Translations of Hellenistic Inscriptions: 19


Greek text:   Magnesia_40 , Magnesia_158   ( I.Magn. 20, 17 ) 
Provenance:   Magnesia on the Maiandros
Date:   Late 3rd century B.C. 
Tags:     colonies ,   leagues ,   oracles
Format:   see key to translations

It was possible - though certainly rare - for a Greek state to publish a forged document in an inscription. Sometimes it is difficult for modern scholars to determine how much was invented, as in the case of the 'Themistocles Decree'.   In the case of the decree A translated here, there is no doubt that it was fictitious; but it was quite carefully forged, as demonstrated by A.Chaniotis, "Archival Research, Formulaic Language, and Ancient Forgeries of Legal Documents", pp.677-680 ( ).

The ‘historical’ account B was displayed close to the decree. Only part of it has survived, but it confirms the ancient links between Crete and Magnesia, which seem to have been passed down as a local tradition ( see for instance Parthenius 5 ). It was important for Hellenistic cities like Magnesia to record their history, in order to prove their antiquity and their links with other Greek states.

The Cretan 'origin myth' of Magnesia has been discussed by N. Carless-Unwin, "Caria and Crete in Antiquity",  pp.169-187 ( Google Books ).   The translation of B is taken from appendix 1 of the same book.

[A]   From the league of the Cretans.

It was resolved by the league of the Cretans, with all the cities assembled at the temple of Apollo Bilkonios in Bilkon, under the leadership of the Gortynians, when Kydas son of Kynnios was kosmos.   Since the Magnetes are kinsmen and friends of all Cretans, and it was resolved by some of them to send a colonial expedition to Asia, 10 it is resolved that all the Magnetes shall have kinship and undying friendship with us, and public maintenance in the prytaneion; and they shall be exempt from taxes on what they import and export, inviolably and without formality, throughout all Crete; and they shall have the right to own land and possess citizenship; and each city shall give to those sailing on the expedition four talents of silver and prepared grain and as many victims for their sacrifices as they desire;  and the cities shall accompany them as far as Asia with warships 20 and shall send with them up to five hundred archers; and the men, women and children, according to age, and the priests and priestesses shall accompany and salute them.  This decree shall be inscribed on a stone stele and set up in the temple of Apollo Bilkonios; and all the Cretan cities shall give a talent of silver to Leukippos the Lycian, who is the leader of the expedition to Asia.   The decree that was . . . 30 when Agaimenis of Lappa was priest . . .

[B]   { when the surviving section begins, some emigrants from Magnesia in Thessaly are living in Crete, and hoping to return home. }  

. . . when, after some time, they had rapidly completed the things for which they had come, they awaited the signal of the god to return. When the god took his time, they founded a prosperous city on Crete, in the middle of the plain of Gortyn and Phaistos. They settled their children and wives and handed down to their descendants the instructions of the god about their migration. Around eighty years after their arrival, white crows appeared, and immediately, with sacrifices of thanks to the god, they sent a delegation to Delphi to ask about whether they could return to their own land. This happened when Themisto was priestess in Argos, while Xenyllos was in his ninth year as proarchon {chief magistrate} in Delphi. But the god gave them an oracle contrary to their wishes:

'You Magnesians have come here, turned away from distant Crete, having seen a bird with white wings in place of black. It appeared to you mortals as a portent, and you desire to know whether it is advantageous for you to return to your fatherland. But you must go to a land away from your fatherland. My father and myself and my sister will take care that the Magnesians will not have poorer soil to divide among themselves than the land which Peneios and high Pelion hold.'

Having received the advice of the oracle about their return home, they hastened to accomplish the message of the god, and they sent back to ask where they should be dispatched and in what way. The god replied:

'Noble Magnesians, you have asked where you should go. The man who stands before the doors of the temple will lead you and show you the way to the land of Pamphylia, beyond high Mount Mykale. There you will find the wealthy house of Mandrolytos with his many possessions on the banks of the much winding river. There the Olympian will bestow victory and great glory upon those who defend themselves and do not rule by trickery.'

Then they inquired who this man was who would lead them away, and from where he came; the god replied:

'There is in the sanctuary a brave man, descended from the line of Glaukos, who will be the first to meet you when you leave my temple; for it has been ordained. He will show you land rich in corn on the mainland.'

Having met Leukippos, as prophesied, and having renewed their kinship with him, and having shown him the oracles, he gladly heeded it; nevertheless, he asked a question of the god himself, and the oracle proclaimed:

'Set off to the Pamphylian gulf, Leukippos, and lead the arms-bearing people of Magnesia, your kinsmen, to Mount Thorax by the precipitous Manthios River and high Mount Mykale, opposite Endymion. There the Magnesians will inhabit the house of Mandrolytos and be prosperous and admired by the neighbouring cities.'

inscription 20

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