Gray, ‘Reconciliation of the Dikaiopolitans’ (Oxford, May 2, 2009)

Paper delivered at the British Epigraphy Society Spring Colloquium, May 2nd, 2009, Oxford.

In the first presentation of the day Benjamin Gray gave a very thorough and densely packed study of the recently published decree from the Eretrian colony of Dikaia, dated between 365-359 BCE in the reign of Perdikkas III (Voutiras/Sismanides 2008 = BE 2008:263, 339).

The decree attempts to effect a reconciliation of the citizen body of this polis after some kind of civil strife, largely by imposing an amnesty on prosecutions for wrongs committed before the archonship of Gorgythos (with the exception of murders, which can be prosecuted on a single day at the end of the month of Daphnephorion). This moratorium, and the heavy penalties imposed on anyone who should attempt to break it, was clearly meant to draw a close to troubles that were threatening to tear the city apart. It is not known whether this was the result of social struggles between Macedonian and Amphipolitan influences, for example, or whether it was a purely local stasis. Perdikkas III of Macedon is appealed to to enforce this decree.

As such amnesties go, allowing even murder trials at all is both unusual and risky, which tells us something about the unique situation in this polis. There was a particularly strong concern for justice and the rule of law (the choice of the city’s name, Δίκαια, may itself have been politically motivated), for contract and procedure above the usual political virtues of stability and concord that are behind amnesties such as those as Alipheira, at Athens in 403, for example.

Gray concluded with some remarks on Greek ideas about the polis, oaths and pledges, and purification. There was vigorous and rich discussion among the audience on the readings of the epigraphic text. (Charles Crowther pointed out that the restoration of γνώμη]ν at the end of line 1 was impossible on grammatical grounds; Angelos Chaniotis added that it was also legally impossible, since Lykios was not a member of the community that passed this decree until after it was passed. Robert Parker also pointed out that the difficult reading δ̣ικασάτω st the start of line 8, must in fact read ὁρκωσάτω. If this was indeed a case of calling in foreign judges to settle a dispute, it is the earliest precedent for what later became a relatively common Hellenistic practice; Chaniotis pointed out that the violation of the sacred law of ἀσυλία in lines 6-7 was a clear sign of desperation, that this amnesty was a last resort attempt at reconciliation.)

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