Academic journal article Antichthon

The Eleian Mantic Gene

Academic journal article Antichthon

The Eleian Mantic Gene

Article excerpt


The Eleian manteis who practised at the altar of Zeus in Olympia appear to have belonged to two separate gene, the Iamids and the Klytiads. This paper first considers the identity and number of the Eleian mantic gene and then questions the long-held assumption that the Iamid genos was the first to belong established at Olympia. It is argued that the foundation myths that appear in Pindar and Pausanias are probably the result of the embellishment of pre-existing tradition in the Classical and Hellenistic periods. While neither archaeology nor further textual evidence entitles us to assume that mantic activity at Olympia predated the late Archaic period, an early Classical inscription, certain of the sculptures on the temple of Zeus and a later series of inscriptions from Olympia do make it possible to infer that two mantic houses, of which the Iamids were one and the Klytiads likely the other, were practising at Olympia from that time or earlier. Some reflection upon the limitations of myth as historical evidence is offered before the conclusion is reached that we cannot be certain that the Iamids constituted the senior house.

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Scholars have sometimes surmised that, by virtue of their greater antiquity, the Iamidai held a senior position among the Eleian gene who practised divination at the altar of Zeus Olympios in Olympia.1 Such scholars may have overestimated the value of the foundation myths recorded by Pindar and Pausanias as evidence for earlier times, so an examination of the context in which these myths appeared is warranted. It is first necessary, however, to consider the available evidence for the Eleian manteis in order to establish the number and identity of the gene to which they belonged.

1. The Gene

Several Eleian manteis ('seers') are said to belong to the Iamidai. The earliest evidence for this genos ('clan') of seers is a passage of Pindar's sixth Olympian ode, which suggests that the Syrakousan Iamid Hagesias, whose Olympic victory of 468, 472 or possibly 476 BC the ode celebrates, was once 'a custodian of the mantic altar of Zeus at Pisa'.2 We also have evidence from later writers of Iamids who lived at a time before their own. Herodotos reports that Kallias, 'an Eleian mantis of the Iamidai,' aided the Krotonians in their late-sixth century war against Sybaris and that his descendants remained in Kroton until the historian's own time.3 In Pausanias' account of the Second Messenian War, Theoklos, the mantis who attends the Messenian hero Aristomenes, is a descendant of Eumantis, 'an Eleian of the Iamidai whom Kresphontes had brought to Messenia'.4 Theoklos' son Mantiklos is active during the same war and later participates in the Messenian colony at Sicilian Messana.5 Pausanias describes the Eleian Satyros, a multiple victor in the Panhellenic games late in the fourth century bc, as belonging to the genos of the Iamids.6 We also learn from Pausanias that in the late third century BC the Eleian Iamid mantis Thrasyboulos acted as diviner for the Mantineians when they defeated the Lakedaimonians led by Agis, the son of Eudamidas.7

The affiliation of the most famous of the Eleian seers, however, has been a matter of dispute. Early in the fifth century BC, with his brother Agias, Teisamenos emigrated from Elis, was granted Spartan citizenship and became the state mantis.8 In this role he practised divination for the Spartans and their allies at the battle of Plataiai, performing the role of seer in a total of five victorious battles.9 Herodotos, in a passage open to various interpretations, appears to describe Teisamenos as tôv éóvtoc 'HÍWíov Kai yéveoç ron 'Iauiôcoiv K?umáSr|v, 'being an Eleian and a Klytiad of the clan of the Iamids'.10 Weniger concludes from this statement that, although born an Iamid, Teisamenos was adopted into a different Eleian mantic genos, that of the Klytiadai.11 There is, nevertheless, considerable evidence to suggest that Teisamenos was an Iamid in adult life. …

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