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Last Updated on 01 Mar 2017

Author: Sophia Zoumbaki

CAPInv. 1486: he hiera [xys]tike synodos


i. Geographical area Peloponnese with Adjacent Islands
ii. Region Eleia
iii. Site Olympia


i. Full name (original language) ἡ ἱερὰ [ξυσ]τικὴ σύνοδος (IvO 436, ll. 5-6)
ii. Full name (transliterated) he hiera [xys]tike synodos


i. Date(s) 85 AD


ii. Name elements
Topographical:Xystos was the practice track for the athletes.
iii. Descriptive terms σύνοδος, synodos
Note synodos: IvO 436, l. 6


i. Source(s) IvO 436 (85 AD)
Online Resources IvO 436
i.a. Source type(s) Epigraphic source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script A Greek inscription on an honorific monument erected by [hoi apo te]s oikoumenes athle[tai (ll. 1-2), the sympas xystos (l. 2) and the hiera [xys]tike synodos for the Elean agoranomos and archiereus L. Vettulenus Laetus.
i.c. Physical format(s) A statue base of gray marble, whose left part is missing.
ii. Source(s) provenance Olympia, in front of the eastern side of the temple of Zeus.


ii. Gender Men
Note it is likely that the members were men.


iv. Honours/Other activities The hiera [xys]tike synodos, together with [hoi apo te]s oikoumenes athle[tai (CAPInv. 1477), and the sympas xystos (CAPInv. 1485) honour the Elean agoranomos and archiereus L. Vettulenus Laetus.


i. Local interaction The fact that the synodos honours a very prominent member of the Elean society shows its interaction on a local level.
ii. Interaction abroad The synodos cooperates with sympas xystos and the athletes from all over the world who came to the 216th Olympic games: CAPInv. 1477, and CAPInv. 1485.


i. Comments Pleket 1973: 216 "The synodos originally had an eponymous priest (Antonius' letter), then under Claudius a high-priest (ἀρχιερεύς, archiereus, Pap.Lond. 12 78, 1. 29) and in Severan times two archons, one treasurer and a secretary....grammateus of the synodos. As far as I know, the latter official is not attested in the sources but I assume that the synodos had one, just as it had a treasurer".
Poland 1909: 148 does not see a worldwide association in the hiera xystike synodos of the inscription from Olympia of the year AD 85, but an association that was limited to Olympia, "sie war vermutlich auf Olympia beschränkt".
We have no direct information, whether a local athletic guild existed at Olympia, whilst Pleket 1973: 204-5, doubted the existence of a branch of the international athletic organization at Olympia.
A recently excavated building in the southwestern section of the sanctuary of Olympia, constructed shortly before the end of the 1st c. AD, under Domitian, has been identified by the excavators as a clubhouse of an athletic guild, on the basis of a bronze victors list (including athletes dated to from the 1st c. B.C. to the 4th c. AD), which has been found in one of the buildings’ drains as well as on the basis of clay floors in that building, which have been recognized as exercise spaces for athletes, see Sinn 1993: 157; 1994: 233 ff.; 1995: 162-8; 1997: 217-33; 2002: 189-92 and Ebert 1997: 317-35. This issue is discussed by Pleket 1973: 204-5: he argued against the existence of an official Olympic athletic guild. Pleket hesitates to recognize the so-called SW-building in Olympia as a clubhouse and inclines to see a training house for athletes, based on the clay floors which could be identified with keromata. The lack of certain evidence for the identification of the building with a clubhouse and the absence of a term, such as synodos, in the aforementioned inscription on the bronze plaque, offer no arguments for the existence of a local atheletic guild in Olympia.
Even if the inscription from Olympia refers to the world-wide hiera xystike synodos, it remains unknown, what its relationship and differences from the sympas xystos were (see CAPInv. 1485). For the difference between hiera xystike synodos and the sympas xystos see Pleket 1973: 216.
The theory that the international athletic guild was dissolved between the reigns of Tiberius and Nero and the headquarters of a re-established synodos was founded in Rome (see e.g. Moretti 1953: 178, no. 65; Forbes 1955: 244) is rejected by Pleket 1973: 212-21, who accepts only that at some time the headquarters of the synodos have been moved to Rome, but it seems that it was a decision of the athletes and not an imperial order; however, both sides took profit from this move.
In any case, the branch of Rome of the hiera xystike synodos, known as Curia athletarum, is attested from AD 46 onwards, but the international guild acquired a permanent headquarters only under Antoninus mainly thanks to the efforts of M. Ulpius Domesticus (see Sinn 1992: 75-87). Volpe 2007: 427-37, presents evidence based on excavations of the south-western section of the Baths of Trajan in Rome and reconstructs the complex as a combination of Roman baths with a Greek-style gymnasion consisted of a large open space surrounded by colonnades. Volpe interprets the complex as the xystos and balaneia attested in inscriptions, such as ἀρχιερεὺς τοῦ σύμπαντος ξυστοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ βαλανείων Σεβαστῶν, archiereus tou sympantos xystou kai epi balaneion Sebaston. This architectural complex included also the headquarters of the hiera xystike synodos, where the archive of the association was maintained (cf. IGUR I 236, ll. 9-11: ἐν ᾧ καὶ τὰ ἱερὰ καταθήσεσθε καὶ τὰ γράμματα πρὸς αὐταῖς ταῖς Θερμαῖς ταῖς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πάππου μου γεγενημέναις, en hoi kai ta hiera katathesesthe kai ta grammata pros autais tais Thermais tais hypo tou theou pappou mou gegenemenais). Volpe places the headquarters of the synodos in one of the large exedras of the colonnade of this architectural complex, which can be identified as a library or archive; moreover, a number of the inscriptions which had been erected in the headquarters of the synodos, have been found there. This view is against the old identification of the headquarters with the entrance area at the north side of the complex or in a building found under S. Pietro in Vincoli (Rausa 2004: 539-40).
ii. Poland concordance Poland H12
iii. Bibliography Caldelli, M.L. (1992), ‘Curia athletarum, iera xystike synodos e organizzazione delle terme a Roma’, ZPE 93: 75-87.
Ebert, J. (1997), Agonismata. Kleine philologische Schriften zur Literatur, Geschichte und Kultur der Antike. Stuttgart, Leipzig: 317-35.
Forbes, A. (1995), ‘Ancient athletic guilds’, CPh 50: 238-52, esp. 244.
Moretti, L. (1953), Iscrizioni Agonistiche Greche. Rome: 178, no. 65.
Pleket, H. (1973), ‘Some Aspects of the History of the Athletic Guilds’, ZPE 10: 197-227, esp. 216, no. 64.
Pleket, H. (1999), Review of Agonismata. Kleine philologische Schriften zur Literatur, Geschichte und Kultur der Antike. Nikephoros 12: 277-84, esp. 282-4
Poland, F. (1909), Geschichte des griechischen Vereinswesens. Leipzig: 148.
Rausa, F. (2004), ‘I luoghi dell’agonismo nella Roma imperiale. L’edificio della Curia Athletarum’, MDAI(R) 111: 537-54, esp. 539-40.
Sinn, U. (1993), ‘Bericht über das Forschungsprojekt "Olympia während der römischen Kaiserzeit"’, Nikephoros 6: 153-8, esp. 157.
Sinn, U. (1994), ‘Bericht über das Forschungsprojekt "Olympia während der römischen Kaiserzeit"’, Nikephoros 7: 229-50, esp. 233.
Sinn, U. (1995), ‘Bericht über das Forschungsprojekt "Olympia während der römischen Kaiserzeit"’, Nikephoros 8: 161-82, esp. 162-8.
Sinn, U. (1994), ‘Bericht über das Forschungsprojekt "Olympia während der römischen Kaiserzeit"’, Nikephoros 10: 217-33.
Sinn, U. (1998), ‘Olympia und die Curia athletarum in Rom’, Stadion 24: 129-35.
Sinn, U. (2002), ‘Ειδωλολάτρες, προσκυνητές, αθλητές και χριστιανοί’, in P. Themelis and V. Konti (eds), Πρωτοβυζαντινή Μεσσήνη και Ολυμπία. Αστικός και αγροτικός χώρος στη Δυτική Πελοπόννησο, Πρακτικά του Διεθνούς Συμποσίου, Αθήνα 29-30 Μαϊου 1998, Athens: 189-94.
Volpe, R. (2007), ‘Le Terme di Traiano e la xystichè synodos’, in A. Leone (ed.), Res bebe gestae. Richerche di storia urbana su Roma antica in onore di Eva Margareta Steinby, Rome: 427-37.


i. Private association Probable
Note The worldwide importance of hiera xystike synodos and its role in the political sphere prevent us from defining it with certainty a private association.