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Last Updated on 01 Mar 2017

Author: Sophia Zoumbaki

CAPInv. 1476: ha (l. he) synodos ton geronton


i. Geographical area Peloponnese with Adjacent Islands
ii. Region Arkadia
iii. Site Tegea


i. Full name (original language) ἁ (l. ἡ) σύνοδος τῶν γερόντων (IG V.2 22, l. 6)
ii. Full name (transliterated) ha (l. he) synodos ton geronton


i. Date(s) ii - i BC


ii. Name elements
Other:gerontes (elders): age class
iii. Descriptive terms σύνοδος, synodos
Note synodos: IG V.2 22, ll. 4, 6, 9


i. Source(s) IG V.2 22 (ii - i BC)
Online Resources ΙG V.2 22
i.a. Source type(s) Epigraphic source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script Fragmentary honorary decree in Greek of the synodos of the elders for Aisagenes, son of Bathykles (ll. 7, 10).
ii. Source(s) provenance Tegea, IG: "olim in vico Βερζοβᾶ δήμου Κορυθίου" (Berzoba demou Korythiou).


ii. Gender Men
Note If we are to infer anything from the name of the group, its members were male.
iii. Age Elders
Note If we are to infer anything from the name of the group, its members were elders.


ii. Meetings and events The announcement of the honours voted by the synodos for Aisagenes, son of Bathykles, is planned to take place at the contest of Aleaia.
iv. Honours/Other activities As the honorary decree in question shows, the synodos used to honour its benefactors, ὅπως οὖν φανερὰ ἦι ἁ σύνοδος ἁμῶν [τιμῶσ]α τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας ὡς πρέπον, hopos syn phanera ei ha synodos hamon [timos]a tous agathous andras hos prepon (ll. 4-5). Eisigenes is honoured with a golden crown and a bronze statue.


i. Local interaction The fact that the announcement of the honours voted by the synodos for its benefactor, takes place at the festival of Aleaia, shows its impact on local society.


i. Comments There are more groups attested as gerontes or gerousiai in several inscriptions from the Peloponnese, Argos, Messenia, whilst an inscription of uncertain origin published under Lakonian inscriptions perhaps also comes from Messenia. All these texts are dated to the Roman period. The groups from Messene, Korone and that in the inscription of uncertain origin, are defined by the adjective “sacred”, ἱερὰ γερουσία, hiera gerousia, or ἱεροὶ γέροντες, hieroi gerontes.
The attestations in question are the following:
I. Korone
The inscription from Korone (modern Petalidi) refers to ἡ ἱερὰ γερουσία, he hiera gerousia (Makres 2011: 70-8).

II. Messene
In Messenian inscriptions a group of sacred gerontes appears in several versions of the full title which is οἱ τᾶς Οὐπησίας ἱεροὶ γέροντες οἱ ἀπὸ Κρεσφόντα, hoi as Oupesias hieroi gerontes hoi apo Kresphonta:
1) Orlandos 1965: 116-20 (SEG 23: 208), revisited by Deshours 2004: 119-21 who regards the gerontes as a “Kultverein civique” (SEG 54: 466; SEG 55: 510) (AD 42): οἱ τᾶς Οὐπησίας, hoi as Oupesias.
2) SEG 23: 215; SEG 55: 517 (2nd/3rd c. AD): οἱ τᾶς Οὐπησίας ἱεροὶ γέροντες οἱ ἀπὸ Κρεσφόντα, hoi tas Oupesias hieroi gerontes hoi apo Kresphonta.
3) SEG 23: 216; SEG 55: 518 (2nd/3rd c. AD): [οἱ τᾶς] Οὐπησίας ἱεροὶ γέροντες, [hoi tas] Oupesias hieroi gerontes.
4) SEG 23: 217 (2nd/3rd c. AD): [οἱ ἱερ]ο[ὶ γέροντες] οἱ ἀπὸ Κρεσφ[όν]τα, [hoi hier]o[i gerontes] hoi apo Kresph[on]ta.
5) Themelis 1994: 95-6, no. 3 (SEG 45: 296) (2nd/3rd c. AD): [τ]ᾶς Οὐπεισίας, [t]as Oupeisias; further the members of the group are called σύνεδροι, synedroi.

III. Stenyklaros
An honorific inscription found in Stenyklaros, a town at the north of Messene (between the modern towns of Meligala and Diavolitsi), near the Karneiasion, refers to the honorand as τὸν ἀστέρα τῆς ἱερᾶς β(ουλῆς), ton astera tes hieras b(oules) : Valmin 1928-1929: 108-55 (SEG 11: 982) (1st/2nd c. AD). Deshours 2004: 119 (SEG 54: 468) suggests that the hiera boule is to be identified with the gerousia of the Oupesia of Messene.

IV. The inscription published under the Lakonian texts (IG V.1 1346) is dated to AD 163 and refers to ἡ ἱερὰ <γερου>σία̣, he hiera <gerou>sia, which is corrected by J. et L. Robert, BE 1966: no. 202 (p. 379) to “l’Hiéra Oupèsia”, namely in accordance to the evidence from Messene.

Oupesia is an epithet of Artemis used in Messene together with the evocations Ortheia and Phosphoros, cf. Etymologicum Magnum, s.v. Οὔπις: ...παρὰ τὸ ὀπίζεσθαι τὰς τικτούσας, para to opizesthai tas tiktousas... For this cult see Themelis 1994: 101-122; Piolot 2005: 113-140.

Little is known about the internal organization of the gerontes of Oupesia in Messene. The honorific decree of the year AD 42 for Mnasistratos, son Philoxenidas (see II. Messene. 1 above), shows that 75 or 76 (according to G. Daux’s emendation (1967: 477-478) members of the collegium voted univocally for the honours, whilst two of its members are called ἐπιμεληταὶ τᾶς Οὐπησίας, epimeletai tas Oupesias. The first editor, Orlandos (1965), identifies the epimeletai with the whole group of the gerontes of Oupesia. In a similar sense, the l. 3 of the fragmentary decree (δόγ[μα], dog[ma], see II. Messene. 5 above and SEG 45: 296) is according to P. Themelis to be restored as έλθόντων ἐπὶ τὸν [γραμματέα τῶν ἐπιμελητᾶν τ]ᾶς Οὐπεισίας, elthonton epi ton [grammatea ton epimeletan t]as Oupeisias. The word σύνεδροι, synedroi, of the latter decree (l. 7 and 9) refers perhaps to the members of the group of gerontes of Oupesia. This body is usually identified with hoi synedroi tes Oupesias attested in an inscription from Thuria (SEG 11: 972; Makres (2011) dates it to the Roman Imperial period rejecting Valmin’s dating to the 2nd c. BC): ll. 8-9: τοὺς συνέδρους πάντας πλὰν τῶν τῆς Οὐπισίας, tous synedrous pantas plan ton tes Oupisias.

The inscription from Korone (see above) mentions a πρέσβιστος, presbistos (perhaps also to be recognized in IG V.1 1398, l. 15: αἰωνίου πρεσβίστου, aioniou presbistou), a term which, according to A. Makres, is to be understood as a synonym of gerousiastes, presbyteros etc. Gerontes attested in a fragmentary decree from Kalamae (IG V.1 1370) are perhaps also to be identified as members of a sacred gerousia.

The gerousia in Roman Argos does not bear the title “hiera” but claims a respectable origin, ἡ ἀπὸ Δαναοῦ καὶ Ὑπερμήστρας καὶ Λυγκέος, he apo Danaou kai Hypermestras kai Lygkeos:
1) ΙG IV 579: Γέροντες οἱ ἀπὸ Δαναοῦ, gerontes hoi apo Danaou.
2) Charneux 1956: 612: γερουσία ἡ ἀπὸ Δαναοῦ καὶ Ὑπερμήστρας καὶ Λυγκέος, gerousia he apo Danaou kai Hypermestras kai Lygkeos.
3) SEG 16: 259; Oliver 1958: 481 no. 3: Ἀργείων γέρουσι τοῖς ἀπὸ Δαναοῦ καὶ Ὑμερμήστρας, Argeion gerousi tois apo Danaou kai Hypermestras.
The gerousia in Argos is not connected with a certain cult. In the letter addressed by Agrippa to the body (the aforementioned no. 3) it is called Ἀργείων γέροντες, Argeion gerontes (Ἀργείων γέρουσι τοῖς ἀπὸ Δαναοῦ καὶ Ὑμερμήστρας, Argeion gerousi tois apo Danaou kai Hypermestras). Further it is called σύστημα, systema, whilst the reference to their παλαιὸν ἀξίωμα, palaion axioma, shows that the group was not a new formation.

Some of the Peloponnesian gerousiai are thus defined by the ethnic name of their polis (e.g. Ἀργείων γέρουσι, Argeion gerousi) and others are defined by the epithet “sacred” or by its connection with a certain cult. Their old history is advertised by the fact that they claim an origin from legendary ancestors. It is, however, unknown, when these bodies were founded and it is not always clear, whether the Peloponnesian gerousiai had a pre-Roman origin. Cf. Spawforth 2012: 176: “As for the origins of the Messenian body, since the little Messenian city of Thuria had its own corps ‘of Upesia’ in the second century bc, we can be sure that the equivalent body in the Messenian ‘capital’ already existed then”. However, as aforementioned, it is disputed, whether the inscription from Thuria is to be dated to the 2nd c. BC.

The institution of gerousia in the Roman period has been studied by Van Rossum 1988; Giannakopoulos 2008; Bauer 2012. Roman gerusiai do not seem to have a clear political role despite the fact that they often appear side by side with political institutions or they often seem to have an influence on political life.
The type of sacred gerousia has been studied by Oliver 1941, who suggested that these bodies were involved in certain aspects – especially the financial support – of traditional cults and the imperial cult. This view remained rather isolated, as the majority of scholars incline to recognize a social character of gerusiae centered on the gymnasium, which developed according to Giannakopoulos 2008: 569 “a particular identity and organization which resulted in the creation of a distinctive institutional body”.
However, none of the aforementioned important studies has dealt in depth with the gerousiai of the Peloponnese. The inscriptions from Messenia, which mention a sacred gerousia, have been revisited by Makres 2011: 70-8, who discerns these bodies from political gerousiai and stresses their connection to a concrete cult.

Spawforth 2012: 174 sees a Roman, more concretely Augustan, influence in the diffusion of gerousiai, irrespectively of their functions in each case: “It seems as if the Augustan regime brought a positive evaluation of the political role of old men, based on ingrained Roman attitudes, to the task of identifying its most natural supporters in the Greek city and for this reason singled out, not so much the age-class of the old men tout court, but the elite groups within them constituted as gerousiai, making use of bodies of elders already in existence, as at Ephesus, and, where they did not exist already or, as at Argos, had in some way lapsed, encouraged their formation or their resurgence”.

Every single case needs a thorough analysis in order to draw conclusions about its nature, functions and origins. In any case, the close connection of the Peloponnesian gerousiai of the Roman period to political institutions, their unclear origin and the fact that they seem to play a public role and even to have an impact on the political sphere, prevent us from classifying them as “private” associations. At least the gerontes of the Oupesia are classified as a body of a civic public nature by scholars who have studied it. Themelis 1994: 115 defines οἱ τᾶς Οὐπησίας ἱεροὶ γέροντες οἱ ἀπὸ Κρεσφόντα, hoi tas Oupesias hieroi gerontes hoi apo Kresphonta, as “state officials”. Deshours 2004 also regards the gerontes tes Oupesias as a “Kultverein civique”.
ii. Poland concordance Poland Γ *2
iii. Bibliography Bauer, E. (2012), Gerusien in den Poleis Kleinasiens in hellenistischer Zeit und der römischen Kaiserzeit. Die Beispiele Ephesos, Pamphylien und Pisidien, Aphrodisias und Iasos. München.
Charneux, P. (1956), ‘Inscriptions d'Argos’, BCH 80: 598-618 esp. 612.
Daux, G. (1967), ‘Notes de lecture’, BCH 91.2: 469-82.
Deshours, N. (2004), ‘Cultes de Déméter, d’ Artémis Ortheia et culte impérial à Messéne (Ier s. av. notre ère-Ier s. de notre ère)’, ZPE 146: 115-27 esp. 119-21.
Giannakopoulos, N. (2008), Ο Θεσμός της Γερουσίας των ελληνικών πόλεων κατά τους Ρωμαϊκούς Χρόνους. Οργάνωση και Λειτουργίες. Thessaloniki.
Makres, A. (2011), ‘The sacred gerousia in the Peloponnese: a new epigraphical document from ancient Korone’, in Palagia O and Goette H.R. (eds), Sailing to Classical Greece, Papers on Greek art, archaeology and epigraphy presented to Petros Themelis. Oxford: 70-8.
Oliver, J.H. (1941), ‘The sacred gerusia’, Hesperia Suppl. 6. Baltimore.
Oliver, J.H. (1956), ‘Gerusiae and Augustales’, Historia 7: 472-96.
Orlandos, A.K. (1965), ‘Δύο επιγραφαί εκ Μεσσήνης’, AEph: 110-21, esp. 116-20.
Piolot, L. (2005), ‘Nom d’ une Artémis! A propos de l’ Artémis Phosphoros de Messene (Pausanias, IV, 31, 10)’, Kernos 18: 113-40.
Spawforth, A.J.S. (2012), Greece and the Augustan cultural revolution. Greek culture in the Roman world. Cambridge, New York: 174.
Themelis, P. (1994), ‘Artemis Ortheia at Messene. The epigraphical and archaeological evidence’, in R. Hägg (ed.), Ancient Greek cult practice from the epigraphical evidence, Proceedings of the second international seminar on ancient Greek cult organized by the Swedish Institute at Athens, 22-24 November 1991. Stockholm: 101-22.
Valmin, N. (1928-1929), ‘Inscriptions de la Messénie’, Bull. Soc. des Lettres de Lund: 108-55.
Van Rossum, J. (1988), De Gerousia in de Griekse Steden van het Romeinse Rijk. Leiden.


i. Private association Possible
Note It is not clear, whether we have to do with a private association or with a body of a public nature, such as the political gerousiai of certain Greek poleis, or with a group connected with a certain cult, but with an impact on political sphere, as other Peloponnesian cases presented in XII.i above. Their planning to announce the honours to their benefactor publicly at Aleaia, a prominent festival of the polis, shows -if not their public nature- their collaboration with authorities of the town. However, the fragmentary text does not allow us to exclude the possibility that they formed a private association.