The Macedonian Theorodokoi and the Panhellenic Festivals

By Blood of DorusThe athletes at Panhellenic games competed not only on their own behalf but they represented their community as well. The Panhellenic games were the festivals of the Greek poleis and polities, which sent official delegations to bring their offerings to the gods, to represent the community at the games, and to applaud their champions. The victorious athletes brought glory and fame to their community, to which they consecrated the crown they had won and from which they were rewarded by with honors, privileges, and material advantages.

The sense of community of the Greeks at the Panhellenic festivals is echoed by the statement of Isocrates in the ‘Panegyricus’, 43:

“Now the founders of our great festivals are justly praised for handing down to us a custom by which, having proclaimed a truce and resolved our pending quarrels, we come together in one place where, as we make our prayers and sacrifices in common, we are reminded of the kinship which exists among us and are made to feel more kindly toward each other for the future, reviving our old friendships and establishing new ties.”
Whenever the games were to take place, heralds (theoroi) would travel throughout the Greek world to announce the time of the games and the sacred truce surrounding them. Upon arriving at a given town, they would be received by a theorodokos, the local representative of the festival, who would give the theoroi shelter, entertainment, and introductions to appropriate officials.‘Theorodokoi’ (θεωροδόκοι or θεαροδόκοι) were sacred envoy-receivers, whose duty was to host and assist the ‘Theoroi’ (sacred ambassadors or messengers) sent out periodically by the temples of each state which was about to organise a Panhellenic Game or Festival (i.e. the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian games, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the ‘Asklepieia’ at Epidauros and at Kos, the ‘Leukophryena’ at Magnesia and the ‘Ptolemaia’ at Alexandria during the Hellenistic period). A Theorodokos was sometimes appointed by the city or community in which he lived but sometimes by the community that sent out the Theoroi.

The theorodokoi were appointed in respect to Panhellenic festivals. They therefore represented communities who were eligible to be visited by the theoroi and therefore participate at the Panhellenic festival. Regional games and festivals were excluded from the role of the theoroi.

Theorodokoi served in communities (either poleis or tribal ethne) which had agreed to recognise and participate in the Panhellenic festival, its sacred truce and to send an official delegation to join in its celebration.

Communities which met the requests of the theoroi sent sacred delegations of ambassadors to the relevant festival, and the ambassadors of each community conducted ritual acts in the Panhellenic sanctuaries in the name of the community.

Non-Greek speaking barbarians were excluded from invitation to Panhellenic games and festivals. Nowhere in the lists of theorodokoi do non-Greeks appear. Nor were the theoroi sent to any peoples other than Greeks. The barbarian races (Illyrians, Thracians, Persians, Etruscans, Egyptians, Carthaginians, etc) cannot participate in a Panhellenic festival. Unless the community was Hellenic, a theorodokos would not have been appointed and the theoroi would not have visited. Panhellenic contests and festivals fostered the idea of “Greekness”, of sharing the same language, religion, customs and values. Thus the Panhellenic gatherings played a most important role in shaping the concept of the cultural unity of all Greeks.

From at least the early 4th century BC and continuing throughout the Hellenistic period, the theoroi who were dispatched by the organisers of Panhellenic festivals to announce their celebration (e.g. ‘epangelia’) throughout the Hellenic ‘oikoumene’ and to secure the official participation of its monarchs, federations, ethne and poleis were entertained en route by individuals who had been awarded the title of theorodokos. The epigraphic texts list the names of hundreds of theorodokoi among whom are numbered kings, statesmen, poets and generals.

The ‘Theorodokoi’ Inscriptions

There are eight extant epigraphical lists of theorodokoi from five locations (Delphi, Nemea, Epidauros, Magnesia and Kos) and range in date from the early 4th to the middle 2nd century BC. The names of individual theorodokoi are known from the great stelai erected by the states hosting the Panhellenic festivals as a way of honouring these theorodokoi. These stelai indicate the vast extent of participation by the Greek states in major festivals throughout the Greek world.

The communities visited by the theoroi were the political centres of poleis, ethne or monarchies.

In the preserved lists of theorodokoi the places visited by the theoroi are almost always identified by a toponym denoting a settlement. In two cases only the place where a theorodokos resides is indicated by a regional ethnic (Thesprotoi, Molossoi), and in a further four cases by the name of a region (Chaonia, Epeiros, Makedonia). In a number of cases the name of the region is recorded without the name of a theorodokos, i.e. as a heading of several toponyms denoting towns within the region and each matched with the name of a theorodokos.

As to the places where theorodokoi reside, there are altogether two attestations of peoples (Thesprotoi, Molossoi) and three of regions (Chaonia, Epeiros and Makedonia) as against 135 attestations of toponyms which denote urban centres (poleis). The location of some of these poleis also fall within the above ethne and regions.

Apart from the tribal communities, theorodokoi were apponited by the Greek poleis in the regions of Sicily, Italy (i.e. Magna Grecia), Adria (e.g. Apollonia), Eperios (e.g. Kassope, Pandosia), Akarnania (e.g. Ambrakia, Leucas, Korkyra), Aitolia, West Lokris, Phokis, Boiotia, Peleponnesos (e.g. Corinthia, Sikyonia), Megaris, Achaia, Arkadia, Attika, Euboia, Aegean Islands, Thessalia, Makedonia (e.g. Allante, Lete, Kassandreia, Kalindoia) Thrace and Chalkidike (Amphipolis, Olynthos, Maroneia, Lampsakos), Troas (e.g. Tenedos), Aiolis, Ionia, Karia (e.g. Iasos), Cyprus (e.g. Salamis) and Syria-Libya (e.g Kyrene).

The Epigraphical Lists of ‘Theorodokoi’

The Panhellenic status of the Epeirotic and Makedonian tribes is known from an inscription dated c360 BC which records the hosts (‘Theorodokoi’) of sacred envoys (‘Theoroi’) from the sanctuary of Asklepius at Epidauros (IG IV 95 II 23ff):

IG IV²,1 94 frg a.col I.1 θεαροδό[κοι]·
frg b.col I .9 Μακεδονία· Περδίκκας
13 Καλίνδοια· Παυσανίας
IG IV²,1 95 col I.1 θεαροδόκοι ἐπ’ Ἀκαρνανίαν·
23 Ἄπειρος·
26 Θεσπρωτοί· Πετόας, Σίμακος
29 Χαονία· Δόροψος
31 Μολοσσοί· Θᾶρυψ
73 Ἄπειρος· Κασώπ̣ας
The list indicates that in c360 BC Perdiccas III (365-359 BC) served as Theorodokos for Makedonia, Petoas and Simakos for the Thesprotoi, Tharups for the Molossoi, Doropsos for Chaonia and Kassopas for Apeiros (i.e. presumably a regional identifier for the other tribes of Epeiros falling outside the lands of the Thesprotian, Molossian and Chaonian tribal polities). All these states were Greek-speaking as the sacred envoys would not have visited them otherwise.The Makedonian poleis of Kalindoia, in Bottiaea, is also recorded in the Epidaurian list of theorodokoi of c360 BC. The name of the theodorokos was Pausanias, possibly the pretender to the Argead throne in 368 and 360/59 BC.

Not only Makedonian kings became theorodokoi. A Pellaian, Aristonous, who had been a ‘somatophylax’ of Alexander the Great, was the Makedonian theorodokos (possibly for Eordaia or Pella as the city name is missing from the inscription) appointed for hosting the theoroi for the Nemean Games c320 BC (SEG 36 331.B.23-24). There also exists an asylia decree (i.e. declaration of sacredness and inviolability) of Pella for the sanctuary and festival of Asklepios at Kos (242 BC) inscribed on a stone stele (SEG 12, 374). A citizen of Pella was victorious in the Isthmian and Pythian Games (SEG 18.222a).

In the list of theorodokoi from Nemea (Ep. Cat. N.I), the theorodokoi from Makedonia (lines10-17; SEG 36, 331) includes the Mygdonian city of Lete, incorporated into Makedonia sometime after 480 BC (Lete was also visited by the theoroi sent out from Delphi (BCH 1921, col. III, lines 73-74, c.230-210 BC)), and Allante (also attested as “Atalante”), a part of Makedonia since late in the 6th century BC (Allante also appointed theorodokoi for the theoroi sent out from Delphi (BCH 1921, col. III, lines 64, c.230-210 BC). As mentioned previously, in c360 BC Perdiccas III served as theorodokos for all of Makedonia, which would have included Lete and Allante (Ep. Cat. E.I, Frg. b, line 9, 360/359 BC).

The catalogue of the Delphic theorodokoi, also includes the Makedonian poleis of Mieza, located between Beroia and Edessa (BCH 45 [1921] 17, col. III, line 59).

The theorodokoi list from Nemea indicates that as early as the 4th century BC at least two communities of Makedonia (Lete and Allante) provided their own theorodokoi. To this group can be added several cities appended to the list of theorodokoi from Epidauros (Ep.Cat. E.1) – Euordaia (Ep.Cat. E.1, Frg. b, line 38), Pythion (Ep.Cat. E.1, Frg. b, line 39), Kassandreia (Ep.Cat. E.1, Frg. b, line 41) and Ainos (Ep.Cat. E.1, Frg. b, lines 46-50). Kassandreia was also included in the itinerary of the theoroi sent out from Kos (SEG 12, 374, 242 BC) and Delphi (BCH 1921, col. III, line 77, c230-210 BC) and is also recorded in the Delphic theorodokoi list (BCH 45 [1921] 18, col. III, line 77).

By the beginning of the 3rd century BC the theoroi sent from Argos to announce both the Nemean Games and those in honour of Argive Hera, visited six Makedonian cities whose names survive in the ‘ekecheiron’ lists (i.e. monetary payments/donations made by the invitee communities which were used for sacrifices to solemnise the sacred truce): Aigai, Edessa, Allante, Europos, Kassandreia and Philippi (IG IV, 617)) and probably others whose names are lost. Therefore by the early 3rd century BC, the poleis of Makedonia maintained their own ties with the great Panhellenic sanctuaries.

By the end of the 3rd century BC the names of 35 poleis extending from Herakleion in the south (according to Pseudo-Skylax (66) Herakleion was the southernmost city of Makedonia) to Perinthos in the northeast were included under the heading Thessalias and Makedonia in the list of theorodokoi from Delphi (BCH 1921, col. III, lines 10, 51-97, c.230-210 BC).

In Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphos in in 280 BC established the penteteric festival of the ‘Ptolemaia’ in Alexandria in honour of his father. This became a famous festival during the Hellenistic period (described by Callixenes of Rhodes), on par with Olympia, with representatives of the Greek cities and Hellenistic kingdoms and states invited to attend. The establishment of the Ptolemaia in Alexandria meant that theoroi regularly made their way to Egypt to celebrate a Greek festival or to announce other Panhellenic festivals. The theoroi announcing the Koan Asklepieia in the 3rd century BC travelled to Italy, Sicily, mainland Greece, the Aegean islands and Alexandria. Sattes accepting the Magensian invitation to attend the ‘Leukophryena’ (penteteric games for Artemis) included Alexandria, the Seleucids and the Epeirotes.

The ruling Ptolemies represented themselves not as “kings of Egypt”, but as “Macedonians” in the context of Panhellenic games from which non-Greeks were excluded. The Ptolemies therefore present themselves as Macedonians in order to establish their place in the Panhellenic games, since they could not enter such games as kings of Egypt. An epigram of Posidippus of Pella (Posidippus poem 87 AB) illustrates this when he compares the Ptolemaic queen Berenice’s victory at Olympia with a rare earlier victory by the Spartan queen Kynisca:

“When we were still mares we won Makedonian Berenike’s Olympic crown, oh people of Pisa, which has much-celebrated reputation of having eclipsed Kynisca’s ancient Spartan glory.”

In conclusion, the epigraphical lists of the theorodokoi thereby provide evidence for the inclusion of the Makedonian, as well as Epeirotic (i.e. Molossoi, Thesprotoi, and Chaones), tribes and poleis in the Hellenic communities participating in the Panhellenic festivals of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

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