ElAnt v2n3 - Supplementing Thucydides' Account of the Megarian Decree

Volume 2, Number 3
October 1994


James McDonald,
Department of Classics, 
Australian National University,
ACT 0200,
e-mail: James.McDonald@anu.edu.au

Much ink has been spilt over the Megarian decrees and the causes of the Peloponnesian War. A range of interesting and competing contexts for the decrees has emerged from the debate, some of which seem unnecessarily complicated in their approach. A simpler view needs to be adopted; one which centres itself firmly upon Thucydides, who has provided us with the only serious contemporary account to have survived.

I. Chronology

I believe that the accounts of the Megarian decrees provided by Plutarch and Thucydides are not contradictory and can be used together to help determine that there were three decrees enacted in the following order:

1. An exclusion decree (Thuc. 1.67.4, 139.1-4, 140.3-5, 144.2; Plut. Per. 29.4) whose original advocate is unknown, enacted c. 434/3. 2. Pericles' decree authorising Anthemocritus' mission to Megara and Sparta to denounce the Megarians' cultivation of the hiera orgas (Plut. Per. 30.2-4), probably issued after the Spartan ultimatum to rescind the exclusion decree. 3. Charinus' decree (Plut. Per. 30.3-4), responding to the murder of the herald Anthemocritus, enacted shortly before, if not after, the outbreak of hostilities as its harsh terms suggest.

The argument that the exclusion decree was in fact, an earlier embargo upon Megarian produce, rests awkwardly upon a literal reading of a passage in Aristophanes' Acharnians , a comedy which, it must be emphasised, was written well after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. In it Dicaeopolis claims that certain Athenians ('not the polis '), had denounced and confiscated Megarian produce ( Ach. 515-523). It has been suggested that this passage alludes to an early boycott imposed in response to the massacre of the Athenians stationed at Megara during the First Peloponnesian War.( 1 ) However, it seems unlikely that such private action would have constituted an effective boycott. What Aristophanes is more likely to be alluding to (albeit in exaggerated comic terms), is no more than a widespread antagonism amongst the Athenians towards the Megarians for their betrayal of 446 and more recently, for their impious incursion upon the hiera orgas .( 2 ) This resentment may have been publicly vented in the destruction of Megarian goods. Certain people such as those seeking some private, political or commercial advantage, or the relatives of those massacred in 446, may have incited such action. There is no evidence of any official embargo upon Megarian produce, nor for that matter, of any precedent in this regard; and there is little weight in the argument that the poet's other references to Megara and its people demonstrate that this polis had been reduced to a desperate state by Athenian economic sanctions ( Ach. 729-835; Pax 246-249, 481-483; cf. Thuc. 2.94.3; Paus. 1.40.3; Sud. s.v. Aspasia ). These allusions refer to the plight of Megara after, and not before, the commencement of the war in which the Megarid was ravaged on average twice in each year (Thuc. 2.31.3, 4.66.1). Furthermore, Megara had only recently suffered its own stasis (Thuc. 4.66, 74). If the sanctions were as effective as many have presumed, it must be asked why the Megarians chose to reject the Peace of Nicias; and why the Athenians found it necessary to capture Minoa (Thuc. 3.51; cf. Plut. Nic. 6.4), establish a watch at Budorum and maintain a presence at Naupactus (Thuc. 2.93-94). It appears that Aristophanes' portrayal of the Megarians as being in a desperate state, better reflects war-time conditions than the result of any ongoing commercial intimidation.

Having discussed the supposed earlier embargo, it is possible to deal with the three decrees in Plutarch's account , of which it would appear that the first, the exclusion decree (Plut. Per. 29.4), is also recorded by Thucydides (1.67.4, 139.1-4, 140.3-5, 144.2). G.E.M. de Ste. Croix is scathingly critical of Plutarch's chronology, but he does use Plutarch to identify what he calls a 'reasonable and courteous decree' at Plut. Per. 30.2-3, and Charinus' decree at 30.3-4.( 3 ) He places the 'reasonable and courteous decree' as the first of the three Megarian decrees. If de Ste. Croix is correct, it would strengthen his thesis that Athens was acting reasonably in giving Megara a chance to quietly and honourably withdraw from the orgas before incurring any penalty. However, in this instance I believe that he has stretched the truth and Plutarch's sequence withstands scrutiny. The passage ( Per 30.2-4), is worth quoting in full:

...by way of public and open charge he [Pericles] accused them [the Megarians] of appropriating the hiera orgas and proposed a decree that a herald be sent to them and also to the Lacedaemonians to denounce the Megarians. This decree was Pericles' work and was a reasonable and humane justification of his action. But when Anthemocritus, the herald who was sent had been killed, as it appeared, by the Megarians, Charinus proposed a decree against them. It stated that Athens should be their irreconcilable and implacable enemy; and whosoever of the Megarians set foot in Attica should be put to death; and the generals, whenever they took the ancestral oath of office, should also swear that they would invade the Megarid twice in each year; and Anthemocritus should be buried honourably beside the Thriasian gates which are now known as the Dipylum.

In this instance, Plutarch's chronology seems reliable and I am in agreement with the defence of him made by G.L. Cawkwell ('Anthemocritus and the Megarians and the Decree of Charinus', REG 82 [1969], p. 333), although not with his stance concerning the nature of the decrees. Plutarch, as is well known, does occasionally sacrifice chronological consistency for literary and moral ends, but in this case he is clear, logical and there seems to be no break in the passage of time within the extract itself. It might also be argued, as it often has regarding his citation of decrees, that he was likely to have consulted the epigraphic collection of the Macedonian, Craterus (Plut. Arist. 26.1-2). Furthermore, I believe that the courteous posture of Plutarch's second decree does not indicate an earlier position in a deteriorating diplomatic sequence, but rather was couched in the language of appeasement necessary for any heraldic message to Sparta; just as the tersely worded successor represents an appropriate response to the impious Megarians who, it was believed, had murdered a sacrosanct messenger.( 4 )

But before Plutarch's simple sequence of events can be accepted, something must be said about the controversy surrounding the dating of Anthemocritus' mission to Megara and Sparta to denounce the cultivation of the hiera orgas . Certainly, there is little doubt that the mission occurred. There is ancient testimony to support Plutarch's claim that a memorial was set up (Isae. ap. Harp. s.v. Anthemocritus ; [Dem.] 12.4; Paus. 1.36.3). Doubt only persists as to which dispute concerning the orgas Anthemocritus belonged: that of the fifth or of the fourth century.( 5 ) W.R. Connor ('Charinus' Megarean Decree', AJPh 83 [1962], pp. 225-246) was concerned by Thucydides' silence regarding both Anthemocritus' mission and Charinus' decree; and used a reference to the mission in the Demosthenic Letter of Philip (12.4) to posit a fourth century context. But Connor's case, although innovative and forcefully stated, has found little acceptance. While he is prepared to employ the argumentum ex silentio to help validate his position, the same argument can be used against him; for Demosthenes, the Atthidographers and the epigraphic testimony of the fourth century were just as silent about Anthemocritus as was Thucydides.( 6 ) Nevertheless, Thucydides did say that after the Athenians rejected the Spartan ultimatum to rescind, among other things, the Megarian exclusion decree, 'no further embassy was sent ' (1.145; cf. 1.139.1; Plut. Per. 19.5). How then, it is asked, can the mission of Anthemocritus be accepted. Cawkwell ('Anthemocritus', p. 333-334) has tried to remove this fly from the ointment by suggesting that the mission replaced one of the Sacred Truces of the Eleusinian Mysteries and that Charinus' decree stipulating regular invasions of the Megarid was specifically contrived to replace the Sacred Truces. But spondophoroi were sent to both hostile and friendly states, and there was no reason to exclude Sparta as well as Megara at this stage.( 7 ) Again, the truth is disarmingly simple and Plutarch must be trusted in this instance. Thucydides' reference was only to regular embassies and he had no need to mention a specific mission of this nature so close to the outbreak of war (as suggested by Plut. Per. 30.4). Thucydides may have felt that the real end had come with the demos rejecting the Spartan ultimatum and that any further diplomatic parleying was of little schematic interest.( 8 )

Further support for Plutarch's sequence of decrees is found in the realisation of the terms of the final decree. As already observed, two of the provisions had been carried out. The memorial to Anthemocritus had been set up, and invasions of the Megarid had also been undertaken on a regular basis, at least as far as was possible during the Archidamian phase of the war. However, it is more difficult to find evidence for the first provision; namely that any Megarian found in Attica be put to death. For this we have to look to a comic fragment (Philonides fr. 5 ap. Poll 9.29 [cf. 7.202]) and to supplementary references to the punishment of individual Megarians in Pseudo Lysias (6.54) and Eucleides (ap. Gell. NA 7.10.1-4).

Having identified three Megarian decrees using Plutarch to supplement Thucydides, and having argued for the acceptance of Plutarch's sequence, it becomes necessary to place the decrees in the period of deterioration between Megara and Athens before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War.

II. Megarian-Athenian Relations, 446-432

When the Megarians returned to the Peloponnesian fold in 446 they did not simply abandon their former ally Athens to its fate, but they massacred their Athenian garrison. This was an extraordinary act of betrayal which appears to have been contrived to win back the trust of Sparta and Corinth.( 9 ) Such an action must have generated immense bitterness amongst the Athenians, even though their strategists must have realised that the Megarian alliance was unsustainable and that even with control of Geraneia, they could not have hoped to successfully defend the Megarid against the superior land forces of the Peloponnesian symmachia , as demonstrated by the costly confrontation at Tanagra. With the conclusion of the Thirty Years Peace the massacre of the Athenian garrison appears to have been left unavenged; the ports were handed back to the Megarians and it seems likely that no Athenian presence remained in the Megarid.( 10 ) Until the 430's, there is little information pertaining to the Megarians' relationship with Athens, but it does seem likely that Megara was one of the unspecified allies of Sparta who Thucydides claimed sought the intervention of their hegemon on behalf of Samos during that island's revolt from the Athenian arche in 440 (Thuc. 1.41.2). Byzantium, a former colony of Megara, may also have received its parent's support in its own revolt .( 11 ) In any case, it does seem that a situation of antagonism persisted between Megara and Athens throughout the years of peace if Aristophanes' lampoons, which presuppose animosity, are any indication.( 12 ) But clearer evidence of Megarian hostility comes with the naval assistance rendered Corinth in its struggle with Corcyra and its cautious ally, Athens. Eight Megarian ships (the largest contribution amongst Corinth's allies), fought at Leucimme, and twelve at Sybota (Thuc. 1.27.2, 46.1). At the latter encounter the Megarian contingent was awarded the prestigious right flank with the Ambracians (Thuc. 1.48.4). Megara it seems, was a zealous combatant, which is of particular significance given its rather torrid relationship with Corinth.( 13 ) By contrast, Athens seems to have entered the dispute rather reluctantly. It had taken great care to formulate its compromise of epimachia and had only authorised a token preliminary force which was placed tactfully under the command of Lacedaemonius, the son of Cimon, the famous proxenos of Sparta (Thuc. 1.44-46; Plut. Per. 29.1-2). Moreover, it allowed Megara to operate unmolested in the Aegean right up until the exclusion decree was implemented shortly before the war. But it must be remembered that great pressure may have been exerted upon Megara by its allies and hegemon . Perhaps its strategic importance, being adjacent to Athens and being the only Peloponnesian League member to have any naval presence in the Aegean since Aegina had been absorbed into the Athenian arche , was a factor which may have exaggerated this small state's true military value.( 14 ) But even if Megara had been influenced in its actions by the policies of its symmachia , the size of its contributions does suggest that it was eager to oppose Athenian interests.

Another source of tension between the two poleis prior to the war seems to have been the harbouring of exiles and refugees. Again, Aristophanes' character Dicaeopolis provides some light on the matter. In his explanation of the origins of the Peloponnesian War ( Ach. 524-529), he appears to parody the aetiologies of the Trojan and Persian Wars described by Homer ( Il. 3.87) and Herodotus (1.1-4), suggesting that the current conflict was also undertaken on behalf of abducted women. Plutarch found the passage sufficiently interesting to quote in his Pericles (30.4). Dicaeopolis says that some young Athenians, drunk from playing kottabos , stole Simaetha, a prostitute from Megara, and in retaliation certain Megarians abducted two women from Aspasia's establishment. Recently, R. Scaife has argued ( GRBS 33 [1992], pp. 25-35), quite convincingly I believe, that the analogy between these young men and the Athenian state as a whole would have been clear to a fifth century audience. Although it is probably irresponsible to base any argument upon unsupported comic allusions, even if Plutarch did find the passage significant, there might be a kernel of truth within it. Perhaps the episode not only reflects an increasing tension between Athens and Megara, but ongoing problems such as forced clandestine repatriation of runaways; as it does appear that Megara and Athens did harbour each other's refugees. Thucydides claims that the Athenians used the charge to help validate the exclusion decree (1.139.2); and the inscription IG 1 (2) 1085 could indicate that numbers of Megarian slaves were harboured in Athens after the rebellion of 446.( 15 )

Thucydides also states in his explanation of the reasons for the implementation of the exclusion decree (1.139.2), that not only were the Athenians annoyed at the Megarians for sheltering runaways, but they were also incensed at encroachments upon sacred and secular lands ( epikalountes epergasian Megareusi tes ges tes hieras kai tes aoristou ). The sacred area must be identified as the orgas and the aoristos as being in close proximity to it within the hilly Kerata border region between Attic Eleusis and Megara.( 16 ) Even if the issue of asebeia (in this instance, impious cultivation of land sacred to the Two Goddesses), is dismissed as an Athenian pretext, the dispute to which Thucydides refers does point to a situation of intense border tension in which the Megarians, perhaps overly confident in the strength of their allies, seem to have been the more aggressive of the two neighbours.

Compared to the rather bellicose stance adopted by Megara, Athens appears to have taken a conciliatory approach. Although Plutarch and others would have us believe that it was Pericles who was the chief villain in proceedings (Plut. Per. 29-32, Mor. 812d; Diod. Sic. 12.39; Aristodemus, 16.1-3; Sud. s.v. Aspasia ; Syncellus, 489.3), Thucydides ascribes the burden of responsibility for the war to the Peloponnesians (7.18.2-3). Not only had the Thebans been the first to commence hostilities, but the Spartans had also refused to submit to arbitration as required by the terms of the Thirty Years Peace.( 17 ) I believe that Athens, while maintaining its sea arche after the First Peloponnesian War, learnt from that conflict that it could not sustain a land arche and did not pursue aggressive policies at the expense of either Persia or the Peloponnesians.( 18 ) Even Plutarch's Pericles is shown to appreciate the inevitability of a war bearing down upon him from the Peloponnese (Plut. Per. 8.7; cf. 29.1; Thuc. 1.44.2). While Athens was aware of the threat and took measures to prepare itself (e.g. the Callias decrees: IG I [3] 52 A & B with SEG 19.6, 37.11), it did seem to be pursuing a policy of appeasement as best it could. Athens observed the terms of the Peace and only interfered in states within its own arche , and in non-aligned states only upon request.( 19 ) However, no matter how cautiously the Athenians moved, the very existence of their arche was enough to precipitate conflict with the Peloponnesians. Sparta may have been, as Thucydides observed, 'traditionally slow to go to war' (1.118.2), but their allies' who were concerned with Athenian power threatened secession and thereby, disintegration of the symmachia . This appears to be the main consideration which compelled Sparta to act.( 20 )

Some scholars have argued that Athens' stance was not conciliatory and that it used economic muscle to intimidate states such as Megara, but I believe that such views are anachronistic.( 21 ) Not only had Athens demonstrated no further ambition in developing a land empire since 446, but evidence of economic coercion of states outside the Athenian arche is not found until well after the commencement of the Peloponnesian War.( 22 ) Similarly, the theory that control of the corn trade was an Athenian ambition and that the Megarian decrees were part of this agenda is just as unsound.( 23 ) Athens was dependent upon, but adequately serviced by, its Pontic route and did not hinder Megarian trade in the Aegean or encroach upon Peloponnesian markets.( 24 ) Even if the exclusion decree is accepted as being an effective maritime embargo, Megara still had land access to the grain producing North through its allies the Boeotians. Other than the destruction of crops and the confiscation of property, economic policy does not seem to have been developed by either side until after the Archidamian phase of the war; and if anyone had the ability to appreciate economic factors it would have been Thucydides given his own commercial interests.( 25 )

III. The Purpose of the Megarian Exclusion Decree

The Athenian demos refused to revoke the exclusion decree, even though it meant that war would result. If the Athenians were conciliatory as I have argued, it must be asked why they did not rescind the decree as Sparta demanded. The reason given by Pericles (Thuc. 1.140-144), is that a point had been reached at which it was necessary for Athens to take a stand. Indeed, the Athenians do appear to have been acting as if from a position of honour, not only in punishing Megarian asebeia , but in refusing to submit to the Peloponnesians (cf. And. 3.8; Aeschin. 2.175). Thucydides seems to have regarded the exclusion decree as a triviality in terms of the wider political context, dominated by the conflicts at Corcyra and Potidaea, which he emphasised as being the genuine aitiai . Surprisingly, this view accords well with Aristophanes' description of the decree as the 'little spark' which lit the war ( Pax , 609). However, elsewhere in the Aristophanic corpus the decree appears to be portrayed as a serious political issue in its own right ( Ach. 524-539). While it is the latter view which many ancient and modern writers tend to prefer, there is no serious contemporary evidence with which to erode the view of Thucydides; nor can the position of Plutarch, in which he seems to suggest that Pericles acted out of personal considerations ( Per. 31-32), be married with that of Thucydides.( 26 ) While they supplement each other in a chronological scheme, they diverge in their views of the nature and purpose of the Megarian decrees; and given a choice between the two writers it must be Thucydides who is preferred. Moreover, it should be remembered that there is no contemporary evidence beyond Aristophanes directly associating Pericles with the implementation of the exclusion decree.( 27 ) Therefore, I contend that the exclusion decree was seriously distorted by subsequent events and by the Peloponnesian War itself, and that it was what it purported to be: a direct and appropriate response to Megarian asebeia . After all, the decree was compared by Thucydides' Pericles to the Spartans' xenelasia and not to any economic or political machination (Thuc. 1.144.2).

De Ste. Croix ( OPW , pp. 252-261) claimed that an examination of the sources for the exclusion decree might lead to a reconstruction of its wording and terms; and from this it might be possible to determine whether the decree was composed as a direct response to the impious cultivation of an Attic temenos . However, as there is no extant copy of the decree and only reverberations of its terms in Thucydides, Plutarch, and Aristophanes ( Ach. 532-539), it would seem that de Ste. Croix has been overly confident in this regard. There is probably little to be gained from another pedantic examination of the exact terms of a decree which we do not have in unabridged form; but I do think it is possible to accept the gist of the decree as summarised by Thucydides as representing a general exclusion of Megarian citizens from the ports of the arche and from the Athenian agora .( 28 ) Such a combination of exclusion from ports and market-place might suggest a commercial orientation, however, exclusion from the agora was not an inappropriate punishment for a polluted asebes ; and exclusion from harbours under Athenian control is the only effective penalty outside of war which one state could impose upon another. If Athens had intended to harm Megarian trade for a political end, rather than to humiliate its citizens for a religious reason, the decree could have been more appropriately constructed along the lines of the Methone decree ( IG 1[3] 61), which targeted produce, not citizens.( 29 )

But perhaps the question concerning the nature of the exclusion decree can be settled, as de Ste. Croix suggested ( OPW pp. 267-284, 397-398), by examining the application of exclusion in the Athenian legal system in the hope that the punishment might reflect the way in which the crime was viewed. Exclusion from harbours, as might be expected, is rare and seems specifically contrived for citizens of another state.( 30 ) However, exclusion from the agora , a type of atimia , is well documented and it appears that de Ste. Croix has been too perfunctory in his analysis. He has not substantiated a clear link between asebeia and atimia as crime and punishment. Indeed, the penalty was applied to polluted individuals such as homicides, but it was also applied to other serious crimes in which pollution and impiety were not necessarily involved; such as military cowardice and treason. But while I reject de Ste. Croix's method, I do agree with his conclusion; for the punishment, though not solely reserved for asebeia , does seem appropriate for members of an impious state. How else could the Athenians have hoped to have punished Megarian nationals over whom they had no jurisdiction? Exclusion from the agora (arguably, the centre of the polis ), seems to have presupposed exclusion from all other areas of civic life, especially from hiera . This would seem to constitute a most suitable punishment indeed.( 31 )

The Athenians of the fifth century seem to have been just as genuine in their religious concern over the desecration of their orgas as were their fourth century descendants who legislated to protect it ( IG 2 [2] 204). There seems no reason to doubt that the attitude expressed in Philonides' Kothornoi (ap. Poll 9.29) in which the Megarians are described as 'impious', was not a commonly held sentiment amongst Athenian citizens. A political leader such as Pericles may have harnessed this sentiment for his own purposes; but the very success of his stance against Megarian impiety only serves to demonstrate the strength of feeling at Athens concerning the hiera orgas and the exclusion decree. In any case, the allegation of a Periclean pretext is not well supported. Thucydides identifies no such motive, even though he paused to criticise the exploitation of another ostensibly religious conflict over sacred land in his discussion of the Corcyraean stasis (3.70.4-6). Moreover, there is an equally valid argument that it was the Megarians who were the real opportunists. There is no record of them ever having denied the charge of asebeia . Like the Phocians in the Third Sacred War (Diod. Sic. 16.23.5), it is the severity of the penalty which they dispute and not their guilt. They may even have been coerced by Corinth into deliberately appropriating the orgas and the aoristos in order to provoke Athens. As Voelkl suggests ('Psephisma', p. 335), if the cultivation was ignored they would have made a valuable territorial gain; but if challenged they would have created a useful pretext for war for the Peloponnesians. Whatever the case, all that can be stated with any degree of confidence is that the Megarians demonstrated a secular attitude towards the hiera orgas , while the Athenian populace seems to have been genuinely affronted by its profanation and were prepared to defend the hagneia of the site. Concerning the nature of the exclusion decree as a punishment for the Megarians, it is suggested that Thucydides' account be preferred to the rumours preserved by Plutarch and Aristophanes. The latter two sources may be of use in helping construct a chronology for the three decrees, but they have muddied the waters in respect of our understanding of events and the purpose of the Megarian exclusion decree.


(*) This paper has benefited greatly from the criticisms and comments of D.H. Kelly, G.R. Stanton and the anonymous referee. I am also grateful to the University of New England and the Australian Government for furnishing funds necessary for the research for this topic.

(1) P.A. Brunt, Studies in Greek History and Thought (Oxford, 1993), pp. 1-16; cf. R.P. Legon Megara: The Political History of a Greek City-State to 336 B.C. (Ithaca, 1981), pp. 205-206.

(2) For the hiera orgas , see K. Voelkl, 'Das megarische Psephisma', RhM 94 (1951), pp. 330-336; and my article in M.P.J. Dillon (ed.), Religion in the Ancient World (Amsterdam, forthcoming); but cf. G.D. Rocchi, 'La hiera orgas e la frontiera Attico-Megarica' in Istituto di Storia Antica, Studi di antichita in memoria di Clementina Gatti (Cisalpino, 1987), pp. 97-109.

(3) The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (London, 1972 [1989 impression]), pp. 246-251, cf. 388-391. Cf. C.W. Fornara, 'Plutarch and the Megarian Decree', YClS 24 (1975), pp. 214-216; P.A. Stadter, A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles (Chapel Hill, 1989), pp. 274-276.

(4) Athenian sources tend to portray the Megarians as an impious and rustic lot. See Ar. Ach. 514-539; Philonides ap. Poll. 9.29; [Lys] 6.54; Dem. 3.20 (with schol.), 13.32, 23.212, 59.36 (cf. Xen. Mem. 2.7.3-6; Plut. Mor. 304e-f). Isocrates seems to have been the exception who proves the rule (8.117).

(5) The evidence for the fourth century orgas dispute includes: IG 2 (2) 204; Androtion, FGrH 324 F30; Philochorus, FGrH 328 F155. Cf. Dem. 3.20, 13.32-33.

(6) Fornara ('Megarian Decree', p. 222), suggests that it was neglected, like many other matters, simply because it was not important to Thucydides' causal thesis. Cf. L.J. Bliquez, 'Anthemocritus and the orgas Disputes', GRBS 10 (1969), pp. 160-161.

(7) See W.R. Connor, 'Charinus' Megarean Decree Again', REG 83 (1970), pp. 307; and de Ste. Croix, OPW , p. 388.

(8) Cf. D.J. Mosley, Envoys and Diplomacy in Ancient Greece (Weisbaden, 1973), p. 87.

(9) Thuc. 1.114.1; cf. Ar. Nub. 858-859 (with schol.). And see P.A. Stadter, 'Plutarch, Charinus, and the Megarian Decree', GRBS 25 (1985), p. 359.

(10) Thuc. 1.115.1; cf. Diod. Sic. 12.7, 13.65.1-2. However, Legon ( Megara , pp. 198-199) considers that Athens retained garrisons at Pagae and Nisaea, basing his claim upon an allusion at Ar. Lys. 1170 to Megara's long walls. R. Sealey, 'The Causes of the Peloponnesian War', CPh 70 (1975), p. 105, suggests that it was Sparta who garrisoned Megara; hence the assumption of ready access to Attica made at Thuc. 1.58.1, 81.6. I find neither proposition attractive.

(11) See Thuc. 1.115-117; and note the possible installation of a garrison at Byzantium (Ar. Vesp. 235-237); and the raising of tribute from 15 to 18 talents (see ATL for 442, 441 and 432).

(12) Ar. Ach. 515-539 (with schol.), 719-835; Pax , 246-249 (with schol.), 481-483 (with schol.), 605-618 (with schol.), 1002; Nub. 858-859 (with schol.); Lys. 1170; Vesp. 235- 237.

(13) E.g. Thuc. 1.103.4. For a full discussion of the Megarian- Corinthian relationship see Rocchi, 'Frontiera', pp. 102-108.

(14) As emphasised by R.P. Legon, 'The Megarian Decree and the Balance of Greek Naval Power', CPh 68 (1973), pp. 161- 171; T.E. Wick, 'Megara, Athens, and the West in the Archidamian War: A Study in Thucydides', Historia , 28 (1979), pp. 1-14; P.A. Stadter, 'The Motives for Athens' Alliance with Corcyra (Thuc 1.44)', GRBS 24 (1983), pp. 131-136. Also note the tradition of expert seamanship at Megara; e.g. Helixus (Thuc. 8.80.3, 107.1; Xen. Hell. 1.1.36, 3.15-21), Hermon (Xen. Hell. 1.6.32; Dem. 23.212; Paus. 10.9.4; Plut. Lys. 14) and Comon (Paus. loc. cit. ).

(15) Legon ( Megara , p. 203), claims that up to 2,000 slaves were in Athens at this time; but I think the figure is exaggerated given the ancient opinion that Megara had fewer slaves per capita than most other states (Xen. Mem. 2.7.3-6; cf. Theog. 55-56; Ar. Ach. 519; Pax , 1002).

(16) For a detailed discussion of the identification of the hiera orgas and of this aoristos , see my forthcoming article in Dillon (ed.), Religion ; J. Ober, Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier, 404-322 BC , (Leiden, 1985), pp. 216- 217, 225-226. Cf. S. Van de Maele, 'L' Orgas Eleusinienne: Etude Topographique' in E. Delebecque, Melanges (Marseille, 1983), pp. 417-433.

(17) However, Thucydides does admit that Athens shared the blame in so far as its power gave rise to pressure upon Sparta through the complaints of its allies (1.23.5-6, 88.1, 118.2). But the aetiology of the war is a controversy which deserves more than a cursory glance. In the debate, I follow de Ste. Croix, OPW , pp. 52-63; and am unconvinced by the attempts of A. Andrewes, 'Thucydides on the Causes of the War', CQ n.s. 9 (1959), pp. 234-238; and P.J. Rhodes, 'Thucydides on the Causes of the Peloponnesian War', Hermes , 115 (1987), p. 157, to explain aphanestaten...logo (Thuc. 1.23.6) as a 'contradiction'. For the most recently published treatment of the case against Athens, see E. Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea: Studies in the History and Historiography of the Pentecontaetia (Baltimore, 1993), pp. 142- 144.

(18) For the state of the debate upon the stance of Athens towards the Peloponnesians, see I.G. Spence, 'Perikles and the Defence of Attika During the Peloponnesian War', JHS 110 (1990), pp. 91-93. For the importance of the maintenance of peace (or detente) with Persia with respect to the security and administration of the arche , see D.W. Knight, Some Studies in Athenian Politics in the Fifth Century BC (Weisbaden, 1970), pp. 2-8; and E.F. Bloedow, 'The Peaces of Callias', SO 67 (1992), pp. 41-68. The latter (partly a response to E. Badian, 'The Peace of Callias', JHS 107 [1987], pp. 1-39 [republished in Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea , pp. 1-72]), would have to be the most sensible treatment of this topic in recent years.

(19) Note the careful handling of the Corcyraean request discussed above; that Phormio was invited (Thuc. 2.68.2-5); that Potidaea was a subject state (Thuc. 1.56.1); and see de Ste. Croix, OPW , p. 82, n. 4, regarding idia (Thuc. 1.66) and the alliance with the 'Thraceward States' (Thuc. 5.30.1-4).

(20) The threat of secession is clearly implied at Thuc. 1.71.4. For Corinth, see Thuc. 1.66-71, 119-124; Diod. Sic. 12.39.4-5; Plut Per. 29; for Thebes, see Thuc. 2.2.1, 6.18.2; for Megara, see Thuc. 1.67.4, 139-140; Ar. Ach. 515-539 (with schol.), Pax , 605-618 (with schol.), cf. 609. Sparta's friends were also belligerent ; for Aegina, see Thuc. 1.67.2, 139-140, 2.27.1; Plut. Per. 8.7, 29.5; Arist. Rhet. 1411a 15; for Perdiccas of Macedon, see Thuc. 1.56-58; and generally, see Thuc. 1.67.2-4, 90.1.

(21) E.g. R.J. Bonner, 'The Megarian Decrees', CPh 16 (1921), pp. 238-245; cf. B.R. MacDonald, 'The Megarian Decree', Historia , 32 (1983), pp. 385-410.

(22) The post-432 evidence includes: [Xen.] Ath. Pol. 2.11-12 (for the dating of which I follow G.W. Bowersock, 'Pseudo- Xenophon', HSPh 71 [1966], pp. 33-55); IG 1 (3) 52 A, 61; Xen. Hell. 1.1.22; Polyb. 4.44.4.

(23) F.M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythhistoricus , (London, 1907).

(24) See Thuc. 2.65.7; with A. French, 'The Megarian Decree', Historia , 25 (1976), p. 248. For Megara's Pontic interests, see Ar. Vesp. 235-237; Thuc. 1.115-117; Xen. An. 6.2.1; Ap. Rhod. 2.846-847; [Scymn.] 972-975 (= Geo. Gr. Min. 1.237); Diod. Sic. 14.31.3; Strabo, 12.3.4; Plut. Mor. 303f-304c; Paus. 5.26.7. For the Attic grain routes see P. Garnsey, Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World: Responses to Risk and Crisis (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 105-106, 131-133; with the criticisms of A.G. Keen, '"Grain for Athens": Notes on the Importance of the Hellespontine Route in Athenian Foreign Policy Before the Peloponnesian War', Electronic Antiquity , 1.6 (1993).

(25) Thuc. 4.105.1; Marc. Thuc. 2.17; cf. Thuc. 5.26.

(26) Although Plutarch does preface his account of a Periclean conspiracy theory with an admission that it is based on rumour alone ( Per. 31.1).

(27) See Legon, Megara , p. 212, regarding Aristophanes' association of Pericles with the decree at Ach. 528-539, as being untenable.

(28) Only Plutarch ( Per. 29.4), suggests that other agorai were involved. Generally, I think French ('Megarian Decree', pp. 245-249) has constructed the best guess. Cf. P. Ganthier, 'Les ports de l'empire et l' agora athienne: a propos du decret megarien', Historia , 24 (1975), pp. 498-503.

(29) See de Ste. Croix's discussion ( OPW , pp. 259-260), of Ar. Ach. 519; Xen. Mem. 2.7.6; IG II(2) 1672.102-103, 1673.45-46; Pliny, HN 7.196. However, Legon, Megara , p. 217, argues that the Athenians were not perfect legislators and that commercial intent might not have been made clear by the wording of the decree. He has a valid point, but note Lys. 10, regarding pedantic attention to detail in Athenian law. Furthermore, the Athenians, if indeed they did intend the decree to be a commercial boycott, must have realised that Megarian trade in the Aegean could continue with little hindrance if conducted through foreign intermediaries; and that the West and certain areas in the East remained open to Megarian merchants.

(30) However, de Ste. Croix ( OPW , pp. 282-283) does find one reference: a penalty proposed for homicide by Plato ( Leg. 871a).

(31) See Meiggs & Lewis, GHI 32.3-4; [Lys.] 6.9, 24; Lys. 12.96; Dem. 20.158; Aeschin. 1.21, 3.176; Lyc. Leocr. 142; [Arist.] Ath. Pol. 57.4; IG 9 2.1105.3, 1106.10.

e-mail: James.McDonald@anu.edu.au

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Electronic Antiquity Vol. 2 Issue 3 - October 1994
edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington
ISSN 1320-3606