Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum: 32.794


Greek text:   SEG 32.794   ( IosPE 1².25 + 31 )
Provenance:   Olbia , north coast of Black Sea
Date:   c. 325 B.C.
Tags:     democracy ,   loans+debts ,   taxation
Format:   see key to translations

This inscription shows that, in its remote position on the north shore of the Black Sea, the city of Olbia experienced the internal political dissensions that were typical of many Hellenistic democracies.   A historical context for the inscription is suggested in the summary that is reproduced here after the translation.

[It was resolved by the council and the people], as proposed by [the magistrates and the] ‘seven’: since Kallinikos [son of Euxenos has (?) continually acted nobly and has achieved the] very best for the people . . . to the city by the letting of . . . and the revenues . . . [when (?) the danger caused] the people to fall [into disagreement, he himself (?) was not daunted by the] obstacles or [unduly influenced by] friendship, [and in his eagerness to bring those] in the city [who were in disagreement] with each other back into concord, [he introduced a motion for the cancellation] of debts; and since he [preserved] the people in this way, the people crowned him with an award of money and with a statue; and removed the taxes that had been imposed, [which] were oppressing the [needy], and [(?) brought] the striking of bronze coins into proportion; [therefore in order that] others [also] may behave more honourably in saying and doing [what is best], because they realise that they will each receive suitable honours and rewards from the people for [their] benefactions, it is resolved by the people to praise Kallinikos son of Euxenos for his virtue and his good service towards the people; he shall be crowned with a thousand gold staters and with a statue, and the crown shall be announced at the Dionysia in the theatre.

The people dedicated this to Zeus Soter.

Yu.C.Vinogradov & P.O.Karyshkousky, "Kallinikos son of Euxenos. From the Political, Economic and Social History of Olbia in the Second Half of the Fourth Century B.C."   (1983 - English Summary)

According to the lone testimony of Macrobius (Sat. 1 11, 3), when Alexander the Great's general Zopyrion laid siege to Olbia the citizens of that town resorted to extreme measures: emancipation of slaves, enfranchisement of foreigners and cancellation of debts, which measures enabled them to withstand the siege. The authors take up the much discussed question as to how this information should be assessed and also consider the foreign and domestic political events in Olbian history which have some relevance to Zopyrion's campaign against the Scythians in ca. 331 B.C. Review of the context in which Macrobius's brief note on the "Borysthenitae" is set encourages a high assessment of the authenticity of his source's information and the accuracy with which he has transmitted it.

By their combined efforts the authors succeeded in joining together two inscribed fragments (IOSPE 1² 25 + 31) which, having lain in the Odessa Archaeological Museum as two disparate documents for more than 75 years, are now seen to be parts of a single Olbian decree. The inscription was cut on the base of a statue put up in honour of the Olbian citizen Kallinikos son of Euxenos. Palaeographic, numismatic and historical considerations point to a date in the mid-twenties of the 4th century. The demos rewards Kallinikos with a statue and 1000 gold staters - a sum so large (amounting to 8.5 kg. in metal weight) as to be unique in the annals of Greek epigraphy - for certain undertakings of a financial character, but mainly for bringing the warring factions in the city together in concord (εἰς ὁμόν[οιαν]) by putting through the ecclesia a motion for cancellation of debts. The exceptionally large monetary award, the dedication of the statue to Zeus Soter and the coincidence of the reference in the decree to cancellation of debts with the testimony of Macrobius could not but lead the authors to conclude that in the extremely tense atmosphere of siege there had been a flare-up of conflict between debtors and creditors. Kallinikos's proposal to cancel debts was designed to liquidate this conflict and so strengthen the city's defence capability.

When the siege had been effectively repulsed Kallinikos, according to the decree, moved to abolish a tax which had been hard on those without means - τά τε τέλη τὰ ἐπιβεβλη[μένα οἷς ἀποροῦν]τες ἐβλάπτοντο ἀφείρηκεν. The authors suggest that this was an extraordinary direct wartime tax. Correlation of the measures mentioned in the decree with the exigencies of the siege laid by Zopyrion is supported by numismatic data. In the final clause of the motivation clause of the decree it is said that the demos cut back the minting of copper in proportion to the reckoning (τὴν κοπὴ[ν το]ῦ χαλκοῦ κατὰ λ[όγον ἦχεν?]), i.e. brought it into correspondence with the gold and silver circulating in the market. Study of the coinage and money circulation in Olbia at this time leads to the conclusion that the copper mentioned in the decree refers to reduced-weight struck copper pieces, the so-called «borysthens», which soon after 330 replaced the full-weight cast-bronze obols. This is connected with the first minting of gold in Olbian history, an ephemeral measure adopted for propaganda purposes.

From the nature of the measures taken by the Olbiopolitae, as attested in the decree, and from the whole tone of the decree, the authors deduce a strong tendency towards the democratisation of Olbian society immediately after Zopyrion's siege was lifted. This tendency was accompanied by a heightened economic activity, clearly reflected in the archaeological, epigraphical and numismatic data. Finally, the authors assess Zopyrion's campaign against the Scythians, not as the irresponsible adventure of an undisciplined officer, but as an integral part of the military and political plans of Alexander.

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