Characteristics of Charity in Olbian Polis (VI-I BC)

Keywords: charity, euergetism, Olbian polis, elite, civil society

Abstract

The article deals with analysis of charity in Olbian polis which was inherent in both citizens and foreigners from the moment of the foundation of the polis to the end of the Hellenistic period. It is argued, that the Olbian elite had very often engaged in practices owing much to euergetism.

In the early stages of the polis existence, the activity of benefactors was concentrated mainly on sacred unions. This fact contributed to the sacralization of the power of aristocracy in the city. For a long time the single form of benefactors’ glorification was proxenia, granted to foreigners for their financial assistance to the polis. According to proxenia and honorific decrees such a kind of emergency liturgy as the epidosis (voluntary donations) was popular in Olbian polis among both rich foreigners and Olbiopolitans. It should be emphasized that we do not observe official gratitude texts from civil communities towards their benefactors at the early stage of the history of the polis. The position of the everget gave foreigners a special status in the Olbian polis.

Since the 4th century BC the decrees in honor of the citizens of Olbia began to spread. It should be noted that all the decrees of the 4th-2nd centuries BC represented the benefactions of the local evergets in Olbia and emphasized their noble origin, but the Council and the people, on whose behalf these decrees were issued, did not confer their benefactors on a separate status to prevent their distinction from other fellow citizens. The term «everget», often used in honorific decrees of Hellenistic time, was not a title and was not compared with the duty of wealthy citizens who voluntarily agreed to numerous personal funds expenditure as well as protection of fatherland and fellow citizens. Philotimia (piety) was repeatedly noted in the texts as a reason for the charity work of the Olbian elite. It was often associated with patriotism and certain expectations to get «praise» (epainesai) from fellow citizens. «Praise» manifested itself in the glory of a «good citizen» and in its material donations (wreaths, statues, portraits, etc.). Moreover, it served as a kind of institution of social insurance for wealthy citizens within the civil community.

The activities of the native benefactors covered specific needs of the civil community in the prevailing political and economic conditions. At the same time that activity reflected rather limited financial possibilities of the Olbian rich (there is no information about the trierarkhia, horegia and other liturgies associated with large financial investments). Granted privileges were standardized and their diversity was limited. The gratitude of the civil community was manifested in perpetuating of the benefactor’s name, which sometimes was accompanied by administrative and financial privileges.

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Published
31.03.2021
How to Cite
RuchynskaO. (2021). Characteristics of Charity in Olbian Polis (VI-I BC). Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(33), 219-229. https://doi.org/10.33782/eminak2021.1(33).503
Section
Iron Age