Conflicts in Identity

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Meagan Ayer


In Ancient Greece, natural disasters and war often resulted in the evacuation and destruction of cities along with the displacement of their populations. The citizens of besieged cities were required to decide, individually or as a community, whether to seek asylum in an allied state with the hope someday of returning home or to settle in a new land permanently. Long-term occupation within an allied city-state often led to a conflict in identity, as refugee populations may be offered full citizenship, or conversely, segregated as resident aliens with abbreviated rights. Refugees’ decision to adopt a new identity in place of or in addition to their original one, was often complicated by how the host population viewed and treated them. This paper will examine the circumstances under which refugees from certain ancient Greek cities such as Tiryns, Halieis, Plataea and Olynthus decided whether to preserve their identity within new cities and the methods they used to do so.

In the year 382 B.C.E., the Greek city-states of Apollonia and Acanthus sent an embassy to Sparta, the widely acknowledged military power of ancient Greece. In this embassy, the two cities asked Sparta to intervene on their behalf because the Chalkidian League – a large and rapidly growing confederation of city-states in the northeast of Greece – was threatening to attack Apollonia and Acanthus unless they joined the league (Xen. Hell.5.2.12-13). The citizens of these two city-states declined to join the Chalkidian League, however, as they preferred “to be subject to the ancestral laws and to be citizens of a free state...” (translation by author, Xen. Hell. 5.2.14) In this instance, Sparta agreed to lead an expedition of its allies to defend the autonomy of Apollonia and Acanthus (Xen. Hell. 5.2.23). This brief exchange perfectly encapsulates the inherent tension in negotiating political identity among the city-states of Ancient Greece during the Classical (c. 500-323 B.C.E.) and Hellenistic (323-146 B.C.E.) periods.

Political identity in the Late Classical and Hellenistic Greek world could be divided into two broad categories. The first category was based upon real or fictive ties of kinship and referred to as the γένος. The γένος, or kinship identity (such as Ionian, Dorian or Chalkidian) was used to facilitate Panhellenic relations, allowing independent city-states to mediate diplomatic relationships based upon descent from a common mythic ancestor; during the Hellenistic period this association with a broader kinship group often provided the basis for several city-states to unite in federal leagues.1 These leagues would manage matters of foreign policy and war for all the member states and usually minted a common coinage for the league. In domestic matters, though, the individual laws of each city-state were administered. In certain instances, this league membership caused the γένος identity to superficially supersede the identification of a citizen with his city; however, in times of stress the identification of citizen with city-state quickly reasserted its prominence.

The second form of political identity was based upon citizenship within a particular city-state or polis and was generally denoted by an epithet as in the case of the Hellenistic poet Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος – Apollonius of Rhodes. Since each polis together with its dependent villages comprised an autonomous state, citizenship within a particular polis was similar to a modern national identity. This form of identity was generally referred to by the ancient Greeks as the ἔθνος and it was the core of Greek political identity, particularly in the Classical period. Citizenship in a polis was jealously guarded and traditionally only obtained by descent from another citizen, not simply by residence in the city. Under extraordinary circumstances, citizenship in a polis might be extended to resident aliens or freed slaves, however, the requirements to be met were strict. For example, during the late 5th century B.C.E., a grant of Athenian citizenship required that the proposed recipient first have materially benefitted the city in some way, such as by being an ally in war. The proposal was then subject to approval by secret ballot in a public assembly twice – once with a quorum of no less than 6000 citizens – after which the newly minted citizen still did not possess full rights. He might still be barred from certain priesthoods and subject to revocation of the grant for certain criminal acts (Canevaro 2010: 348).

This paper will primarily be concerned with the maintenance of ἔθνος identity when catastrophic events rupture the bond of an ἔθνος with its physical center. Six case studies of city-states from the Classical and Hellenistic periods will be presented. These poleis experienced a variety of environmental and political stressors – earthquake, depopulation, economic collapse, and war – which led to the populace abandoning their city. The analysis of these poleis will be three-fold. First, the impetus for removal from a city; second, whether the disenfranchised population chose to maintain their identification with that city or merge with a new ἔθνος; and third, the measures taken by a host polis to protect the integrity of its own identity while hosting a refugee population.

In the 5th century B.C.E., the polis of Myous boasted a significant harbor, large enough to hold 200 triremes of the Persian king Darius’ fleet returning from the siege of Naxos (Hdt. 5.31.4, 5.36.4). In the first century C.E., however, the Greek geographer Strabo reports that the area had been transformed into swampland and that the town had “united into one city with the Milesians due to lack of men” (translation by author, Strabo 14.1.10, 12.8.17). Pausanias, a Greek travel writer in the 2nd century C.E., was later to write that Myous’ demise was the result of sedimentation in its harbor; the change in environment allowed large numbers of mosquitoes to infest the area, driving the populace from its city with all their belongings. While the circumstances leading to Myous’ “lack of men” are not explicitly explained, Emily Mackil has theorized that the decrease in population was the result of malaria carried by the mosquitoes (Mackil 2004: 495).

The precise date of the sympoliteia, or political assimilation of Myous with Miletos, is not known; there appears to have been increasing pressure upon Myous from the expansion of its neighbor over the course of about 150 years, which, combined with the environmental changes, led to its gradual assimilation with the larger polis. An inscription dating to the early 4th century B.C.E. records a dispute between Myous and Miletus regarding land in the Maeander plaIn indicating that the two cities were still independent at that time, and that Myous was defiantly resisting the encroachment of its neighbor (Inschriften von Priene 458 frag. A [SIG 3 134]). A second inscription of 234/3 contains a decree from the governing body of Miletos ordering the Myousians to billet mercenaries (Inscrhiften von Milet 1: 3, 33e). The expectation that the Myousians would obey this decree is clearly a sign that incorporation into the political body of Miletos had begun. Further evidence is found in two inscriptions dating to the end of the 3rd century, both honoring a certain Apollodorus son of Metrophanes. One is an architectural fragment from the temple of Apollo Termintheus in Myous recounting Apollodorus’ gifts, while the other lists him among the stephanephoroi, those allowed to wear a crown in public celebrations, at Miletus (SEG 36.1047; Inschriften von Milet 46.1). These two inscriptions are notable due to their lack of an ἔθνος in naming Apollodorus; should he have been a citizen of Myous, one would expect him to be listed among the stephanephoroi as Apollodoros the Myousian. Similarly, if he were a member of the Milesian ἔθνος, we would expect that to be noted on the dedication inscription from the temple of Apollo Termintheus. Instead, we appear to have a situation wherein Apollodorus is considered an equal member of both communities, a situation that could only occur if Myous had ceased to exist as a separate ἔθνος from Miletos. The extent of the Myousians’ incorporation into the Milesian ἔθνος is perhaps best exemplified by the movement not only of their personal belongings, but even their architecture (SEG 36.1047; Koenigs 1981). By the 2nd century C.E. when Pausanias visited the site of Myous, all the buildings had disappeared; they were either removed to Miletus, as in the case of the inscription from the temple of Apollo Termintheus, or robbed for their stone. Only the temple of Dionysus remained to mark the site of the former settlement (Paus. 7.2.10-11).

But why did the Myousians choose to merge with Miletos, abandoning their own ἔθνος? Apollodorus’ dedications to the temple of Apollo at Myous indicate the territory of Myous was still inhabited at the time it became part of Miletos’ ἔθνος, so environmental factors alone cannot be blamed for the city’s failure. The answer lies in the 4th century inscription. Literary sources inform us that Myous was a polis of modest size with noteworthy agricultural resources. Since most Greek cities only allowed adult males to own and work land, Strabo’s testimony that Myous suffered from a lack of men would indicate that the ἔθνος was not able to hold and cultivate all of the territory it had traditionally claimed. Miletus, coveting these rich farmlands and seeing them underutilized, began to expand into them, resulting in land disputes, one of which is referenced in the 4th century inscription (Dio. Sic. 11.57; Thuc. 1.138.5). Thus, Miletos exploited the weakness of its neighbor, annexing any and all unclaimed land along its borders so that, over time, Myous continued to shrink in territory and men until it could no longer sustain itself as an autonomous polis, and became a subordinate village in the Milesian ἔθνος sometime in the 3rd century. When the environment shifted from merely arduous to truly uninhabitable, perhaps in the 2nd or 1st century B.C.E., the town was totally abandoned and its building materials reused at Miletos, resulting in the disappearance of the town by the 2nd century C.E. when Pausanias visited the site.

The polis of Halieis furnishes an example of identity retention and probable identity loss. In 468 B.C.E. the city of Tiryns was captured by Argos; a portion of the population was forcibly resettled as prisoners of war in Argos, but another group managed to escape and relocated to the city of Halieis (Paus. 2.25.8). Halieis was already a fully realized polis before the arrival of the Tirynthians; excavations have uncovered occupation levels dating back to the Late Neolithic period, with a period of expansion in the late Archaic period which added a new lower town constructed on an orthogonal plan sometime in the early 6th century (Boyd 1981: 153). Archaeological evidence has also revealed strong ties between the Archaic polis of Halieis and Sparta, which may explain the warm reception of the Tirynthians; historically, Sparta and Argos had vied to be the preeminent power in the region and it stands to reason the Tirynthians, having lost their city to the Argives, would have been welcomed as allies in Halieis (Boyd 1981: 328; Kulesza 1999: 159).

Upon arrival, though, the Tirynthian refugees appear to have taken over the identity of the city, placing the Tirynthian customs, symbols, and alphabet on equal footing with those of the original inhabitants. A new mint was opened in the lower town sometime at the end of the 5th century or beginning of the 4th, from which the Halieians began issuing their own coinage bearing the symbolic palm tree of Tiryns and the legend ΤΙΡΥΝ or ΤΙΡΥΝΘΙΟΝ on the reverse, with the head of Apollo, the patron god of Halieis, on the obverse (Dengate 2005: 98-99). The extra-mural sanctuary of Apollo, built by the inhabitants of Halieis sometime in the early 7th century B.C.E., received several modifications after the arrival of the Tirynthians (Jameson 1979: 262). New column bases were given to the temple, as well as a new lock and possibly doors (Jameson 1974: 115-118). The keys for the new temple, bearing the name of the god, and a bronze plaque excavated inside the temple are both inscribed with the Argive alphabet used at Tiryns, not the local alphabet of Halieis (Jameson 1974a: 118; 1976: 235). Additionally, votive offerings excavated from a shrine on the acropolis included terra cotta figurines of the same type dedicated to Hera at Tiryns. They are so similar, in fact, that one of the original excavators theorized that the votives might have been brought to Halieis with the refugees (Young 1963: 9-10; Dublin 1969: 29).

This accumulation of evidence leads one to the conclusion that the Tirynthians were not only received as refugees among the community at Halieis, but were quickly assimilated as full members of the polis, all while retaining their original identity. Although no epigraphic evidence exists for participation in the government of the city by the Tirynthians, their introduction into Halieis’ religious and civic institutions can be deduced by the gifts given to various shrines of the city, the appearance of the Argive alphabet in the city, and the placement of the Tirynthian palm tree on the new coinage of the polis. The prominence of the Tirynthian refugees among the ἔθνος of Halieis is further underscored by the description of the city by Herodotus as Ἀλιέας τοὺς ἐκ Τίρυνθος – Halieis of the Tirynthians (Hdt. 7.137.2).

During the course of the next century, Halieis became a strategic port fought over by Athens and Sparta. It is mentioned a handful of times by Thucydides in his narration of the Peloponnesian War, and an inscription from the period details a treaty between Halieis and Athens (Meritt and Davidson 1935). After the war, however, Halieis disappears from the historical record. The city was abandoned under mysterious circumstances in the late 4th century B.C.E., and the area was not reoccupied until approximately the late fourth or early fifth century C.E. (Rudolph and Boyd 1978: 334). There is no immediately obvious reason why the city should have failed; the excavators found no evidence of destruction by earthquake or war. A portion of the western city does, however, appear to have been abandoned sometime before the city as a whole, perhaps due to a decreased population (Jameson 1974: 115). The evacuation of the city appears to have been orderly, showing signs of wells being filled in and covered, as well as general cleaning of some buildings (Jameson 1979: 266). The mint was dismantled, the anvil, dies and punches all removed; some blanks and bits of metal or coins probably intended for recycling were found, but the actual tools were all carted off (Dengate 2005: 98, 115-116). Despite this fact, no further issue of the ΤΙΡΥΝΘΙΟΝ coinage type minted at Halieis is attested in the archaeological record.

The lower town of Halieis was submerged sometime in the Christian era, leading Jameson to theorize that the gradually rising water table may have caused salinization of the groundwater, poisoning the city’s wells and influencing the decision to leave (Jameson 1974a: 119). Market factors may also have contributed to the decision to abandon the site. Runnels and van Andel have suggested that market forces played a central role in the settlement of the Southern Argolid peninsula, with the growth of such poleis as Herminone and Halieis falling into the classic pattern of market-oriented central-place distribution (Runnels and van Andel 1987: 316-317). In the case of Halieis, the market appears to have been oleioculture (Ault 1987: 326-327). Should the demand for olive oil have decreased after the Peloponnesian War as Attica began producing agaIn it might have proven a fatal blow to the economy of Halieis. A final possibility for the abandonment of Halieis might have been the forced relocation of the population by a central authority (Jameson 1974a: 119). Regardless of the causes for leaving the city, the unique Tirynthian culture found at Halieis ceases with the abandonment of the city.

The city of Helike lay on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus between the Selinous and Kerynities Rivers, and once was the capital of the of the Achaean Dodekapolis (Liritzis et al. 2001: 118; Diod. Sic. 15.48.3; Paus. 4.24.12). The ἔθνος, or state, of Helike was comprised of the city center on the plain and numerous “satellite communities” in the hills surrounding it (Katsonopoulou 2002: 210-211). In 373 B.C.E., the city was leveled by the combination of an earthquake and tsunami; subsequently, a lagoon formed on the site covering the ruins, though they were still visible under the water (Paus. 7.24.12-13). Strabo records that following the inundation of the city, search parties were sent by other Achaean cities, but were unable even to recover bodies. In the end, the other Achaean city-states divided the territory of Helike among themselves (Strabo 8.7.2). Excavations of the Classical period city bear testimony to the violence and rapidity of its destruction; debris flow associated with the earthquake was identified along with destruction attributed to the tsunami’s backwash (Katsonopoulou 2002: 2007). Although the ancient historians indicate all were killed in the disaster, the acropolis of Helike exhibits some use as a habitation site in the Hellenistic period after the destruction of the city below. Dora Katsonopoulou (2002: 213), one of the excavators, believes the inhabitants on the acropolis to be remnants of the city population.

After the destruction of Helike, the satellite towns of Keryneia, Deverni and Valachoro, all flourished (Katsonopoulou 2002: 212-213). Keryneia appears to have taken the position of Helike as the leading town of the immediate countryside; a new federal coinage was minted in the town displaying the trident of Poseidon, a symbol formerly used by Helike. During the same period, a new theatre was built and new cemetery opened, perhaps indicating an increase in population (Katsonopoulou 2002: 211). Additionally, Helike disappears from the records of the Achaean league and the meeting place of the league was moved to Aegium (Paus. 7.7.2). Mackil asserts the removal of the Acheaen league to Aegium is evidence for the dissolution of Helike as a polis (Mackil 2004: 499). The evidence of expansion and new construction in the satellite towns during the Hellenistic period, as well as the issuing of new coinage at Kyreneia, has led Katsonopoulou to conclude that upon Helike’s abandonment, the population of the state was dispersed into outlying communities and the responsibilities of the ἔθνος devolved upon Keryneia (Katsonopoulou 2002: 214-215).

The polis of Plataea occupied a particular place in the ancient Greek psyche. It was the only city-state to send Athens reinforcements at the battle of Marathon and was the site of the battle in 479 B.C.E that ended the Persian War. A column commemorating the victory was erected upon which the ἔθνος Πλαταιῆς – the citizens of Plataea – were honored for their contribution (Hammond 1992: 143). The Plataeans, however, also bore the dubious distinction of being one of the most migratory populations in Greek history; between the years 431 B.C.E. and 323 B.C.E. the Plataean ἔθνος changed their city of residence no less than six times, all while maintaining their own identity separate from their hosts.

In the 5th century B.C.E., Plataea was under pressure from Thebes to join the Boeotian League, of which Thebes was the leading polis, thus surrendering a portion of its autonomy. Preferring to remain independent of the league, the citizens of Plataea sought a military alliance with Athens, much like the citizens of Apollonia and Acanthus did with Sparta (Hammond 1992: 144). Unfortunately, the alliance did not prove the deterrent Plataea had hoped, and the city was attacked by Thebes in 431 at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. In order to prepare the city for war, most of the populace was evacuated to Athens while a small force of 480 Plataean and Athenian soldiers, supported by 110 women, remained behind (Thuc. 2.1-6, 2.78.3). The city was able to withstand the combined siege of Sparta and Thebes until the winter of 428/7 B.C.E.; as supplies dwindled and reinforcements were delayed, some of the defenders made a bid for freedom. Slipping over the siege walls and through enemy lines at night, the escapees sought refuge in Athens among those of their people who had already been evacuated (Isoc. 12.94). Those who remained behind were captured and sentenced to death by the Spartans, while the city itself was destroyed and the land occupied by Spartan allies (Thuc. 3.68.2-3).

The bulk of the Plataean ἔθνος was safe in Athens living as a refugee community within the Athenian populace and preserving their political identity via monthly meetings of the community (Lysias 23.6). When the escapees of the siege joined their families at Athens, it became clear that the Plataeans would not be able to return to their city for some time, if ever. Accordingly, the Athenian assembly voted that the Plataean ἔθνος have limited Athenian citizenship in the form laid out previously (Thuc. 3.55.3, 3.63.2; Isoc. 12.94, 14.51-52).2 Most likely this vote by the Athenian ἔθνος was necessary so that land and provisions could be allocated for use by the refugees.3 For six years the Plataeans remained in Athens until the town of Skione, in the far north of Greece, was conquered during the course of the war. In the year 421, a number of the Plataean refugees were settled at Skione, but many chose to remain at Athens, perhaps in the hope that their own lands would be similarly captured. Those of the ἔθνος who ventured to Skione continued to identify themselves as Plataean and, when Skione was recaptured by its original inhabitants in 405/4, the Plataeans rejoined their ἔθνος in Athens (Xen. Hell. 2.2.9; Plut. Lys. 14.2-4).

The Plataeans were finally able to return to the physical center of their ἔθνος under the terms of the peace treaty which ended the Peloponnesian War in 386 B.C.E., although not once in the course of their forty year exile was the foundation of Plataean identity shaken (Paus. 9.1.4). In fact, even though limited Athenian citizenship was granted to the refugees, they were always recognized as a separate civic body from Athens. This distinction is highlighted by an act of manumission on the part of Athens in 406 B.C.E when Athens, desperate for more rowers to man their battleships, freed a large number of slaves and enrolled them as citizens of Plataea, presumably with the consent of the ἔθνος. This enrollment served a dual purpose; first, it provided seriously needed manpower for the Plataeans, who had continued to fight alongside Athens after the loss of their city, but it also prevented the grant of full Athenian citizenship to former slaves, an act which no doubt would have disconcerted their former masters (Hammond 1992: 147). While the Plataeans might have preferred to increase their numbers in a different manner, they do not appear to have objected to the more expedient measure. The simple fact that they preserved their own ἔθνος was more important.

The fate of Olynthus parallels that of Plataea to a certain point. The city of Olynthus lay in the extreme north of Greece, on the Chalkidic peninsula. A sometime tributary and ally of Athens, during the late Classical Period Olynthus became the capital of a federal league known as the Chalkidian League. When Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, began his expansion into mainland Greece, the Chalkidian League proved a major obstacle geographically and politically. Consequently, the Chalkidians sought a military alliance with Athens against Philip. In turn, Philip declared war in 349 B.C.E. A year later, Philip besieged Olynthus, already having conquered several of the smaller cities of the league (Dem. 19.305-6; Diod. 16.53). Although Athens sent reinforcements to Olynthus, by the time the troops arrived, the city had already been captured (Suidas, Κάρανος). Olynthus and several other towns of the Chalkidike were razed to the ground, their citizens sold into slavery and the land divided among Philip’s adherents (Diod. 16.53. Dem. 6.21, 19.145).

Some Olynthians escaped the destruction, retreating south to Athens and east to the island of Lemnos where they were granted citizenship, as had been done for the Plataeans (Suidas, Κάρανος; IG XII [8] 4). An inscription, dating approximately to the year Olynthus fell, was found at the site of Myrina on Lemnos in which a group of Chalkidians gives thanks for being made citizens of the town (IG XII [8] 4). At Athens an inscription of similar date was found, however, it is has been heavily restored and is too fragmented to be certain that it refers to Olynthian refugees, despite the literary reports (IG II2 211). Other inscriptions from Athens do indicate a significant population of Olynthians in residence post-347. A series of tombstones dating to the end of the 4th century records the burials of several individuals claiming Olynthian identity nearly 50 years past the destruction of the polis (IG II2 10017-10029, 12271). Likewise, an inscription from Athens dated 300/299 B.C.E. honors one Demetrios son of Sosandros, an Olynthian, for his philanthropy (IG II2 1263). Olynthians also appear in official manumission documents from Athens as owners of recently freed slaves (Davies 1977/1978: 107).

Of note in these inscriptions is the fact that at Myrina, the refugees continued to refer to themselves as Chalkidians, whereas at Athens, they preferred to use their civic identity of Olynthian. This shift in designation from Chalkidian to Olynthian at Athens is not trivial. From around 423 B.C.E., the preferred form of address was Chalkidian, denoting the preeminent role that Olynthus played as capital of the League. In all official documents, the epithet “Chalkidian” is used when referring to the people of Olynthus, as well as in historical narratives about the city (SIG 135; TAPA 1934: 65, 103-22). After this date the only contemporary writers to consistently refer to Olynthians as Olynthians were Athenian – the orator and statesmen Demosthenes and Isaeus, and the Athenian general Xenophon.4 This marked use of the ἔθνος on the part of the Athenians was a deliberate act and is perhaps an indication of discomfort on the part of the Athenian ἔθνος with their former tributary's new political importance. Whatever the reason, the Olynthian refugees clearly bowed to the Athenian preference in nomenclature, still preserving their autonomy but resuming the use of their civic identity and appellation, not their federal one.

In analyzing the actions of these various populaces, some patterns begin to emerge showing under what circumstances political identity was retained and forcefully proclaimed, whether or not the ἔθνος was in physical possession of its city. When the Plataeans, Tirynthians and Olynthians fled their cities on account of war to live as refugees elsewhere, they tenaciously asserted their affinity with the poleis they had left behind, a fact previously noted by Ryszard Kulesza (1999: 160). This continued sense of community is even more striking in the case of the Olynthians, since the refugees in Athens sought to smooth over relations with their hosts by dropping the identity affiliated with the Chalkidian League, yet still stubbornly clung to their ἔθνος. While it may seem obvious that a population forcibly ejected from its home would continue to defiantly proclaim its origins even while guests of another community, the Tirynthians at Halieis provide an extreme example of how continued identification with a lost polis can lead to the de facto destruction of a host city’s identity.

Thus, the continued harboring of refugees by a city carried a potential threat to the host population. Seen from this perspective, attempts to resettle refugees in other cities, such as the Plataeans at Skione in the Chalkidike, and the granting of certain citizenship rights to the refugee population, were not merely matters of logistics, but also perhaps an attempt by the host polis to mitigate the effects of a refugee presence by defining the limits of their participation in its own citizen body. As is evident from the guidelines governing the conferral of Athenian citizenship mentioned at the beginning of this paper, enfranchisement was not total, nor was it heritable unless both parents were Athenian citizens (Canevaro 2010: 348). This final clause governing inheritance of citizenship illustrates clearly the manner in which Athens sought to ensure that newly made citizens, should circumstances dictate prolonged residence, would abandon their former identities and become wholly Athenian. Presumably marriage to a citizen of the host city and the birth of children who may claim citizenship would incur obligations that superseded one’s former identity.

By contrast, at Helike where a natural disaster caused the disruption of normal life, the remaining populace of the city dispersed into neighboring poleis or villages, accompanied by dissolution of the political structures that defined polis life. Myous demonstrates a similar pattern, although the time scale was lengthened due to the nature of the environmental factors, specifically the gradual conversion to marshland over the course of several centuries. In both instances, the ties between ἔθνος and physical center were broken, allowing for identification with a new polis and ἔθνος. In essence, there was no longer a political body of Myous or Helike with which to identify. Should some people still have lived in villages or farmsteads on the land that once belonged to the city, as at Myous, they no longer claimed an identity related to the dissolved polis. While the exact cause of Halieis’ abandonment has not yet been satisfactorily explained, if salinization of the groundwater or loss of markets for their trade goods did occur, the silence of the historical and archaeological record regarding the fate of Halieis’ inhabitants may be read as a dissolution of the ἔθνος accompanied by absorption into other nearby poleis such as Hermione.

In summation, there are numerous factors determining the maintenance of identity when the physical center of the ἔθνος is threatened. If an ἔθνος was deprived of its polis due to an act of aggression, as at Tiryns, Plataea and Olynthus, the remaining populace retained its core civic identity, though it may relinquish other forms of identity if expedient, such as in the case of the Olynthians. The ἔθνος in these cases was undoubtedly maintained with a view of returning home when hostilities ceased, as indeed the Plataeans did. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Olynthians and Tirynthians had a similar objective in mind which, in the first instance, was forestalled by Philip’s conquest of Greece and, in the second, by the total domination of their new home. In situations where environmental or economic stressors ruptured the link between ἔθνος and polis, however, the ἔθνος was more likely to disband, merging the population of the central polis with those of its supporting villages and neighboring cities. This process could be one of an instant, as at Helike, or one of slow attrition over the course of decades as at Myous and apparently Halieis. The lack of an external focus or enemy which the ἔθνος could use to bolster group cohesion resulted in a loss of identity.


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Rudolph, W. & T. Boyd. 1978. Excavations at Porto Cheli and Vicinity Preliminary Report IV: The Lower Town of Halieis, 1970-1977. Hesperia 47(4): 333-355.

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Chapter 4
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