Robu, Adrian : Mégare et les établissements mégariens de Sicile, de la Propontide et du Pont-Euxin. Histoire et institutions, 544 p., 15 ill., ISBN 978-3-0343-0461-0, Prix: 79,20 €
(Peter Lang, Bern 2014)
Compte rendu par Lieve Donnellan, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen

Nombre de mots : 2352 mots
Publié en ligne le 2016-06-24
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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          The book is an ambitious project, based on the author's doctoral thesis, which collects the colonial and institutional history of Megara and its foundations in Sicily, the Propontis and the Black Sea. The author gathers available texts, fragments and epigraphic evidence, with the aim of reconstructing the incentives for the various Megarian expeditions overseas, the circumstances of the individual foundations, and the relations with the mother city in political terms. A brief introduction, in which the reasons and aims of the study are outlined, precedes three substantial parts, which constitute the main part of the book. In these parts, Megara, the foundations, and their institutional history are studied. A short general conclusion reiterates the main points made throughout the study. The book is furnished with a substantial bibliography, three indices and a small number of colour plates and plans.


         In the introduction Robu seeks to engage with recent critics of the concept "colonisation" in Greek Antiquity. Acknowledging the inadequacy of the term, he choses to adopt "apoikia" instead. But he rejects the idea that ties between mother city and apoikia were exclusively of religious nature, and one of the aims of his study is to show that, in the Megarian case, they were political/institutional as well. Another main point the author insists on making, is the role of the native populations in many of the Megarian apokiai. This observation distinguishes Robu's work, in his own view, from previous studies on Megarian political history, such as Hanell's 1932 Megarische Studien.


         The first major part of the book is dedicated to Megarian political history and events in which the reasons for the Megarian colonisation are sought. Three main topics that Robu studies are: synoicism, the conflicts with Athens and internal strife. Robu rejects previous scholarly assumptions regarding the existing of five komai that would have fused to form the polis of Megara, an idea based on Plutarch's Quaestiones Graecae XVII and Strabo's Geography IX, 1, 10. The author explains that several of the districts, such as Perachora, belonged to Corinth, and that, in the written sources, we see Megarian propaganda at work. Megarian synoicism was, however, the main force behind the formation of the Megarian polis. The social and political tensions caused by synoicism and continuing conflicts with Corinth, gave way to the institution of the "lance-host" (p.49). As this did not offer the consolation needed, a new solution was found in colonisation: a part of the nobility lost its honour (timè) and sought a better life elsewhere. The conflict with Athens in the sixth century BCE is seen by Robu as the main drive behind a second wave of Megarian colonisation: the loss of Salamis robbed Megarians of opportunities to acquire new lands and thus, they sought it overseas. Continuing internal conflicts in Megara, which he situates in the middle of the sixth century BCE, and for which the author finds evidence in the works of Aristotle and Theognis, are directly connected to the foundation of Herakleia Pontica, whose foundation date falls in the same time frame. The work of Theognis is considered to be an especially trustworthy testimony of the extreme violence that reigned Megarian society in the Archaic period. Colonisation was therefore, according to Robu, a stabilising mechanism in Megarian society. Despite the different incentives for sending away people from Megara, all expeditions, claims Robu (p. 116), were organised by the polis, within its political and institutional framework, by the large families who assured the transition of the nomima from mother city to apoikia.


         The second part of the book aims at collecting the evidence, mainly textual and epigraphic, with some excursions into the archaeology and numismatics, of the known Megarian apoikiai. The goal is to reconstruct how colonists took the territory in possession, the way they interacted with the natives, and how they related to other groups of settlers and the mother city. The nature of the evidence differs significantly between the different apoikiai. For Megara Hyblaea, the author advocates the existence of amicable ties with the native populations, the reason for which must be sought in the threats represented by rivaling Euboean colonists. Additional evidence for active Greek-native exchange is seen by Robu in the existence of mixed funerary rituals, attested in the earliest levels of the necropolis. Ties with the mother city were political, as proven by Megara's participation in the foundation of Selinous and the exile of Theognis in Megara Hyblaea. Other aspects of institutional history in Megara Hyblaea are conspicuously absent. The early planned space in Megara should be linked to different oikoi, rather than komai, and this would find parallels in the other Megaraian apoikiai Selinous and Byzantion, where patriai were prominent. Selinous, Megara Hyblaea's subfoundation, had the Megarian Pammilos as founder. Robu sees herein the evidence of enduring ties between mother cities and apoikiai. Additional evidence is found in the presence of stamnoi from Megara Hyblaea in early levels at Selinous. The author draws the reader’s attention to a fragmentary inscription from Olympia, which possibly hints at the acceptance of refugees from Selinous in Megara Hyblaea. This would prove the existence of close political links. Urban characteristics in Selinous can be compared to Megara and Megara Hyblaea. In the Propontis, Astakos, of unknown location, should, according to the author, be seen as a first step and integral part of a coherent Megarian colonial plan, resulting in the establishment of a network of Megarian cities in the Propontis, well-organised for self-defense against hostile native tribes, and aiming at the exploitation of resources. Good relations with native tribes are seen by Robu in the figure of the mythical founder, Kalchas, of Kalchedon. He was the son of Chronos, who played an important role among the natives, and should be seen as an attempt to integrate the apoikia into the native mythical landscape. Regarding the myth of "blind Kalchedons" (the Kalchedons were considered in the Antiquity to be blind for having overlooked the more prosperous site at Byzantion when establishing their city), Robu points out that Kalchedon is better placed than Byzantion to receive ships coming from the Black Sea. Both cities should be considered to be supplementing each other; solidarity was a prerequisite for the establishment of a successful Megarian network. Selymbria was founded as predecessor of Byzantion, while at the latter location, the natives were hostile. Robu finds proof of amicable relations in the toponym, which is local, and the veneration of Selys as mythical founder. This cult constitutes another conscious attempt of Megarian apoikists to integrate in the native mythical landscape. The foundation of Byzantion was claimed by many Greek cities. A reference to Megara as founder (Ps.-Scymnus) is late. The reason for this, in the opinion of the author, is that the ancient authors had reservations to write about it (p.250). The role of Megara as founder cannot be denied, Robu argues, as links with Megara can be found in the alphabet, onomastics, dialect, cult and calendar. The rivaling foundation myths of Byzantion should be attributed to epoikoi, who favoured their own version. The figure of Byzas, the mythical founder, constitutes another attempt to integrate in the local landscape. A mixed group of founders was also responsible for the foundation of Herakleia Pontica, in the Black Sea. The author outlines that there must have been a collaboration between Boeotians and Megarians. The figure of Heracles, as founder (ktistes), known both in Megara and Boeotia, appears on imperial coins. The cult of Hera also connects, according to Robu, to Boeotia. In contrast to most other Megarian apoikiai, the relation with native groups were hostile. They are referred to in the sources as subjected. The apoikia of Mesambria, in the Black Sea, was founded by consecutive waves of settlers from Megara, Kalchedon and Byzantion. Evidence for the presence of Kalchedon and Byzantine epoikoi is found in the office of the hieromnamon, which is absent in Megara. The reasons for the foundation of Mesambria are unknown, although the early coinage could be seen, in the author's view, as a suggestion that trade with natives was important. The indigenous toponym would equally suggest good relations with local tribes.


         The third part of the book constitutes an analysis of the evidence, mainly epigraphic, for the institutional history of the Megarian network. Robu discusses evidence for civic subdivisions (phylai and hekatostyes) and various magistrates. Because Robu considers mother city and apoikiai to be part of an indivisible unit, the absence of evidence from one place can be supplemented with evidence from somewhere else. Megarian cities are considered to be subdivided in three phylai, according to the Dorian system. The eponymous heroes might have been venerated, as was the case in Athens. A tripartite division should also be recognised in other institutions, such as law courts, strategoi, theoroi. Evidence for the phylai is known from all apoikiai, apart from Sicily. The relatively late evidence for a subdivision in hekatostyes originates from all apoikiai, plus mother city, apart from Megara Hyblaea. What purpose the subdivision exactly served is unclear. The next section catalogues eponymous magistrates (basileus, hieromnamon) and other magistrates, such as aisimnatai, probouloi, pentekaidekai, strategoi, damiourgoi and nomophylakes. Most evidence for offices dates from the imperial period, but Robu suggests that they were installed by the first settlers. Robu adds that later colonists may have added something, but considers this as an unproven hypothesis.


         A very short annex which discusses an epigraphic custom from Megara, Taurian Chersonesos and Kallatis, precedes the conclusion. Tomb stones with a void, in which a placate with the deceased's name could be inserted, are found at all three locations, with Kallatis being uncertain. The author proposes to consider this custom as a yet unattested epigraphic link between mother city and (sub)colony.


         The volume closes with a brief general conclusion, in which the main points regarding reasons for colonisation (closely linked to polis formation), the mixed composition (considered typical for Megarian colonisation) and the good relations with natives (also typical for Megarian colonisation) are repeated.


         No doubt this study constitutes an admirable effort of the author to collect available textual and epigraphic evidence from ancient cities that considered themselves to be Megarian, including the Propontis and Black Sea - often ignored by Western scholars. The very careful edition should be noted, as well as a rich bibliography and the many footnotes, which often occupy the lower half of the page. The indices will prove a useful tool for consultation for scholars interested in one of the cities claiming a Megarian identity. The study adds some interesting points to current discussions, such as the integration of Greek foundation myths into native mythical landscapes, the idea of a Megarian network, which rose through solidarity against external hostilities, or the comparison made (p. 253) between synoicism and the foundation of a colony, which nicely outlines how the ancient Greeks, at a certain point, may have come to conceptualise the birth of a community.


         On the other hand, however, the general approach of the study feels remarkably archaic - as if the book was written twenty years ago. Themes such as "the reasons for colonisation" or "combat style" simply do not figure anymore in current research, because they are generally considered to be simplistic and inadequate. The author does not engage with a rich body of Anglophone, but also French and Italian literature on the topic of what constitutes “colonisation”, colonial identities (in a postcolonial sense) etc. Especially scholars who prefer to look at foundation myths as expressions of situational socio-political concerns, will lament the lack of a critical attitude towards the textual evidence. The author seeks to distinguish "myth" from "true event" using rather vague arguments, instead of accepting that different versions of myths might have served different socio-political interest groups. It would have been interesting to learn why certain cities expressed a shared identity in terms of that specific origin, Megarian, native or other. An attempt is made to connect Megarian colonisation to friendly Greek-native interactions, but the lack of a postcolonial reading leaves the reader wanting.


         The institutional history, written with the assumption that "mother city equals foundation" and that all institutions remained stable throughout centuries, from foundation to the end of the Roman period, is equally unconvincing. The profound changes that the societies involved experienced, from Archaic city-states throughout the integration in the empire, and how this might have affected social, political or cultic organisation, are completely ignored. This is not to say that it is impossible that there have been similarities in offices between various cities, or to deny that people migrated to another city and that this might have resulted in the installation of cults or offices elsewhere, but rather to ask why there were differences in the first place. Also, offices labeled by the author as "Megarian" were sometimes also known elsewhere, e.g. the hekatostyes existed also on Samos, and are not typically Megarian.


         Taken all together, this study will certainly be on the reading list of people with an interest in Megara and its colonial history or traditional institutional history. Especially the indices, gathering textual and epigraphic evidence, might come in handy. But, because of its problematic approach to the evidence, this book will have difficulties to convince a wider public, interested in Greek colonisation or Greek socio-political history.







Partie I: La cité de Mégare à l' époque archaïque

I.1 Le synœcisme mégarien

I.2 Les conflits de Mégare avec Athènes pour la possession de l' île de Salamina: une affaire de néoi?

I.3 Les luttes internes à Mégare au VIe siècle

I.4 Conclusions: les causes de la colonisation mégarienne


Partie II: Les établissements mégariens de Sicile, de la Propontide et du Pont-Euxin

II.1 Les établissements mégariens de Sicile

II.2 Les établissments mégariens de la Propontide

II.3 Les établissements mégariens du Pont-Euxin


Partie III: Les institutions politiques mégariennes

III.1 Les subdivisions du corps civique à Mégare et dans ses colonies

III.2 Les magistratures mégariennes


Annexe: Une coutume épigraphique de Mégare attestée à Chersonèse Taurique et à Callatis


Conclusions générales


Bibliographie générale


Cartes et planches