Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography

  Parmegianni, Giovanni. 2014. Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography. Hellenic Studies Series 64. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

11. Local History, Polis History, and the Politics of Place

Rosalind Thomas

The Greek polis was, as we all know, the central and abiding socio-political institution of the Greek world, continuing in the Hellenistic period and even into Roman times, but with vastly reduced political power. Yet it was inherently changeable in ways which make the identification of what constituted ‘the polis’ extraordinarily elusive; even identifying whether such and such a place was really a ‘polis’ is sometimes difficult, as the deliberations of the Copenhagen Polis Centre have shown. Stasis was common throughout the Greek world in the fifth and fourth centuries. Aristotle’s manner of identifying the polis with its citizens even led him to ask whether a given polis would remain the same polis if its constitution was radically changed (Politics 3.3.1276b). The fourth century, our theme here, saw radical changes in the relative political roles and positions of the major city-states. [1] Those city-states all had to readjust to a changed image and sense of importance in the Greek world; fourth-century theories about the ideal polis imply considerable anxiety about the polis and a disjuncture with the changing realities of the Greek world.

One way of following the development of these numerous poleis would be to trace the evolution of what is conventionally known as ‘local history’ and what it is about a polis’ past that the local historians think worthy of narration. [2] The genre of ‘local history’ was mostly written by citizens within the city-state they examined; when we are in a position to judge, they tend to be written by apparently prominent and politically active citizens, sometimes men with office, priesthoods and a prominent public role who might combine diplomatic activity with historical lectures (e.g. in Athens, Androtion, Philochorus, Phanodemos; {239|240} Semos of Delos (below); Syriscos of Cherronesos), though we should also not forget the travelling historians. [3] Cults, cultic peculiarities, important shrines, and local legends were a common element of local histories; so was much else. It is likely from everything else we know about the Greeks that their ‘local histories’ might have striven to differ from those of their neighbors, and their local emphasis likewise. Above all, though, we can dwell on the fact—and surely it is a fact—that writing down a history of a particular polis was a major step in cementing or crystallizing a particular vision of that polis, its past and therefore its present character, its ‘identity’. Whatever memories and local knowledge had existed before in people’s minds, traditions and memories vaguely passed down, and everyday habits, the sheer fact of having a written polis history will have done something to create a new entity.

We should, in short, consider these local histories in terms of political, social, or cultural changes in the Greek world and in individual city-states, and not simply in terms of the internal development of the genre of historiography (whether in methodological or literary terms). ‘Local history’ is conventionally and under Jacoby’s authoritative aegis seen in terms of what history-writing had achieved before. Jacoby insisted that local history came after Herodotus and that it was in some vague way a response to the ‘grand history’ of the Greek struggle against Persia, the cities either correcting Herodotus, or trying to insert themselves into the historical record; or else because Hecataeus, Herodotus, and Hellanikos “roused the historical sense and interest” of these writers in their own home towns. [4] Yet if we rely on Plutarch’s attempt to undermine Herodotus’ account of the Persian Wars in the De Malignitate, he does not seem to have found so much material in the local historians that was either very extensive or that really undermined Herodotus’ account in any serious way (cf. Lysanias of Mallos’ history of Eretria, 861c, Naxian horographoi, 869b [5] ): one wonders whether that was really all he could find. Besides, the debate has inevitably been couched in terms of the question of the priority of Herodotus and the particularly shadowy early writers of the fifth century about which we know very little. While that is not uninteresting, it detracts attention from the great mass of later local {240|241} historians and the possibility that their writings had other routes, other causes of momentum than the presence of Herodotus. Most local historians spent their energies in other directions than (solely) the Persian Wars, and one suspects that the Greek city-states were too important to their citizens for them to have to wait to insert their historiography into wider developments of the genre. It is very striking that the vast mass of polis histories or local histories belong to the fourth century (possibly the late fourth century) and third centuries BCE. The appearance of the Athenian Atthides from ca. 350 BCE onward, with Kleidemos the first Athenian Atthidographer, then, is not surprisingly late, but absolutely conventional. The study of these histories as a mass phenomenon raises very interesting questions about the relation of history-writing to contemporary perceptions of the Greek poleis’ place in the world.

Some numbers give an idea of the scale of the phenomenon. There is an initial question of how you count the writers of local history. As everyone knows who has used Jacoby’s Fragmente, his organization of the historians into categories and volumes reflecting their main interests and the overall development of historiography (in his view) can lead to some distortion, the artificial separation of sub-genres, and the separation of individual writers across volumes. [6] Hellanikos of Lesbos thus appears under several FGH numbers (4, 323a, 601a, 687a), but most historians are listed in the volume and with an appropriate number that reflects their main historical output (as Jacoby saw it). Thus Charon of Lampsakos, who wrote a Horoi of Lampsakos, is number 262 in part III A, which is devoted to writers who wrote on several cities, while the interesting list of historians who wrote on the Black Sea, an extension of the Greek world, or any of its Greek cities, is relegated to the end of volume III C, which deals (effectively) with marginal or non-Greek areas, and the FGH numbers in the 800’s. Any arrangement will have its problems, of course: the important point to make here is that volume III B, numbers 297–607, just over 300 writers, does not include writers of local or polis history who wrote some other form of history and have a first home and number in another Jacoby volume. Nor does it include Aristotle’s Politeiai, nor the large scattering of histories of cities or areas which are not considered central and which are listed in Part III C (including Macedonia and Cyprus, as well as India). In the Register I have made to clarify this, the works listed in Part III B alone (even if their author is not necessarily given a III B number), in other words the number of works treating local history in some way, is nearly 500 (in fact this includes most of the works listed in III A, writers who wrote on several cities). The precise number is 496, though inevitably this will include a few dubious authors; it includes the Aristotelian politeiai {241|242} as listed in Jacoby, but not the works in III C, which admittedly raise almost insuperable category problems. [7] Ephorus is a good example: he wrote a history of Kyme, but is listed as FGH 70, and the scarce attestations to his Kymean history are only cited in that volume.

But this brings us to another problem with ‘local history’, which in the scholarship can take on very different guises according to the way it is approached (not unlike the polis itself). [9] It is the ugly duckling of Greek historiography: it is identified with Horoi and ‘horography’ by Jacoby, Fornara, and others, and therefore seen as a genre of dull lists in chronicle form, a year by year treatment. [10] In fact, works with the title Horoi are remarkably rare, and the fragments of both Horoi and other local histories that we still have attest lively, often rather ‘Herodotean’ stories and anecdotes. One of the most vivid and tantalizing is perhaps the story of the dancing horses of Cardia, found in Charon of Lampsakos (FGH 262 F 1): Cardia is on the opposite side of the Hellespont to Lampsakos, and the story involved war between Cardia and Bisaltae, which is to the west of the River Strymon. The story tells of a Bisaltian barber in Cardia, who gets to {242|243} know the local Cardian music and passes it back to Bisaltae: the trick is adopted by the Bisaltian attackers of playing the favorite tunes of the Cardian horses as they attacked. Cardian horses could dance, and this therefore produced terrible havoc in the Cardian ranks. Quite how this featured in Charon’s Horoi of Lampsakos is unclear, but feature it obviously did, and we need to accommodate this in any vision we might have of ‘horography’. Thus whether or not Horoi did indeed attempt chronicle-like treatments, they may have been only a sub-genre of local history, and the attested fragments indicate at the very least that this did still allow varied, amusing stories, folktales, and other material quite unsusceptible to strict chronicle form. [11]

Dionysius of Halicarnassus remarked on the stylistic monotony (monoeideis) and the chronological framework of local histories in Roman Antiquities 1.8.3. But on closer inspection it turns out that he was referring specifically to the ‘chronicles’ (ταῖς χρονικαῖς) produced by authors of the Atthis as monoeideis and tedious to the hearers. [14] Elsewhere, in his essay on Thucydides, Dionysius says that writers on ethne and poleis included ancient stories, myths and stories of peripeteiai that now seem foolish. But, he continues, their style was “clear, ordinary (koinen), pure, concise, appropriate to the narrative,” and they had a charm (charis) which was why they still survived:

λέξιν τε ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ τὴν αὐτὴν ἅπαντες ἐπιτηδεύσαντες . . . τὴν σαφῆ καὶ κοινὴν καὶ καθαρὰν καὶ σύντομον καὶ τοῖς πράγμασι προσφυῆ καὶ μηδεμίαν σκευωρίαν ἐπιφαίνουσαν τεχνικήν: ἐπιτρέχει μέντοι τις ὥρα τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτῶν καὶ χάρις. {243|244}

. . .mostly employing the same diction . . . clear, normal, pure and concise, appropriate to the narrative and without any rhetorical embellishment. A certain grace and beauty suffuse their works.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus On Thucydides 5

This was a remark on the historians he thought early, especially the supposedly ‘pre-Thucydidean historians’, and scholars may argue about the relative dating or his accuracy; since, however, he had more text in front of him than we do, and he was talking about those who wrote on ethne and poleis, we should probably take this seriously as a testimony to some aspect of the genre’s content and style, whatever their date. It fits with the strictures of Polybius about most types of history except his own (below). And slightly later (On Thucydides 7) Dionysius says of those who wrote “tribal or local histories” (ἐθνικὰς καὶ τοπικὰς ἐκφέροντες ἱστορίας) that when they came across fictional stories (τῶν μυθικῶν . . . πλασμάτων) carefully told and handed down, they could not bear to leave them out: they were regarded too fondly to be omitted (cf. also On Thucydides 23).

But polis history is above all about people and place with an intense interest in locality: this is best pursued by looking more closely at the histories of particular areas. I turn now to some particularly revealing case studies to examine more closely the variety and local significance of ‘local history’: we will examine Delos as a fascinating case where local history-writing seems to reflect local independence and pride; and the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, Ephesus, Miletus, and (briefly) Chios where we seem to find a mass of lively and mutually contradictory tales of origins which raise important questions about the role of polis histories.

1. Delos

Delos, sacred island of Apollo, was an important cult centre and polis during the archaic and classical period but it had a checkered political history. [18] Its more prosperous neighbour Naxos adorned its sanctuary, without necessarily controlling it. Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, intervened in the late sixth century, but afterwards Delos fell increasingly under the sway of Athens. It was purified by Peisistratos, and then again in 426 by the Athenians, who three years later felt it necessary to remove the entire population of Delians from the island on the grounds of some offence and pollution (Thucydides 5.1). They were ordered by Delphi to return the Delians to Delos in 421, and we are told the Athenians did this (Thucydides 5.32.1). But one wonders how many Delians did actually return, since Thucydides in Book 8 tells us almost accidentally that while they were relocated to Atramyttium in the Northern Troad, on an invitation from the Persians, a Persian played a trick on the men. He invited the leading men to dinner and had them all killed (Thucydides 8.108.2). One wonders about continuity of traditions and knowledge in these circumstances—circumstances of relocation, dislocation, and then disappearance of the leaders. After this, so far as we can make out, the Athenians controlled the sanctuary again during 394–314, and some nasty incidents occurred (they perhaps did not control the polis in a formal sense, but in a three-mile island dominated by the shrine it is doubtful how independent the Delians could really be). A short period of independence {245|246} in 404–394 is signalled by an enigmatic inscription partly in Laconian and partly in Attic/Ionic (Rhodes and Osborne no. 3). [19] Then in 314, Antigonus created the League of Islanders, and Delos was at least nominally independent during 314–166 BCE. Benefactors and kings lavished buildings and offerings upon the island, and there was recurring Antigonid, Ptolemaic, and Rhodian activity.

This tiny island was treated by Herodotus and Thucydides with reverence when its activities impinged on the wider Greek world: compare the famous contradictory remarks of both about what was supposedly the ‘first’ and only earthquake on Delos, a portent of disaster—Herodotus putting it at the beginning of the Persian wars, Thucydides at the start of the Peloponnesian War (Herodotus 6.98.1, shaken after Datis’ visit; Thucydides 2.8). But Delos actually had several local historians, both Athenian and Delian, who concentrated upon Delos in her own right.

The best known was Semos of Delos (FGH 396) who wrote eight books on Delos and who was widely consulted by later authors, including (fortunately for us) Athenaeus. He was dated to ca. 230/200 BCE by Jacoby, with the help of local inscriptions. As Bertelli points out in the Brill New Jacoby, confirming previous identifications, he is most likely to be the Semos (II) mentioned in Delian inscriptions as epistates in 229, owing a debt in 207, and dead by 201/200 BCE. A terminus post quem of 250 BCE is given by F 9, and thus his floruit lies securely in the second half of the third century. [20] Phanodikos was also a Delian (FGH 397) and relatively late. Deinarchos of Delos (FGH 399), of whom little is known, was dated by Jacoby to the late fourth century. Before Semos, in addition, there was a Politeia of Aristotle, around the mid-fourth century. A group of Athenian writers was also listed by Jacoby, but Philochorus is the only one securely attested as writing specifically on Delos: his work would have been late fourth century or early third century (his dates are ca. 340–263 BCE). [21] He also wrote works on divination, sacrifices, and much else. An Antikleides of Athens also wrote a Deliaka (FGH 140 F 2, date unknown). Two or three shadowy epic poets wrote on Delos, one early enough to be cited in Aristotle’s Poetics (FGH 398, from Andros). Another Andrian poet was honored and praised by the Delians in an inscription for writings “about the temple and the polis of the Delians and the myths of the land (τοὺς μύθου[ς] τοὺς ἐ[π]ιχωρίους).” This can be dated by letter forms to the first half of the third century. [22] {246|247}

It is tempting, then, to see Athenian political and religious interest in Delos as mirrored in the beginnings of Athenian ‘historical’ works about the island: when Athens had a large stake in Delos, Athenians wrote about it, perhaps appropriating it on some level. With the island’s independence from 314, it started to honor poets who wrote about it, and to produce its own local historians. The appearance of polis history for Delos seems to symbolize and reflect the growth of Delos as an entirely self-generating and upstanding polis. This is most clear from the overall pattern of authors, and from Semos of Delos.

Even from the fragments and testimonia, Semos of Delos is a fascinating and serious writer. He had much to say about Delian place names, nearby islands, special Delian words, sacrifices, and different kinds of bronze tripods (F 16, the kind of erudite detail loved by the Deipnosophists). He described the local cult of Brizo, the interpreter of dreams on Delos, who was honored by Delian women with offerings in miniature boats (F 4), details of particular local festivals (F 14, F 5), and of course the great offerings including the beautiful golden drinking bowl (hedypotis) dedicated by a local Delian woman, Echenike (F 9; also F 18). He offered a special Delian claim on the origin of the musical instrument called the phoinix (F 1). There are hints of local stories connected with wider Aegean history, such as a tale about fish being found in the lustral water when some Athenians visited, an extraordinary sign which clearly predicted their maritime supremacy (F 12). [23] Semos also had much to say about different kinds of music and song (F 11; cf. F 23 and F 24 supposed to be from On Paians). There are two stories that indicate the story-telling aspect of Semos’ work. Plutarch tells a story not expressly attributed to Semos, concerning some exiled Delians who were told by Delphi to find the place of Apollo’s birth, and to make a sacrifice there. As good Delians, they thought they knew the answer, but hanging around in Chaironeia one day, they found to their surprise that Tegyra also claimed to be the place of Apollo’s birth—and all ended happily. [24]

Impressed by Semos’ learning and erudition, Jacoby guessed that he must have been educated in Alexandria. He took the Suda’s remark that he wrote also on Pergamon to indicate that he must have been a third-century writer. But it is not clear that this must make him a late third-century writer. [26] In his recent study, Lanzillotta was more impressed by Semos’ affinity with, or rather, what he called ‘the influence of’, the Atthidographers. [27] There is a danger, however, that this becomes a circular argument. Semos’ detailed knowledge of local cult and customs looks like Alexandrian erudition and Hellenistic antiquarianism from afar when it is unfamiliar. But for a prominent citizen actually living in this strange boot-shaped island amidst larger predatory Greek rulers, such details could surely have had a different significance. Such stories and details were easily ascertainable if someone wished to do so. Probably many Delians knew some or much of this, or thought they could if they ever needed to know. We do not know, unfortunately, how far Semos (or the others) dealt with the tangled political history of Delos polis, let alone the wider currents of international activity swirling around it, Ptolemaic or Rhodian actions in the Aegean. But from what we have seen, it seems plausible to think of him as writing up or recording the dedications, places, cults, customs, and traditions of his homeland from a familiar standpoint of a fellow citizen, rather than some strange erudite oddity bringing his foreign tastes back home. [28]

It is tempting, then, to suspect a combination of local pride, sheer love of polis, and a determination to record traditions, dedications, and cults before they might disappear, to set in writing the critical elements which were part of Delos’ religious identity at a time of continuing powerlessness in the wider world. Perhaps an act of memorialization and nostalgia combined. Perhaps a product of self-absorption in the period of ‘independence’ as an act both of defiance to outside powers and of self-advertisement to persuade them to treat the Delians with respect. The two might be intimately connected. The very act of writing a work on Delos was a statement of self-assertion.

2. Ionia and the Greek Cities of Asia Minor.

It is difficult to know how much of this messy recent history was treated by polis historians of Ionia, but what is clear in the extant testimony is an intense preoccupation with origins and foundation myths, and it is these we concentrate upon here. They are particularly interesting because the remaining fragments have much to do with intermarriage and mixtures of peoples, and we might guess that their situation on the edge of the Persian empire and larger non-Greek areas of Anatolia gave particular urgency and piquancy to their stories of Greek origin. It reminds us forcefully that such a preoccupation with remote stories of origin was not a feature of Herodotus’ time and Histories which then went out of fashion. More than this, however, it gives us a glimpse of non-Athenian poleis’ views of their own origins, stories that are sometimes very surprising. The fragments, and indeed the whole topic of these cities’ ‘origins’ are immensely complicated, and we can only examine a fraction of the material here (we will also have to consider versions not strictly attested in local historians but very probably related to their versions). I wish to take each city separately (Ephesus and Miletus especially), since this is most illuminating, and to make no attempt to combine the different and often incompatible accounts that exist even for a single city.

Let us take Ephesus first: there are several versions of ktisis from various authors that suggest political anxiety and rivalry in claiming origins between Athenian (or Athens-based) writers and the Ionians themselves.

But we may note the idea that a single, separated group founded Ephesus, and that they had difficulties at first. In other traditions about the Ionian colonization we get the impression of a single large expedition for the whole of Ionia. In Pherecydes of Athens from the early fifth century, paraphrased by Strabo, Carians and Leleges lived in the land first of all, then “Androcles, legitimate son of Codrus king of Athens, was the leader of the Ionian colonization . . . and he became the founder of Ephesus” (FGH 3 F 155, from Strabo 14.1.3). For Hellanikos, in the late fifth century, Neleus the son of Codrus founded the 12 cities (FGH 4 FF 48, 125). This sounds like the version favorable to Athens and her fifth-century claims to the Ionian cities of Asia as colonies of hers.

The various stories about the ktisis of Ephesus imply strongly that the citizens of Ephesus maintained—and continued to develop—their own tales of foundation, tales that were tied precisely to the prominent buildings and natural landmarks of the place. Each area probably had a story. The grand legend of Ionian colonists all setting out from Athens had given Athens a suitable prominence in Ionian history and assumed a neat linear line from Athens, but these are contradicted by the traditions propagated by the Ionian cities themselves (and quite how Herodotus fits in with his claim that the Ionians were expelled from Achaea by the Achaeans [1.145] is unclear). We have just seen four different versions of the founding of Ephesus, one with Androcles as leader of the whole expedition (Pherecydes), one with Neleus as founder of all 12 cities (Hellanikos), {252|253} one claiming foundation by Samian slaves (Malakos), and the story narrated by Kreophylos from Ephesus itself, of the founders as a group.

Pausanias is a relatively late source: we do not know which local historians he used here, and he may well have used later transformations of the traditions, as well as early poets (this is a question which needs more attention). But in the late seventh century Mimnermus of Colophon retold the tale of the ktisis of Smyrna as a direct journey straight from Pylos in the southwest Peloponnese to Colophon, and then on to Smyrna; in other words, with no sojourn in Athens (F 9 W = Strabo 14.1.4). This at least makes clear that the fifth-century version of the Athens-based colonization of Ionia was not the sole or canonical version even then. It is, of course, another version of the founding of Smyrna that we may contrast with the Ephesian story in Strabo mentioned above. And Pausanias disagreed with Pindar’s (evidently at least fifth-century) claim, that the sanctuary of Artemis at Ephesus was founded by Amazons (Pausanias 7.2.6–9).

Ion of Chios was paraphrased at length by Pausanias, and his account of Chios centred upon the founder Oinopion: this founder, whose name conveniently hints at Chios’ claims to viticulture, seems to be no relation to Codrus and indeed is expressly said to come from Crete, as do his sons (Ion FGH 392 F 1 {253|254} = Pausanias 7.4.8). [41] Ion of Chios also told of waves of Carians and Abantes from Euboia coming to Chios; Amphiklos came from Euboia, and his great-grandson Hector, also king, slaughtered or expelled the Carians and Abantes. Under Hector they united with the Ionians at the Panionion. As Pausanias puts it, Ion does not explain how the Chians were allowed to join the Ionians and sacrifice at the Panionion. Thus, the complications of many sets of Greeks in the years of the establishment of Chios appear early in the traditions. [42] Strabo, however, had a completely different version, or rather two versions: citing Menecrates of Elaea, he claimed that the whole Ionian coast was inhabited initially by Pelasgians, but that the Chians say that the Pelasgians from Thessaly were their founders, then Ionians came to Asia, and the Pelasgians disappeared (13.3.3): in Book 14, he talks of Leleges driven out by the Chians, here following Pherecydes of Athens (early fifth century); apparently still following Pherecydes, he declares that Chios was founded by Egertios, “with a mixed crowd” (14.1.3). The version of Ion of Chios cannot have been much later, yet it is totally incompatible; the tomb of Oinopion long visible at Chios (Pausanias 7.5.13; cf. Theopompus FGH 115 F 276) and the inscribed list of “those who came with Oinopion” and Oinopion’s wives, suggests that this was the abiding local tradition. [43] Where does this leave us? With a host of invented traditions of community, and yet traditions which also imply struggle and conflict, expulsions, and no clear Ionian fraternity from the start. Barbarian Leleges and Pelasgians, Greeks, Euboians, Cretans: there seem to be layers and layers of symbolic relationships between Chios and various other parts of the Greek and non-Greek world interwoven in these traditions, and no single version.

Miletus’ foundation traditions have a similarly potent mixture, and are almost impossibly complicated. Herodotus knew of the tradition that Miletus was founded by Neleus, son of the Athenian King Codrus. This is implied by his remark at 1.146.2–3 about those setting out from the Athenian prytaneion being the true Ionians, but that they killed the men whose Carian wives or daughters they then married: “and this happened at Miletus.” He also later remarks about “Philistos . . . following Neleus son of Codrus to found Miletus” (9.97). But he also said, of course, that Neleus and his party married the wives and daughters of the men they killed (1.146.2-3), which seems to be pointing deliberately at the mixture of peoples involved in the eventual creation of these Ionian cities. The collective Milesian traditions in Pausanias have a strong Cretan element {254|255} (FGH 496 F 2, from Pausanias: “the Milesians themselves say,” surely indicating local Milesian historians): Miletus was originally called Anactoria after Anax, an autochthonous ruler, and his son Asterios. Then Miletos (a man) arrived from Crete and took the city, and Cretans and Carians lived together (it is interesting that an elaboration in Nicander of Colophon gave an exposure story for the baby Miletos who was nourished by wolves). [44] We may note here the merging of the ethnic origin of the ruler with that of the inhabitants, and the significant vagueness about the mixture as waves of inhabitants of (apparently) quite different ethnicities take over one after the other. Then, Pausanias continues, the Ionians took over, killing the entire male population and marrying their wives (Pausanias 7.2.3).

It is easy to say that these traditions are part of each city’s identity. But what kind of identity? Or, more precisely, what kind of identity in different periods (and to different writers)? These local historians seem to offer a picture of varied origins for the Ionian cities, and a checkered settlement history: it is one that is surprisingly similar to Herodotus’ wry comment that the 12 Ionian cities did in fact originate from very many places, Abantes from Euboia, Minyans, Kadmeians, etc., and not just from Achaea: ἄλλα τε ἔθνεα πολλὰ ἀναμεμίχαται (1.146.1). Even those thought most noble, he added, starting from the Athenian prytaneion, took Carian wives (1.146.2–3). Herodotus’ comment seems at first to be a jibe at Ionian pretensions to Ionian purity and status, but in that case it is then surprising that the local historians of such cities produced similar images. It cannot really be the case that they were still uncritically peddling a Herodotean account simply because it was there already—that assumes a totally passive attitude to previous writings and the central question of each city’s origins. The most economical interpretation is that the citizens of the Ionian cities simply held similar views themselves and continued to do so for several generations later: they had traditions which embraced the complexity and the local historians crystallized this in literary form. Herodotus’ implied critique may rather have been aimed at Athenian claims to have a monopoly of the ‘Ionian migration’ than at the Ionians’ own claims. [49] {256|257}

Indeed one can suggest that the Ionian cities perpetuated the traditions that they themselves originated from layers of different peoples for several reasons: in part they were not (or were no longer) attracted by the idea of single Athenian origin after the fifth century, when the loss of the Athenian empire made that version both less attractive and less necessary. A second suggestion is that their very make-up and geographical situation meant that they were living cheek by jowl with Carians, Lydians, Lycians (cf. Herodotus 1.147.1, mentioning Lycian kings descended from Glaukos son of Hippolochos). They had to explain through legend how the political dominance of the Greek speakers had emerged, for example by Ionians coming and killing or expelling Leleges, Carians, and others. The importance of Amazons as founders or original inhabitants of some cities (see Blok, above) brings out clearly and symbolically their recognition of the indigenous female contributions. Thirdly, they also reflect the communal need to explain through narrative how they all came to be Ionians, the 12 special cities, and how they came together in the Panionion. The interlocking myths and legends of rivalries, and of oikist groups moving from one area to another seem to create an image of conflict, the overcoming of difficulties, mutual accusations of siding too much with the non-Greeks, perhaps even heroic struggle. This would be politically useful or powerful as a charter myth for Greeks holding tight to the edge of a non-Greek-speaking continent. The combination of early poetic treatments of ktisis and rich local histories in prose imply elevated, even heroic, treatments of these origins. The links with different parts of the Greek world other than Athens could then go on to facilitate alliances and contacts with many other places. But the heroic forging of ‘Ionia’ out of these conflicts between Greeks and between Greeks and Carians or Leleges or Cretans, would no doubt be a powerful charter myth for the Panionion. One can well see how it was that Ionian Greeks of Asia produced early histories of ‘Ionia’ and of their cities. It would have been all the more necessary during the fourth century of Persian rule of the mainland of Asia.

3. Some Conclusions

The vast numbers and geographical spread of polis– and local-histories in the fourth century and later demands a political-cultural explanation that rises above the internal literary developments of the genre of historiography. Yet individual case studies seem to show a diversity in content and emphases which must also reflect the rivalries between neighboring city-states, played out in their differing sources of pride and identity. Delos’ powerful cultic role in the Greek world was celebrated by its historians particularly in its period of independence, and this late independence gave room for what we must call an overflowing of local patriotism. The tangled web of stories of origin and foundation of the poleis of the Ionians seems by contrast to tell a tale (or rather many tales) of struggle and interaction between Greeks of many different origins and the Anatolian peoples already there; and it is significant that such tales continue to be told for generations.

To call this antiquarianism seems to beg the question—this is not really an answer, but rather a categorization that implies an explanation. This type of historiography does not offer or partake of the grand march of international Greek history, but in the fourth and third century there could be many sensible reasons to reject that: compare the aporia of Xenophon at the end of his Hellenika, faced with the collapse of the world order he knew. Successive hegemonies could perhaps engender historiographical indifference to the tradition of the grand Greek narrative. Individual poleis and their customs and history seem to have become an acceptable topic for written literature, indeed a much sought after topic in the fourth century and later. Ancient history and present day cults could all be useful in diplomacy, inter-polis relations, and relations with the kings. There is also a large element of simple escapism and local patriotism, even nostalgia. The loving enumeration of Delian cults and the traditions of place seems to testify to simple love of homeland as well as to the international or diplomatic uses of such tradition. There were, after all, other possible routes in historiography not taken here: for example elaborate family histories, {258|259} histories of grand houses and their families, a genre familiar in English history, and other sub-genres which were also divisive. These local histories of the Greek world are, it seems, mostly about community and unity: they are community building. In the Ionian cities, the conflicts and struggles are in the remote past, part of the story of how they came to be as they were now. This could be vitally important in an era of violence, stasis, external interference from greater powers, successor wars—and the need to impress a powerful overlord. When the present and future were so uncertain, origins and one’s own polis could be more comforting, an area of familiar certainty. Origins would be even more useful and reassuring when the future posed real threats. But the ‘polis’ being presented here is a different kind of polis from the more political animal of the mid and late fifth century. The origin tales gave literary and concrete form to the idea of an imagined community that fed both interest in the remote past and a need to foster the sense of polis in the present. {259|}


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[ back ] 1. For discussion of the question of ‘polis decline’, see for instance Pečirka 1976, Davies 1995, and Eder 1995.

[ back ] 2. As Schepens 2001 makes clear.

[ back ] 3. See most recently Chaniotis 2009 on particular travelling envoys/historians; Chaniotis 1988:290-326 and esp. 365-382 for itinerant historians honoured in decrees, and ‘wandering historians’; Schepens 2006 for a wider perspective, and Clarke 2008:346–354, 360–367.

[ back ] 4. Jacoby 1949:68–70 with 289nn110–111; Jacoby 1909; cf. Jacoby 1954:1f. (‘Introduction’ to Hellanikos). Critique in Fornara 1983:16–22 (stressing the scientific spirit of late 5th century), although cf. Fowler 1996:62–69, arguing that local history as a genre did predate Herodotus. Contrast the stimulating and very different approach of Ambaglio 1998 and 2001.

[ back ] 5. More extensive defence of the Thebans against Herodotus’ account of Thermopylae, chapters 31–33, 864c–867b: perhaps derived from Aristophanes of Boiotia, who is cited at 864c–d on Herodotus, and 867a for the identity of the Theban commander, which corrects Herodotus.

[ back ] 6. See esp. Marincola 1999, Schepens 1997; Humphreys 1997.

[ back ] 7. Since it is reasonable to include Cyprus or the Pontus, but not so obviously Bithynia. This number also omits Sammelzitaten and Schwindelautoren. I have included writers who, as listed in Jacoby, may be either one or two people; also all writers listed even if they are virtually unattested.

[ back ] 8. See Chaniotis 1988, and 2009.

[ back ] 9. Cf. Murray’s remark about the polis in French, German, and English and American scholarship: Murray and Price 1990:2–3.

[ back ] 10. Jacoby 1954:1-2 (‘Introduction’ to Hellanikos): “town chronicles”; though Jacoby 1949:68 admits almost casually that not all local history had chronicle form. Cf. Möller 2001:244, who admits it is difficult to prove that Horoi were structured as annals.

[ back ] 11. I deal with this more fully elsewhere (forthcoming).

[ back ] 12. See e.g. Gabba 1981.

[ back ] 13. See Momigliano 1966 and 1990.

[ back ] 14. Roman Antiquities cited by Schepens 2001:9 as evidence for tedium, but his note does point out that this is said of Atthides. All translations of Dionysius of Halicarnassus here are mine.

[ back ] 15. My translations. Polypragmosyne is important in Polybius. Note that Diodorus 1.37.4 uses polypragmosyne of Herodotus in approval and it is translated/interpreted there as ‘a curious enquirer’. Odysseus can of course be thought of as the archetypal Greek polypragmon.

[ back ] 16. Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.8.3 (above); cf. Clarke 2008:208f., 325–335, who seems largely to accept Jacoby’s insistence on a framework of officials outside Athens—relying heavily on the Parian Marble—while also stressing the existence of different chronological frameworks.

[ back ] 17. See now Clarke 2008 for full discussion and analysis of chronological structuring in local history: 193–244, esp. 208f. on magisterial and priestly time, and the Parian Marble (which she sees as more Parian than I do). For a different view, see Boffo 1988:39.

[ back ] 18. Recent work on Delian political and economic history: Constantakopoulou 2007 for Delos in the Cycladic network; Tuplin 2005 and Rhodes and Osborne no. 28, for political and imperial history of 5th–4th centuries; Reger 1994 for 3rd century. Cf. also Hornblower 2003:517f. on the question of purification; Bruneau 1970 for Delian cults.

[ back ] 19. See Tuplin 2005:37f. for the complexities and problems of the 4th century.

[ back ] 20. See Bertelli BNJ s.v. Semos, biographical essay and commentary on F 9; this disposes of a recent attempt (by Boshnakov) to date Semos to the late second century.

[ back ] 21. There is little clear evidence that Phanodemos (FGH 325) wrote a Deliaka, though F 2 mentions Erisychthon, who elsewhere (Hesychius) is said to have brought the first wooden statue of Apollo to Delos (Pausanias 1.31.2 mentions his theoria to Delos as if well known).

[ back ] 22. FGH 400; Chaniotis 1988 E 53 = IG XI iv 544.

[ back ] 23. It is an interesting question whether Semos might have had more on Theseus and Minos with implied connections to either the Athenian or Minoan thalassocracy and control of Delos: suggestively cited by Tuplin 2005:17n15, in connection with the Theseus legend and Athenian assertion of influence over Delos.

[ back ] 24. See Semos FGH 396 F 20 and Plutarch De Defectu Oraculorum 412b–d.

[ back ] 25. Jacoby 1955, ad loc., identified a silver crater dedicated by a Parmiskos in an inventory of 278 BCE; Bertelli BNJ, ad loc., commentary on F 10 for other possible offerings. Athenaeus 14.614a (= Semos F 10) has ‘Parmeniskos’.

[ back ] 26. Jacoby 1955:203. Pergamon is first attested in the very late fifth century. Cf. Bertelli, BNJ s.v. Semos, agreeing on the importance of the Pergamum connection, suggests he lived there for a while.

[ back ] 27. Lanzillotta 1996a:283. But his reasons for this argument are not clear. Cf. Bertelli, BNJ, commentary on F 2, also seeing influence of Atthidography (but see below).

[ back ] 28. Note Bertelli’s commentary in BNJ. Ambaglio 2001, on the content and tenor of local history, finds a general emphasis very similar to that suggested here for Semos.

[ back ] 29. E.g. Herodotus 1.50–52, 92 on Croesus’ offerings at Delphi and elsewhere; 2.54–57 on cult practice and tales at Dodona.

[ back ] 30. We do not know if Semos made a lot of the new third-century festivals and big dedications. But Delos’ fame lay in its sanctuary, and it is conceivable that local historians dwelt less on purely political activities.

[ back ] 31. In his excellent BNJ entry for Semos, under F 2: “The Delian local historiography (Semos, Phanodikos BNJ 397, Nikokares BNJ 398) arose during the independence of the island probably as a response to the antiquarian interest in Delos shown by Attic orators and Atthidographers (Philochorus . . . Antikleides . . . )”.

[ back ] 32. Priene is puzzling: in the protracted and well-documented territorial disputes between Samos, Miletus, and Priene, several historians are mentioned by name but none are from Priene. See I.Priene 37 and OGIS 13, letter of Lysimachus to Samians. OGIS 13 does mention the Prienians as citing histories and documents (lines 12-13). Yet it is odd that no Prienian is actually named among the several historians cited and named in I.Priene 37; perhaps, as Prof. Hornblower has suggested to me, Myron of Priene might have written about his home town. Or did they instead specialise in keeping and publicizing the documents?

[ back ] 33. See Debord 1999 for excellent recent analysis; also Seager and Tuplin 1980 on ‘the freedom of the Greeks of Asia Minor’.

[ back ] 34. Dowden, in BNJ, Kreophylos, puts Kreophylos in the 3rd century as response to Duris of Samos and to the relatively new third-century significance of Ephesus. But this relies overly on the claim that Ephesus was not important earlier (cf. however Thucydides 3.104.3, Herodotus 1.92, 142 etc.) and assumes that only very large cities got local histories.

[ back ] 35. Smyrna itself had a complex set of foundation myths: Strabo 14.1.4 cites Mimnermus about the original settlers coming from Pylos the city of Neleus, settling in Colophon, then taking lovely Smyrna from the Aeolians (and Strabo also says they had been driven out of Smyrna and taken refuge in Colophon). Herodotus implies another version again, 1.143.3: the Smyrnaians were the only city which asked to join the Panionion; cf. Strabo ibid., Smyrna was later added to the 12 Ionian cities, induced by Ephesus.

[ back ] 36. See Jacoby 1955, ad loc. for further speculations about this writer and Strouk, BNJ, Malakos.

[ back ] 37. See e.g. Nilsson 1951; Calame 1996; contrast Huxley 1966, which attempts to make sense of certain local historians in the context of a history of early Ionia. Hall 2002:67–73 stresses the lack of an early unitary tradition of an ‘Ionian migration’.

[ back ] 38. Curty 1995, Jones 1999. See also Strubbe 1984–1986 for Asia Minor in particular.

[ back ] 39. Blok 1996, esp. 94f. for further discussion of the Amazonian presence in Ephesus.

[ back ] 40. Pausanias is quite possibly using early Ionian poets: certainly he cites Asios of Samos, epic poet, on early Samos and the legendary founders, 7.4.1, just before this section (then also states that the Samians accepted the Ionians as settlers “more out of necessity than of eunoia” 7.4.2).

[ back ] 41. Schepens 2001:17–19 for a lucid discussion of this ktisis story as characteristic of polis histories’ gradual transition from mythical times to more recent history.

[ back ] 42. Huxley 1966:162n67 suggests that there is significance in the fact that Ion of Chios tried to claim Athamas, founder of Teos, as a son of Oinopion (Ion FGH 392 F 1 [=Pausanias 7.4.8] again).

[ back ] 43. Condoléon [Kontoleon] 1949:5 = Chaniotis T 9; with Hornblower and Morgan 2007:14n48 and Hornblower 2004:155.

[ back ] 44. See Sourvinou-Inwood 2005:269 with comments.

[ back ] 45. Aristokritos FGH 493 F 3. Jacoby says he is early third century, but we know only that he was pre-Parthenius (first century BCE). The Cretan element in these versions seems to be ignored by Huxley and Nilsson—perhaps understandably—but see now Sourvinou-Inwood 2005:268f. for a thorough treatment. (Lightfoot 1999:433f., on Aristokritos F1, has long note on different versions of Ionian ktisis but does not discuss symbolic origins.)

[ back ] 46. For the sake of completeness note that Miletus had an early historian (fifth century) Kadmus of Miletus; Klytos, a pupil of Aristotle; and several others who might be late fourth century or third century, certainly pre-200 BCE.

[ back ] 47. The inscription is divided up between cities in FGH (longest quotation at FGH 491–492, Miletus): see Curty 1989 for excellent discussion and now Magnetto 2008, for new edition of the whole inscription. For Lysimachus’ earlier judgment, see OGIS 13, and Bagnall and Derow 2004: 26–27.

[ back ] 48. The story of the canonical 12 Ionian cities replicating the 12 Achaean communities (Herodotus 1.145) is presumably a back-formation on the part of the Ionian cities. I discuss the rich Milesian traditions and local histories in more detail elsewhere.

[ back ] 49. Cf. Thomas 2004 for Herodotus’ complex attitude to the Ionians; cf. also Thomas 2000.

[ back ] 50. Debord 1999:383, citing Hornblower 1982:135. Hornblower 2011 discusses different explanations for the Mausolid attempts to foster connections with Crete. Cf. Curty 1995:no.56.