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Esclavage, guerre, économie en Grèce ancienne

 | 
Pierre Brulé
, 
Jacques Oulhen

οἷον τὸ μνᾶς λυτοῠσθαι

David Whitehead

Texte intégral

  • 1 Franz Georg Maier, 'Factoids in ancient history : the case of fifth-century Cyprus', JHS 105, 1985 (...)
  • 2 J. Lazenby and D. Whitehead, 'The myth of the hoplite's hoplon', CQ n. s. 46, 1996, p. 27-33.

1It is the ritual lament of all ancient historians that they must work with a body of primary evidence which their counterparts who study less remote eras of history regard as laughably small. The complaint is fair — though as a former long-term (1975-92) inmate of a university Department of History I have suffered heavy exposure to the sarcasm it can elicit. (For an instance in prit see E.H. Carr [a specialist in twentieth-century Russia], What is History ?, London, 1961, p. 14 : 'When I am tempted, as sometimes I am, to envy the extreme competence of colleagues engaged in writing ancient or medieval history, I find consolation in the reflexion that they are so competent mainly because they are so ignorant of their subject.') Consequently most of us like nothing better than to add whatever we can, whenever we can, to the known or deducible “facts” at our professions disposai. But an equally necessary task is to expel from that body of material bogus items which have no right to be there. Sometimes these take the form of factoids, Norman Mailer s term for unsubstantiable guesses which tend to harden, over time, into “facts” if they are repeated often and loudly enough, preferably by experts. One recalls Franz Georg Maier's factoid- exposing study of the fifth-century-BC Cypriot kingdoms1, and John Lazenby and I recently attempted to root out an even more cherished specimen in the modern understanding of ancient Greek warfare — one of the fields which Yvon Garlan has made so much his own2. Otherwise, though, disinformation can arise in an altogether more straightforward way : from the sheer misunderstanding of a single primary datum. A case of this - again in the sphere of warfare, or its aftermath — is what I want to identify (and dispose of) here, and I hope our honorand will approve.

  • 3 W. K. Pritchett, The Greek State At War, vol. V, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1991, p. 245-290.
  • 4 Ibidem p. 247 and 248 respectively.

2As may be deduced from my title, the issue presents itself in the area of the ransoming of prisoners-of-war ; what Plutarch Aratos 11. 2 called λύτρωσις, though classical usage greferred a concrete cognate (λύτρον, λύτρα) if not a verb (λυτρουν, λυτρουσθαι). Whatever it is called, at any rate, the most recent treatment of this topic is the lavishly documented one by W. K. Pritchett, and at p. 253 he writes as follows : 'Herodotus says the fixed price among Peloponnesians was two hundred drachmai, whereas Aristotle gives the conventional rule for ransoming in his day as one hundred drachmai’3. The passages in question are Herodotus 6. 79. 1 and Aristotle, Nikomachean Ethics '1134b'. Pritchett had already quoted them in part4. Here it will be appropriate to give them, especially the latter, in full :

  • Herodotus 6.79.1 : ἔχων (sc. ὁ Kλεομένης) αὐτομόλους ἄνδρας καì πυθανόμενος τούτων ἐξεκάλεε πέμπων κήρυκα, ὀνομαστὶ λέγων τών 'Aργείων τοὺς ἐν τῷ ἱρῷ ἀπεργμένους, ἐξεκάλεε δὲ ϕὰς αὐτῶν ἔχειν τὰ ἄποινα δὲ ἐστι Πελοποννησίοισι δύο μνέαι τεταγμέναι κατ' ἄνδρα αἰχμάλωτον ἐκτίνειν.
  • Aristotle, Eth. Nik. 1134b18-24 : τοῦ δὲ πολιτικοῡ δικαίου τὸ μὲν ϕυσικόν ἐστι τὸ δὲ νομικόν, ϕυσικὸν μὲν τὸ πανταχοῡτοῠ δὲ πολιτικοῡ δικαίου τὸ μὲν ϕυσικόν ἐστι τὸ δὲ νομικόν, ϕυσικὸν μὲν τὸ πανταχοῡ τὴν αὐτὴς ἔχον δύναμιν, καὶ οὐ τῳ δοκεῖν ἢ μή, νομικὸν δὲ ο ἐξ ἀρχης μὲν οὐδὲν διαϕέρει οὕτως ἢ ἄλλως, ὅταν δὲ θῶνται, διαϕέρει, οἷον τὸ μνᾱς λυτροῡσθαι, ἢ τὸ αἶγα θύειν ἀλλὰ μη δύο πρόβατα, ἔτι ὅσα ἐπὶ τῶν καθ ἕκαστα νομοθετοῡσιν, οἷον τὸ θύειν Bρασίδα, καὶ τὰ Ψηϕισματώη.

3 The Herodotus passage, a very familiar one in this context, is unproblematical for my purposes here. How and Wells pass comment on it merely to the extent of supplying two internai cross-references : to 9. 120. 3 for the 'Homeric' (more precisely Iliadic) word OOTOiva, and to 5. 77. 3 for 'the tariff of two minas'. There the Athenians ransom captured Chalkidians and (seven hundred) Boiotians for this sum per head in the late sixth century. With 6. 79. 1 we have moved down, by the space of a decade, into the early fifth century, but irrespective of that the significant point is that this particular episode, the Battle of Sepeia, prompted Herodotus to provide his brief explanatory “footnote” (literally so in early éditions of the Penguin translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt). It is couched in the present tense, ὲστὶ, and it is thus unambiguously presented as an explicit and determinate norm : 'among the Peloponnesians there is a fixed ransom to be paid for every prisoner- of-war, two mnai for each' (Pritchett).

4Actual ransoming-tariffs paid by or between Peloponnesian states are, one must point out, hard to come by in our surviving evidence. Thucydides 3. 70. 1 writes of one which might, ailegedly, have been paid by Corcyra to Corinth in 433 :

5οἱ γὰρ Kερκυραῖοι ἐστασίαζον ἐπειδὴ οἱ αἰχμάλωτοι ἦλθον αὐτοῖς οἱ ἐκ τῶν περὶ 'Eπίδαμνον ναυμαχιῶν ὑπὸ Kορινθίων ἀϕεθέντες, τῷ μὲν λόγω ὀκτακοσίων ταλάντων τοῖς προξένοις διηγγυημένοι, ἔργῳ δὲ πεπεισμένοι Kορινθίοις Kέρκυραν προσποιῆσαι.

  • 5 See Pritchett, op. cit., p. 257-8.

6However, many scholars - ever since Valla in 1452 - have found it difficult to accept ὀκτακοσίων5 ; and without knowing the global figure which has to be divided by 250 persons (Thuc. 1. 55. 1) the whole affair - a peculiar one anyway — is not much use for present purposes. And that leaves the only relevant episode the 408/7 one recorded by Androtion FGrH 324 F44 (preserved, albeit much garbled, in a scholion to our Aristotle passage) : after a Spartan embassy to Athens in that archon-year the Spartans and the Athenians mutually agree on a one-m(i)na price for περιγενόμενοι (i. e. surplus prisoners remaining after a one-for-one free exchange). The factual truth of Herodotus' δύο μνέαι τεταγμέναι is thus a matter we are badly placed either to verify or to falsify. Ail that is certain is that this is, right or wrong, what he is saying.

  • 6 Phillip Harding, Androtion and the Atthis, Oxford, 1994, p. 164.
  • 7 F. Lammert, Λύτρον, RE 14, 1928, cols. 72-6 ; P. Ducrey, Le traitement des prisonniers de guerre d (...)
  • 8 Hermann Usener, 'Ein Fragment des Androtion', Jahrb. f. klass. Philol. 103, 1871, p. 311-316 - Kle (...)
  • 9 R. Lonis, Les usages de la guerre entre Grecs et Barbares des guerres médiques au milieu du ive s. (...)

7What, though, is Aristotle saying ? We have already seen how Kendrick Pritchett (giving no impression that he is proffering something new or controversial) understands him ; and Pritchett's interpretation is already, it would seem, being followed, again without discussion. The most recent commentator on Androtion, refers in passing — in a note where Pritchett is approvingly cited - to 'Aristotle's confidence that a mina was a conventional ransom (Eth. Nie. 5.7.1. 1134b)'6. What, if any, pedigree the interpretation has is not clear, at least to me. The Aristotle passage is not so much as mentioned in the standard (pre- Pritchett) treatments of ransoming7. Where it is (as we see with Harding) adduced is, for obvious reasons, in discussion of Androtion F44. Yet neither Félix Jacoby himself nor the scholar who so expertly conjured the fragment into sense and coherence, Hermann Usener, claim that it means what Pritchett wants it to mean8. I have quoted Pritchett on the subject because The Greek State at War is - for Anglophone users at least — now the standard treatment, but essentially the same view had already been taken in R. Lonis' study9. There Raoul Lonis poses the question 'quel pouvait être... le prix courant fixé pour le rachat d'un prisonnier ?' and answers it as follows : 'à l'époque des guerres médiques, il est deux mines, si l'on croit Hérodote. Au ive siècle, il est d'une mine, chiffre indiqué par Aristote... Il semble donc [i. e. from these two general statements together with the specific exemplifications of them] qu'il y ait eu, au ve siècle aussi bien qu' au ive siècle, ce que nous pourrions appeler un «cours » de la rançon, du moins entre Grecs'.

  • 10 V. D. Hanson, reviewing Pritchett in CP h 87, 1992, p. 250-258, at 252.

8However, as attention to the entirety of the Aristotle passage demands, I must here challenge this interpretation of it by Lonis and Pritchett (which in the latter's case represents an uncharacteristic lapse from his usual 'mastery of... Greek'10). Their error has arisen, one can only suppose, from the idea that τὁ μνας λυρουσθαι is being given as an example (οἷον) of something on which conventional agreement does exist, to the extent of making it a general norm. Actually the precise opposite is the case ! It is being given as an example of something where, because “natural” justice creates no norm, what is done in particular circumstances is done by ad hoc agreement.

  • Here, as in numerous similar cases throughout the Corpus Aristotelicum, we have an ordinary use of the articular infinitive with τό11. The definite article τό implies of itself nothing normative but might almost be taken, here, as an adjunct of the adverbial οἷον, not part of the substance of the illustration which οἷον introduces ; thus μνᾰς λυτροῡσθαι is a quintessentially random example of what nomos can produce. (Compare Arist. Pol. 1308al3-15 : ὲἁν πλείου ὦσιν ἐν τῷ πολιτεὐματι πολλἁ συμέρει τῶν δημοτικών νομοθετηάτων, οἷον τὁ ἐξαμήνους τἁς ἀρχἁς εἷναι. Sixth- monthly tenure of public office is scarcely, on the strength of this passage, to be regarded as a “normal” or even widespread δημοτικὁν νομοθέτημα That cases of it did exist may properly be deduced from this very passage, but as far as I know not a single one is historically attested12. And Aristotle surely did not have in mind the dictatores of early Rome13). Thus an appropriate English rendering of οἷον τὁ μνας λυτρούσθαι would be something like «e.g. ransoming POWs for a m(i)na», or 'as, for example, redeeming (men) for a mina'14.
  • If we had any other reasons for believing that μνας λυτρούσθαι was 'the conventional rule for ransoming in [Aristotle's] day', what is predicated of it here ὅ ἐξ ἀρχής μἑν διαέρει οὕτως ᾕ ἅλλωςὅ ἐξ ἀρχής μἑν διαέρει οὕτως ᾕ ἅλλως ὅταν δὲ θωνται, διαΦέρει would by itself cause no particular difficulties. But Aristotle does not confine himself to the one example. He gives a second example, immediately after the first : αἷγα θύειν ἀλλὰ μὴ δύο πρόβατααἷγα θύειν ἀλλὰ μὴ δύο πρόβατα.
  • 15 The Fifth Book of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Cambridge, 1879, p. 106
  • 16 D. Whitehead, TheDemes of Attica, Princeton, 1986, p. 185-208) ; and note generally W. Burkert, Gr (...)

9The text of this phrase appears to be sound. On the basis of Herodotus 2.42.1 ὅσοι μὲν δὴ Διὸς ηβαιέος ἵδρνται ἱρὸν ἢ νομοὑ τοὑ ηβαίου εἰσί, οὗτοι μὲνὅσοι μὲν δὴ Διὸς ηβαιέος ἵδρνται ἱρὸν ἢ νομοὑ τοὑ ηβαίου εἰσί, οὗτοι μὲνὅσοι μὲν δὴ Διὸς ηβαιέος ἵδρνται ἱρὸν ἢ νομοὑ τοὑ ηβαίου εἰσί, οὗτοι μὲν [νύν] πάντεs ὀἶων ἀπεχόμενοι αἷγας θύουσι) Muretus wanted it to read αἶγα <Διὶ> θύειν This was reasonably rejected by H. Jackson, because it still leaves the unsatisfactory juxtaposition of the singular αἶγα with the plural δύο πρόβατα 15. I would add that in any case Muretus' ingenuity was misplaced because it carried to excess the sort of prosaic positivism which Usener noted in the scholion itself : 'alte gelehrte Kommentatoren empfanden bei diesen Worten das Bediirfnis, die von Aristoteles gewahlten Beispiele geschichtlich nachzuweisen'. Obviously there is no harm in anchoring the Aristotle passage, as the scholiast did, in as much historical reality as can be found : citing the 408/7 agreement as an instance of μνας λυτρυσθαι, and glossing θύειν Bρασίδα with (implicitly) Thucydides 5. 11. 1. But where αἶγα κτλ is concerned it was a mistake on Muretus' part to move from sharing the scholiast's disappointment at finding no exemplum to give (οὐκ ἀπὸ ἱστορίας τινὸς εἵρηταιοὐκ ἀπὸ ἱστορίας τινὸς εἵρηται) to an attempt to make Aristotle's words fit with one. And since they do not, the status of αἶγα θύειν ἀλλὰ μὴ δύο πρόβατα is clear. To document here in detail the variety (and number, per offering) of animais actually used as sacrificial victims would be otiose, but see for example the surviving calendars of the Attic demes16.

10What nonsense it would be to argue from Eth. Nie. 1134b20-22 for some notion of a “conventional” sacrifice (θυσία νομική) of a single beast which could not be other than a goat ! Aristotle spelled out this second example of his more fully because τὸ δίκαιον νομικόν τὸ δίκαιον νομικόν where sacrificial victims were concerned did involve two variables, number as well as type. Thus αἶγα θύειν ἀλλὰ μὴ δύο πρόβατα is, as it had to be, a doubly random example. In ransoming (for the purposes of his illustration) only the one variable, price/tariff, was at issue ; so implicit in μνας λυτροΰσθαι were other possible prices.

  • 17 Note Dem. 19. 169 on the Athenians captured by Philip at the fall of Olynthos in 348 : ἔνιοι τν ἐα (...)

11Ail in ail, therefore, the thrust of Eth. Nic. 1134b 18-24 as a whole is well brought out in the 1953 Penguin translation by J. A. K. Thompson : '(Justice) is conventional when there is no original reason why it should take one form rather than another and the rule it imposes is reached by agreement, after which it holds good. It might, for instance, be agreed that the ransom of a prisoner of war shall be fixed at one [mna], that the sacrifice in a certain ritual be one goat and not two sheep'. And accordingly, Herodotus 6. 79. 1 and Aristotle Eth. Nie. 1134bl 8-24 make a very ill-matched pair of passages indeed. Only the first of them is evidence for a ransoming convention which did — allegedly - exist and operate. The second cites ransoming as an activity where agreement, concerning the sum payable per head, might exist and operate but did not (by some law of nature) have to. Specific effort, as between the Spartans and the Athenians in 408/7, had to be devoted to attaining such agreement. Without it, anything was negotiable17.

  • 18 Diod. 14. 102. 2 and 111. 4 ; but [Arist.] Economies 2. 2. 20 gives three mnai for the latter.
  • 19 There is a post-classical instance in Diodorus 23. 18. 5, the mid-third-century Roman siege of Pa- (...)

12And we can go further : Aristotle may not even be implying that a figure of one m(i)na per head was commoner than any other. (Compare again the sacrifice example.) To make his point he needed illustrations which were possible, to be sure, but intrinsically arbitrary (μὲν οὐδὲν διαϕέρει οὕτως ἢ ἄλλωςμὲν οὐδὲν διαΦέρει οὕτως ἢ ἄλλως), in the sense of being simply one possibility out of a range of others. That one m(i)na per head was a possible tariff for ransoming captives is confirmed — if any confirmation were needed - by three instances of it : Androtion on the Spartan- Athenian mutual agreement of 408/7, and two episodes from the endeavours of Dionysius of Syracuse in southern Italy18. As Harding loc. cit. comments, Usener was not justified in describing the 408/7 figure as 'auffallend niedrig' ; what should, nevertheless, be noted is that no lower figure is known. Three instances of ransoming at one mna is two more, as it happens, than can be cited in illustration of the δύο μνέαι τεταγμέναι of Herodotus 6. 79. 1, where, before Hellenistic times, only his own 5. 77. 3 cornes into play19. Happenstance is, though, ail it should be seen as being, especially since Herodotus 6. 79. 1, let me emphasize again, is unique in its claim to conventionality.

  • 20 R. Lonis, op. cit. p. 53 n. 57.
  • 21 S. Isager and M. H. Hansen, Aspects of Athenian Society in the Fourth Century BC, Odense, 1975, p. (...)
  • 22 W. K. Pritchett, op. cit. p. 253.
  • 23 F. Lammert, op. cit. col. 73.
  • 24 P. Ducrey op. cit. p. 249.

13Two generalizations, one from Herodotus and one from Aristotle, might have made possible — if not necessarily valid ! — all sorts of comparisons : (a) between the fifth century and the fourth ; (b) between the Peloponnese and ( ?) Aegean Greece ; (c) between ransoming captives and selling them into slavery. On comparison a, the temporal one, there are some remarks, brief but sensible as far as they go, in Lonis20. As regards c, contradictory claims have resulted. Compare S. Isager and M. H. Hansen : 'The price of a slave was quite low, an average of 150 drachmas in the fifth century and 150 to 180 in the fourth century... At the beginning of the fifth century, the ransom seems usually to have been 200 drachmas, and in consequence it was more advantageous to allow a prisoner to be ransomed than to be sold as a slave21 with Pritchett : 'The low figures (se. of one or two m(i)nai for ransoming) might suggest that when prices were paid according to a convention recognized in advance, the sums for either belligerent were lower than the commercial value of slaves'22. We simply do not have the evidence to test or control such sweeping suggescions, so who can say whether either of them was consistently true ? Rather, one may agree with that 'es steht die Hôhe des Lösengeldes in gewisser Beziehung zu den Preisen des Sklavenmarktes', provided that that is taken to mean a relationship constantly being determined afresh by specific circumstances23. As regards ransoming per se, the sensible position overall remains that of Ducrey : 'Pours divers raisons, le montant des rançons payées par les captifs subit des variations de grande amplitude et ne permet guère par conséquent d'aboutir à des résultats d'ensemble très concluants'24. And while Pritchett - if the arguments presented here are accepted — was wrong to take Aristotle's μνᾱς λυτροθαι as any sort of 'conventional rule', his invaluable dossier of evidence does bring out one important point very starkly : in the vast majority of cases the price paid is not mentioned and remains beyond useful conjecture.

Notes

1 Franz Georg Maier, 'Factoids in ancient history : the case of fifth-century Cyprus', JHS 105, 1985, p. 32-39.

2 J. Lazenby and D. Whitehead, 'The myth of the hoplite's hoplon', CQ n. s. 46, 1996, p. 27-33.

3 W. K. Pritchett, The Greek State At War, vol. V, Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1991, p. 245-290.

4 Ibidem p. 247 and 248 respectively.

5 See Pritchett, op. cit., p. 257-8.

6 Phillip Harding, Androtion and the Atthis, Oxford, 1994, p. 164.

7 F. Lammert, Λύτρον, RE 14, 1928, cols. 72-6 ; P. Ducrey, Le traitement des prisonniers de guerre dans la Grèce antique, Paris, 1968, p. 238-54.

8 Hermann Usener, 'Ein Fragment des Androtion', Jahrb. f. klass. Philol. 103, 1871, p. 311-316 - Kleine Schriften, Leipzig, 1912, vol. I p. 204-211.

9 R. Lonis, Les usages de la guerre entre Grecs et Barbares des guerres médiques au milieu du ive s. avant J.-C.. Paris, 1969, p. 52-53.

10 V. D. Hanson, reviewing Pritchett in CP h 87, 1992, p. 250-258, at 252.

11 See generally B. L. Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes, New York, 1911, nos. 328 and 582.

12 W. L. Newman, The Politics of Aristotle IV, Oxford, 1902, p. 385 had to go to the Doges' Venice for an example.

13 Livy 3. 29. 7 etc.

14 C. W. Fornara, Arehaic Times to the End of the Peloponnesian War, Baltimore, 1977, p. 183, n. 157.

15 The Fifth Book of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, Cambridge, 1879, p. 106

16 D. Whitehead, TheDemes of Attica, Princeton, 1986, p. 185-208) ; and note generally W. Burkert, Greek Religion, Oxford, 1985, p. 55, the most common is the sheep'.

17 Note Dem. 19. 169 on the Athenians captured by Philip at the fall of Olynthos in 348 : ἔνιοι τν ἐαλωκότων… ἐαυτοὺς ἔΦασαν βούλεσθαι λύσεσθαι … καὶ ἐδανείζοντο ὁ μὲν τρεἱς μνας ὁ δὲ πέντε, ὁ δ' ὃπως συνέβαινεν ἑκάστᾠ τὰ λύτρα °; cf. the mock decree for Euthykrates of Olynthos in Hyper, fr. 76 (from the κατὰ Δημάδουs παρανόμων), ἀλούσης 'Ολύνθου τιμητὴς ἐγένετο των αἰχμαλώτωνἀλούσης 'Ολύνθου τιμητὴς ἐγένετο των αἰχμαλώτων. For differential ransoming amongst the same body of captives cf. Diod. 20. 84. 6, Demetrios Poliorketes at Rhodes in 305, and Hannibal's (ultimately rejected) offer to the Romans after Cannae, Livy 22. 58. 4.

18 Diod. 14. 102. 2 and 111. 4 ; but [Arist.] Economies 2. 2. 20 gives three mnai for the latter.

19 There is a post-classical instance in Diodorus 23. 18. 5, the mid-third-century Roman siege of Pa- normus.

20 R. Lonis, op. cit. p. 53 n. 57.

21 S. Isager and M. H. Hansen, Aspects of Athenian Society in the Fourth Century BC, Odense, 1975, p. 32.

22 W. K. Pritchett, op. cit. p. 253.

23 F. Lammert, op. cit. col. 73.

24 P. Ducrey op. cit. p. 249.

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