:19.
[ back ] 67. See Smith 1986:22–31, discussed, most recently, by Hall 1997:25 and Nielsen 2002:48–50.
[ back ] 68. Nora 1984–1992. As is well known, the crucial relevance of space for group memory has been pointed out by Maurice Halbwachs (Halbwachs 1941; Halbwachs 1950:130–167) and is now seen as one of the most important features of cultural memory (Assmann 1992:1.3.3).
[ back ] 69. Xenophon Hellenica 3.2.21–31; Diodorus 14.17.4–12; 34.1–2; Pausanias 3.8.3–5; see Sordi 1984a; 1984b; Unz 1986; Bultrighini 1990:232f; Tuplin 1993:183f; 201–205 (esp. on chronological problems), and, most recently, Schepens 2004.
[ back ] 70. Xenophon Hellenica 3.2.25
[ back ] 71. Xenophon Hellenica 3.2.30 (for a good discussion of the textual problems see Nafissi 2003:26n31).
[ back ] 72. Cartledge 1987:353.
[ back ] 73. Thucydides 5.49–50, on which see esp. Roy 1998 and Hornblower 2000, who plausibly argues that the Spartans were not excluded for the two decades after 420, and that they were readmitted shortly before the Olympic year 416. Be that as it may, “it is entirely plausible that the Spartans should have long resented even a short-term ban which had been lifted many years previously” (Hornblower 2000:223n27).
[ back ] 74. Xenophon Hellenica 3.2.31: οἱ δὲ Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοῦ μέντοι προεστάναι τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ Ὀλυμπίου ἱεροῦ, καίπερ οὐκ ἀρχαίου Ἠλείοις ὄντος, οὐκ ἀπήλασαν αὐτούς [scil. τοὺς Ἠλείους], νομίζοντες τοὺς ἀντιποιουμένους χωρίτας εἶναι καὶ οὐχ ἱκανοὺς προεστάναι.
[ back ] 75. Roy 2002:240.
[ back ] 76. Sordi 1984a:157f; Bultrighini 1990:239, 243; Roy 1997:283 and n. 13; Roy 2002:240; Ruggeri 2004:26, 190; Möller 2004:261.
[ back ] 77. Niese 1910:11n5, 44.
[ back ] 78. Tuplin 1993:29f; Dillery 1995:12f
[ back ] 79. Nafissi 2003:31.
[ back ] 80. FGH IIIb Kommentar zu Nr. 297–607 [Text], 222.15–18; [Noten], 144–145n10.
[ back ] 81. FGH IIIb Kommentar zu Nr. 297–607 [Text], 222.18–20; [Noten], 145n11.
[ back ] 82. See Apollodorus of Athens FGH 416 T 5. 28–31 (“After the twenty-sixth Olympiad, when they had got back their home-land, the Pisatans themselves went to celebrating the Games … But in later times Pisatis again fell into the power of the Eleans, and thus again the direction of the Games fell to them”) and (Africanus) Eusebius Chronicle I 194f Schoene [92 Karst] = FGH 416 T 5ab (the Pisatans had charge of the Olympic Games from the thirtieth to the fifty-second Olympiad [572 BCE]).
[ back ] 83. IvO 11 = van Effenterre and Ruzé 1994, number 21 (500–475 BCE: Jeffery 19902:220 no. 8); for a good discussion of the problems involved, see, most recently, Nafissi 2003:43–44.
[ back ] 84. Cf. Herodotus 2.7.1–2 and Pindar Olympian 1.18, 2.3, 3.9, 6.5, 8.9, 10.43, 13.29, 14.23; Nemean 10.32; Parthenia 2.49 Snell-Maehler.
[ back ] 85. Aristotle fr. 533 Rose in Plutarch Lycurgus 1.2; Phlegon FGH 257 F 1; Pausanias 5.20.1; see Nafissi 2001:309–310, Nafissi 2003:33.
[ back ] 86. Pausanias 5.16.5.
[ back ] 87. Pausanias 6.21.1.
[ back ] 88. Nafissi 2001:318–321, Nafissi 2003:33–34, 37.
[ back ] 89. Cf. the inscription (IvO 260: Ƒαλείων περὶ ỏμονοίαρ) on the base of a huge statue of Zeus dedicated by the Eleans at Olympia (Pausanias 5.24.4), and the reference to homonoia in Phlegon’s account of the origins of the Olympic Games (FGH 257 F 1; Scholia on Plato Republic 465d, p. 230 Greene); for a discussion of the historical situation and the ideological issues involved see Nafissi 2001:321 and n. 57, Ruggeri 2004:198–200.
[ back ] 90. Pausanias 6.22.2,4, and Heraclides Lembus Excerpta Politiarum 21.1–3 Dilts (Pantaleon).
[ back ] 91. Pausanias 5.16.5.
[ back ] 92. As now De Libero 1996:220–222 sees them.