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Chapter 1 - Associations’ Regulations from the Ancient Greek World and Beyond

An Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2023

Vincent Gabrielsen
University of Copenhagen
Mario C. D. Paganini
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien


Private Associations in the Ancient Greek World investigates the rules and regulations produced by ancient private associations in an attempt to show why and how associations were creating a system of well-ordered groups within their communities. Regulations represent, in fact, an understudied aspect of ancient associative life: this book aims to fill this gap by approaching the well-known phenomenon of ancient associations from a new angle. It analyses the organisational structures, legislative mechanisms and features of associations, while at the same time investigating the potential models from – and interrelations with – the habits and strategies of political institutions. It also provides an assessment of the associations’ impact on the broader socio-cultural and physical environment and of their role in local societies, thanks to the establishment of such regulations. The book explores the ideology, values, ideas and aspects of identity embedded in the regulations as ways adopted by associations to create a specific profile to present to the outside world, as well as to members (both existing and future).

Private Associations in the Ancient Greek World
Regulations and the Creation of Group Identity
, pp. 1 - 38
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

The Book’s Subject and Aims

Private Associations in the Ancient Greek World investigates the rules and regulations produced by ancient private associations in an attempt to show why and how associations were creating a system of well-ordered groups within their communities. Regulations represent, in fact, an understudied aspect of ancient associative life: this book aims to fill this gap by approaching the well-known phenomenon of ancient associations from a new angle. It analyses the organisational structures, legislative mechanisms and features of associations, while at the same time investigating the potential models from – and interrelations with – the habits and strategies of political institutions. It also provides an assessment of the associations’ impact on the broader socio-cultural and physical environment and of their role in local societies, thanks to the establishment of such regulations. The book explores the ideology, values, ideas and aspects of identity embedded in the regulations as ways adopted by associations to create a specific profile to present to the outside world, as well as to members (both existing and future).

Although regulations of associations received attention in the classic accounts on the subject,Footnote 1 this was generally done in connection with commentaries on specific individual inscriptions, particularly rich in detail concerning the organisational and administrative aspects of associations.Footnote 2 Later works were even less systematic. The same generally applies to the papyri too: treatment of the subject took the form of learned commentaries on individual Greek or Demotic texts, typically in connection with their publication.Footnote 3 On the whole, none of these works on associations made the regulations the object of a systematic study, let alone sought to contextualise the historical significance of the phenomenon.Footnote 4 Some broader overarching issues were, however, addressed in connection with the Egyptian material: the main question was whether the rules, along with the system of governance they imply, represented an independent Egyptian tradition, which was adopted by the Greek-speakers in Egypt,Footnote 5 or a single, common Greek–Egyptian tradition, probably originating from Greece.Footnote 6 Furthermore, more recent studies on Egypt have aptly started to analyse associations’ rules with a focus on issues of membership, social standing and personal connections in different localities during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.Footnote 7 However, further issues remain to be addressed regarding the phenomenon not only within Graeco-Roman Egypt, but also outside of its boundaries.

The geographical focus of the investigation is the Greek-speaking Mediterranean, based on at least two reasons. First, the book is linked with the work done on the Inventory of Ancient Associations, an open-access online database of all known private associations attested in the Greek-speaking world from ca 500 BC to ca AD 300.Footnote 8 Second, the analysis aims at uncovering similarities as well as differences in a comparative outlook within a common cultural sphere: the chapters of this book, by various international specialists, study specific aspects of associations’ regulations from selected regions of the Greek-speaking world. Furthermore, the investigation concentrates on the Hellenistic and Imperial times, as most of the evidence on the subject dates from those periods.

The approach adopted in this book is therefore cautiously selective. However, in order to provide a strong comparative perspective and to give a taste of the global character of the phenomenon of private associations (even in their legislative habits), we thought it important to include two case studies of associations operating outside our main area of enquiry (both geographically and temporally) with two different approaches: one follows within the path of tradition and looks at the associations of the Roman West, namely, at Ostia, whereas the other provides a new and unconventional perspective by bringing into the picture associations from ancient and medieval Asia, namely, from India and China. Thus, the content coverage, though selective, is ample, as it reaches beyond Greece and Asia Minor and includes Egypt, Ostia and the East.Footnote 9 By the same token, the book encompasses different (socio-political) local realities and source material of a different nature. This obviously results in a great variety of contexts and the reader should not expect absolute uniformity. Although potentially confusing or discouraging at first, such diversity represents the biggest value of this analysis: it allows the reader to better appreciate the world of associations and their normative attitudes in all their richness, while anchoring them in the specificities of their various local societies, from which they cannot be abstracted. Such a wide-ranging comparative approach produces a new perspective, which challenges us to cross the confines of traditional scholarly attitudes – for instance, the Hellenocentric view of the polis – in favour of a broader outlook.

Thanks to its comparative efforts, it is hoped that the book may be of interest to a wider readership, not only to specialists of associations and to those interested in the social, legal, administrative and religious histories of the Greek and Roman worlds, but also to historians and specialists of other periods and geographical areas. As a matter of fact, the comparative results gained in the volume encourage us all to have an open mind and be aware of the broader perspective, considering relevant developments of social phenomena outside of the confines of one’s specialisation. Through the comprehensive and comparative analysis of different aspects of rules of associations, through the focus on the legal and institutional workings of non-state entities, on their regulation of space and on their interaction and reciprocal dialogue with local realities (both public and private), this volume aspires to make a new, independent – albeit perhaps modest – contribution to the field.

The chapters of this book adopt a threefold approach for their inquiries into the world of associations’ regulations: a descriptive approach (by presenting the main aspects of organisational life and its ideology, beliefs, principles and values), a comparative approach (by relating associations’ norms and procedures with those known to apply in other local institutional environments) and a contextualising approach (by investigating the wider role played by associations in their society thanks to their self-presentation as normative micro-systems). The last two approaches in particular have never before been applied to the topic of ancient associations.

What Is a Private Association?

Answering this question means identifying the clear object of investigation of the present volume. Both constituent elements of this notion need to be addressed: first, despite the intrinsic difficulties of providing universally valid and univocal definitions for ancient realities, we shall try to explain how we can identify an ancient association; second, we shall clarify what we mean by the term ‘private’. It should be stated clearly that such an interest in a definition of the term is a modern scholarly concern: the ancients never spelt out of what they considered an association. However, the need for such a definition is no trivial matter, as it is fundamental for the selection of the material, in the interest of a stronger validity of research outputs. In this respect, we adopt a rather restrictive approach – often stricter than others – in order to identify a private association with some certainty: there is in fact a set of criteria that needs to be met.Footnote 10

We understand an association to be a group of individuals gathering together as a body with some sense of self-identity (often expressed with general terms for ‘association’, such as koinon, thiasos, synodos, collegium and corpus, as well as with specific collective proper names, which encompass a variety of possible elements, from names of deities or activities to place names – also in combination), some form of organised structure (with more or less elaborate or codified regulations concerning membership and organisation) and some desire for a durable existence. They met in meetings or assemblies on more or less regular occasions for the most disparate reasons and with the most varied purposes and often behaved in their dealings as a corporate body would. The terms employed (by associations themselves and by others) in the ancient sources to identify these realities are various but they mostly recall an idea of ‘being, gathering, performing, possessing something together, as a community’ – from the Greek term koinon to the Latin word collegium, for instance – thus showing how important the value of communality and, to some extent, some aspects of communal life were for associations’ identity.Footnote 11 As associations’ regulations clearly show, their members, besides being clearly defined vis-à-vis non-members (through criteria decided by themselves), were (expected to be) characterised by a relatively high degree of bonding, intimacy, solidarity, commitment and social cohesion.Footnote 12 Conversely, by the term ‘private’ we mean that associations were neither state-run institutions nor organisations established by the state: they were formed and managed by private individuals, with private funds and with self-government; they were not established as constituent parts of the constitutional features of the political communities where they were active. However, their private nature does not mean that they did not play any role in the public life of their communities; quite the opposite: they were not directly determined and run by the state but were very much embedded in, open to and projected towards the life of their local communities, which they in fact greatly influenced and by which they were influenced.

At the same time, private associations were quite distinct from other private groups, equally positioned outside of the constitutional spectrum of political or administrative institutions but characterised by a fundamentally different nature. These groups can be generically arranged under three headings: ‘informal groups’, ‘ad hoc groups’ and partnerships.

  1. 1. ‘Informal groups’ are a loosely knit type. Members’ entrance/exit is often not only largely unregulated by formal rules but probably also undefined: individuals can join or leave the group without needing approval or notifying the other members. Likewise, formal meetings at which all members assemble might not occur at all. Additionally, even if some have a continuous (rather than temporary) existence, all groups belonging to this kind typically do not display any of the fundamental features that usually indicate a specific collective identity, such as a collective proper name (for instance, the Eikadeis) and/or general designations for their group as a whole, such as the Greek terms koinon, orgeones, thiasotai/thiasos, eranistai/eranos, and so on. Demades and his friends in late fourth-century BC Athens are an example of such an informal group: high-profile people involved in politics, the navy and the grain trade, who shared common financial interests, helped each other and adopted concerted strategies for their own (economic) advantages.Footnote 13

  2. 2. ‘Ad hoc groups’ were formed for the specific performance of a limited and specific task and did not extend their sphere of interest or sometimes even active existence beyond that occasion. These could include the so-called ad hoc cult groups or those age groups not embedded in the political constitution of the hosting community but, for instance, organised for a specific festival, event or ceremony. Although some had some form of collective identity and names, as well as potential rules of entry and exit, they do not display any other signs of more complex formal organisation (developed internal organisation, property, extended duration, etc.). An example of this may be the so-called Thyadai: a group of women who were active in the performance of rituals connected to the cult of Dionysus at Delphi.Footnote 14

  3. 3. In partnerships (especially business partnerships), members are clearly defined, closely knit and probably also intimate, but by virtue of a written or unwritten legal contract between them. Besides stating (a) the purpose of their union, which is the group’s raison d’être, this contract specifies (b) the duties and privileges of each member and (c) the duration of the group’s existence, typically a (short) period of time that coincides with the completion of the stated purpose. After this time, the validity of the contract binding the members is dissolved. The holding of common property may result in added complications, as this would in fact have to be sold and its price redistributed amongst the former members when the partnership ended. The contractual character of partnerships and the nature of their activities give rise to certain legal requirements that the members have to meet in their dealings, especially vis-à-vis third parties: for this reason, partnerships might use one or more features of collective identity, such as a proper name. Partnerships, therefore, bear a resemblance to our associations. However, the majority of partnerships’ fundamental features, not least their predetermined time of expiry, set them apart from associations proper. An example of a partnership is the consortium of ‘those gathering under the poplar tree’ at Athens: a group of individuals who collectively purchased from the state the right to collect the pentekoste (the 2 per cent ad valorem tax) in 402/1 BC.Footnote 15

Hybrid forms – between ‘informal groups’, ‘ad hoc groups’, partnerships and private associations proper – arguably existed. So far, they have largely remained unidentified. For analytical purposes, it is therefore preferable to regard them as theoretically distinct.Footnote 16 On the one hand, associations proper had regulations that stretched beyond the practical and somewhat narrow arrangements of the partnership; partnerships had contracts; on the other hand, mere groups needed nothing of the kind, because they could manage simply with an informal ‘common understanding’ among participants.

Traditional scholarship has tended to divide private associations into different types, giving them various general labels: trade/craft associations, professional associations, cult associations, religious associations and the like. This was done for practical reasons, in an attempt to give some structure to a complex phenomenon, which could often prove itself too confusing and too unsystematic for modern minds. Influenced – unconsciously or not – by the world of medieval and modern professional guilds and religious confraternities, historians have generally considered these types as fundamentally different sorts of organisations categorised on the basis of the alleged individual nature and main raison d’être of such associations. In many cases, such identification was mainly or solely based on the association’s name, because little beyond that is often known from the sources: a group named Apolloniastai, for instance, would be labelled a ‘cult association’ and their existence would be linked to the worship of the god Apollo, whereas a weavers’ club would be defined as a professional association, the activities of which were essentially believed to serve the purpose of facilitating their trade. However, things are more complex: although associations’ names certainly advertised an image of the group and did have a meaning in connection with (one of) the characters that the group decided to project to the outer world at the time when the association chose its name, virtually nothing certain can be deduced from associations’ names concerning their actual nature, activities, motives and agenda – one of the first scholars of ancient associations had already remarked that ‘the name of an association does not have to signify its purpose’.Footnote 17 As a matter of fact, the idea itself that an association had one sole nature or central purpose – together with our ability to identify it – is questionable: in those cases in which we know more about the activities and existence of an association, at a closer look we often see that the association’s aims and interests were various and stretched beyond the confines of what its name or assigned ‘type’ might suggest.Footnote 18 The traditional division of ancient associations into types has therefore fallen short and is being rightly challenged.Footnote 19 Although convenient for the sake of classification and often also maintained in more recent scholarship (even in some of the chapters of this volume), in our view such a division is misleading and historically imprecise; therefore, it should be employed without dogmatic value and with caution – or, better still, it should be avoided altogether.

A recent trend in the field of ancient history has provided a new theoretical framework for the study of associations: the concept of networks. Interest in phenomena and realities beyond or outside the traditional poleis and the elements encompassed in their constitutional framework has gained momentum and has triggered the development of this different methodology for the purpose. One of its aims is to uncover and map out those – often complex – interrelations between various agents operating outside of the traditional categories of the political establishment: these relations are not always adequately visible through the lens of formal institutions or traditional descriptive categories; conversely, they become more clearly perceivable with a network approach. Therefore, such a method intends to highlight and interpret those agents that have been largely ignored in traditional scholarship but potentially did exert a distinct influence on historical change.Footnote 20 In fact, a steadily growing number of studies seek to understand and explain historical processes of various kinds by using the concept of network as their basic tool of analysis and network theory as the framework of their fundamental assumptions. Some strive to retrieve the broader but dynamically evolving patterns of interrelations – cultural, technical, economic, and so on – formed through the circulation and use of artefacts over a wider geographical space.Footnote 21 Other studies explore the web of connections established by and between political communities (e.g. mother-cities and their colonies; leagues and confederations).Footnote 22 Highly promising steps have also been taken in the analysis of networks of cults and in the study of amphictyonies, which have shown rich potential in this respect too.Footnote 23 Finally, other studies focus on those networks that are generally described as social and economic networks, because they primarily reflect the organisational choices and connectivity strategies of individuals (rather than of political or large religious entities).Footnote 24 Associations are positioned within the frame of social, religious and economic networks.

The Regulations of Private Associations

The need to regulate the practicalities of internal organisation and the desire to set some principles for associations’ life as a group prompted them to establish regulations. This is the data set that is the main object of investigation of this book: regulations were drawn up in various forms and are preserved both in inscriptions and in papyri, virtually covering the entire time span of antiquity (and beyond). In this respect, the reader should not expect absolute uniformity in the character and typologies in which associations’ regulations could be clad, not only as differences could exist depending on place but also because the same association could adopt a variety of legal instruments – at the same moment or over a longer period of time – in order to formally record their dispositions. Furthermore, unwritten customs and traditions also existed and formed – an equally important – part of the system of regulations of associations: although these left no trace in our evidence and therefore cannot be assessed, they should neither be forgotten nor underestimated in their value.

Typologies and formats of the regulations of associations varied (see Table 1.1): they included decrees and contractual agreements, as well as unilateral dispositions such as endowments or foundations, testamentary wills and sacred laws or orders. Furthermore, besides fully formed, self-contained and formal charters, dispositions on different matters and procedures of the association’s life could also form part of other documents by associations, from honorific decrees to administrative decisions. Therefore, the body of associations’ regulations often had the character of a corpus or a collection rather than of a single normative text: composed of various dispositions contained in and scattered over different documents, these regulations were often drawn up over the course of the association’s lifetime, could be added one to another and also adapted to changing circumstances and needs. As established in relevant dispositions appended to associations’ texts, the binding validity and force of these regulations was secured by their publicity, accessibility and preservation: associations made sure that members had access to these documents, which were often set up on stone on the association’s premises as well as recorded on more perishable materials (tablets and papyrus) to be stored in the association’s archives.Footnote 25 The best known examples of regulations by an association include the rules of the Iobacchoi, the name carried by the members of a second-century AD Athenian association which formally called itself ‘the Bakcheion,Footnote 26 and the regulations of associations from Pharaonic, Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, written in Demotic and Greek. There are some twenty sets of such regulations, often rich in details, the earliest of which dates to the early fourth century BC; they are commonly referred to by modern scholarship as nomoi, ‘laws’, from the name given to them in the Greek papyri.Footnote 27

For reasons of practicality and theoretical analysis, one may draw a general distinction between two kinds or aspects of these regulations: on the one hand, we find rules relating to administrative matters and procedures; on the other hand, there are rules that focus on members’ conduct. For instance, to the former belong rules establishing the number, methods, frequency and length of appointment of associations’ officials, the regulations about formal decision-making and voting procedures during assemblies and the dispositions about the handling of funds, including the penalties in case of non-compliance. Regulations requiring that members did not drink too much during associations’ banquets, did not insult fellow members or sleep with other members’ wives belong to the latter. Concerning the regulation of administrative matters, associations were acting as an independent organisation similar to a political community: in this respect, the character of their regulations resembles that of the laws of the state. On the other hand, by establishing rules of conduct, associations appear to be inclined to perform as a ‘social’ entity: in this respect, they share this trait with no other collective of classical antiquity.Footnote 28 Strictly speaking, it is only the first that may be immediately associated with the concept of governance, while the second may be largely characterised as behavioural, because it chiefly seeks to provide a code of good conduct: manners, politeness, propriety, courtesy, piety, decorum and so on. In other words, what modern scholarship tends to call civility.Footnote 29 To the extent that our evidence permits it, the chapters in this volume address both of these aspects.

It is true that in many cases these two kinds of norms not only coexisted side by side (the rules of an association may contain regulations on administrative matters and on members’ behaviour) but were also mixed: rules about governance expected the compliance of specific behaviours by the members. For instance, regulations about proper conduct during assemblies or association meetings seem to be concerned as much with civility as with the smooth and effective completion of the business on the meeting’s agenda.Footnote 30 Dispositions concerning the reasons for the award of honours and the type of recognition granted to members and non-members blend issues of governance with issues of decorum and proper behaviour. By establishing honorary awards to associations’ officials who performed their duties in an exemplary manner and by allowing them to set up their honorary monument at a (most) conspicuous place on the association’s premises, for instance, associations were at the same time setting the expected conduct in office, regulating procedures for granting honours and codifying the management of space.Footnote 31 Moreover, in certain cases even regulations of a religious nature (for instance, rules on purity, on the timely and proper performance of cultic rites and celebrations or concerning the duties of the group’s cultic personnel) equally belong to the sphere of the general administration and to that of reverent or pious behaviour. This is even more the case if one considers how important religion was for nearly all associations and how religious concerns shaped the organisation of many associations. Cult and religion played a significant role also in the definition and regulation of space by associations.Footnote 32 However, the main objective that the regulations on governance and those on conduct aimed at regulating was different in essence: therefore, such a distinction appears helpful, at least from an analytical point of view. In fact, there are instances in which the rules were solely concerned with the behaviour of associations’ members, such as those detailed in the hieros nomos of Dionysios from Philadelphia (on which more below) or those found in the Demotic papyri with the nomoi of associations.Footnote 33 Furthermore, the rules of conduct include two elements, which are even further from the rules of governance and from the ideological model offered by the polis: mutual assistance among members, which sometimes is extended to the friends of members,Footnote 34 and the dispositions regarding the treatment of deceased members, which range from communal funerals and/or ‘associational burial’ to post-mortuary honours and commemorative celebrations.Footnote 35 In particular, the first – mutual assistance – underlines the value of philanthropia that is cherished by many associations. If the polis honoured good behaviour, associations seem to have demanded it – although they also honoured particularly generous acts by distinguished members.

The ways in which the regulations were validated or officially set up varied: they were often linked to the typology of documents in which the regulations were contained. It is generally assumed that regulations were formulated and validated by the members themselves: this is indeed one of the principal criteria identifying as ‘private’ a specific association.Footnote 36 An external imposition of the norms (especially by a political authority) would compromise the association’s independent private nature. However, in a number of instances an association’s charter – in part, at least – was drawn up and validated by its founder(s) at the inception of the organisation: in this case, the membership’s involvement is confined to their commitment to follow the rules. In some cases, the original document incorporating the rules and regulations may formally take the form of a testament. One well-preserved specimen is the testament of Epikteta from Thera, which forms the legal foundation for the establishment of the koinon tou andreiou ton syngenon.Footnote 37 In other cases, the document may somewhat resemble a Great Rhetra, which was drawn up by the founder on the instructions of a divine authority and enshrined in the association’s place of assembly in a monumentalised form. An illustrative example of this may be the rules (literally ‘ordinances’ or ‘commandments’: paraggelmata) of the hieros nomos of Dionysios from Philadelphia in Lydia: it was certainly so at least in the eyes of Dionysios, drafter of the rules; however, it is uncertain whether Dionysios’ wish to attract cult followers did lead to the formation of an association proper.Footnote 38 A clause ensuring the regulations’ validity for eternity and strictly prohibiting alterations to any of its parts is often present.Footnote 39 Yet, the pre-existence of a ‘founding charter’ (in testamentary or other form) does not at all preclude the simultaneous existence of a second set of rules, which may be validated, modified, re-affirmed or renewed by the entire membership, as the case may be.Footnote 40

Once regulations were in place, it was necessary to make sure that they were followed. Therefore, their enforcement often occupies an important position within the regulations’ dispositions: it is no surprise that all the chapters of this volume address this issue. In fact, although members agreed to abide by the rules set in the association’s regulations, the extant documents contain (often detailed) clauses about what is to be done in cases of transgression. The analysis of this aspect has important consequences regarding the values behind associations’ regulations and their interplay with local societies. Only a few of these important matters are highlighted here. The venue where the enforcement is said to take place is of consequence: associations could decide to deal with the matter inside or outside the association’s purview. Furthermore, a question of authority arises: if matters were dealt with within the associations, those empowered with the right of execution could be the whole membership or a part thereof, such as individual members chosen for the purpose or designated officials. If matters were delegated outside of the association, the enforcement could be exercised within the judicial system of the association’s community (e.g. courts of law or local representatives of the political authority) or could be entrusted to one or more divine powers. Finally, one may question the effectiveness of the intended enforcement: most scholars assume that enforcement was indeed effective and that for this reason members usually complied.Footnote 41 This may well have been true in most cases but a more definite answer to the question is to be found only in the careful analysis of associations’ documents other than the regulations proper: the existence of punitive measures and sanctions in the regulations, which are characteristically normative, is per se not adequate proof of the rules’ effectiveness. An investigation of the ultimate means, which an association could use in case of persistent non-compliance towards the internal punitive measures, would in fact illustrate the attitude by associations regarding collaboration with, reliance on or avoidance of external courts of law. However, it is only in very few cases that the evidence at our disposal is sufficient enough to allow some meaningful conclusions on associations’ actual attitudes in case of dispute and on the range of mechanisms adopted by them to make sure that members complied with the rules’ requirements. It appears that associations preferred procedures for internal dispute resolution, spanning from mediation, peer pressure, threats, fines, physical coercion, confinement to temporal expulsion; the involvement of external judicial systems seems to have been endured when everything else failed, as extrema ratio only.Footnote 42 Besides the desire for maintaining a public image of friendly and unproblematic behaviour amongst members, by demanding to keep possible problems internal and to avoid resorting to state courts, associations expected members to display particular loyalty, a high sense of community and a developed feeling of trust. Members were urged to have confidence in the association’s channels for dispute resolution and ultimately to put the group’s collective good and reputation before their personal issues. In this respect, associations seem to have adopted the values and behaviour of the family.Footnote 43

The analysis of these various aspects relating to associations’ regulations brings to the fore the question of whether they had a real significance. Because regulations constituted their institutional hallmark, associations strove to have them in place as much as possible in order to signal something specific about the group’s habitus, to use a term borrowed from sociological studies. However, it is unlikely that these regulations and their enforcement clauses were simply rhetorical, with no significant value. Systematic failure or reluctance by associations to enforce them would have undermined the association’s credibility and produced a detrimental image, as the group cladded itself in empty procedures followed by no one: regulations were real and were therefore enforced, as far as possible. On a further level, one may wonder whether in some cases these regulations were substituting for or ranking higher than those of the political community. The main issue consequent on this is whether private associations were proposing laws and values, which were new, different, concomitant, additional or opposed to those of their socio-political communities. These are vast issues and not all of them can be answered, as our sources do not permit us to draw definite conclusions in all cases. However, the chapters in this book illustrate to what extent associations’ regulations had a real significance and how they may relate to and interact with the values of their wider societies.

The regulations of associations reflected adherence to a specific ideology, beliefs and sets of principles and values. Generally speaking, those rules of governance (regulating the membership as a group) are intimately linked to values of efficiency, accountability, transparency, righteousness, egalitarianism (or at least the cherishing of a participatory culture) and respect for tradition – including religious practice. The rules of conduct (directed towards the individual member), conversely, foster values of reciprocity, compassion, trust, philanthropy, civility in an attempt to make each member useful, both directly to the group and indirectly to outsiders, because these values may ultimately become embedded in a person’s nature. The key notion that all these features implicitly but forcefully support is that of ‘good order’ to establish associations as ‘well-ordered groups’. By regulating both governance and members’ behaviour, by allowing different sections of society into their membership and by highlighting the importance of norms of conduct, associations tended to reach out to, manage and somehow ‘control’ all facets of their membership: rather than mirroring political communities proper, such a holistic approach recalls the philosophers’ state utopias, which encompassed polis and society in a homogeneous unit.Footnote 44 Associations were therefore providing a model of community in addition to that of the polis and were engraining sets of values parallel and in some cases complementary to those of the political communities. In this respect, with this book we hope to stimulate further debate on the issue of whether associations were creating something new.

The associations of antiquity, precisely thanks to their rules and regulations and to their desire to be – or at least to appear as – well-ordered groups, became the carriers into much later periods of values, procedures and modes of collective behaviour, as the following example indicates. An extraordinary document, written in Syriac and found in a late ninth-century AD collection of materials by Gabriel, the bishop of Bashra, attests to the continuing transmission of a long tradition. Entitled ‘Concerning the ordering and regulation of associations of the crafts called NN’, the document offered itself as a blueprint for incipient associations.Footnote 45 Probably originating in the late Sassanian or early Arab period as the rules of a particular association, the document, after having been cleared of the specifics connecting it to its parent association, was turned into a prototype to be used by any association wishing to provide regulations to its members. The rules on governance and on conduct coexist here in perfect harmony. However, what makes this document really extraordinary is that it simultaneously embraces two aspects, one looking to the future and the other to the past. In fact, on the one hand, this text perpetuates a specific and still cherished associational culture, as its purpose as a ‘blueprint’ makes clear. On the other hand, it links the historical roots of that culture to a distant past: as commentators have noticed, there are clear similarities to the rules and regulations of the Graeco-Roman associations, particularly to those of the Iobacchoi.Footnote 46

The Meaning of ‘Well-Ordered’

The regulations and the other various documents produced by associations are not theoretical or abstract in nature: they do not analyse the ideals that informed associations’ behaviour but are rather concerned with the application of these ideals and their specific factual results. Associations created documents in order to respond to practical needs, by setting expected procedures, granting honours for specific behaviour and providing solutions to current requirements. Therefore, the general principle of ‘good order’, which underpins the life of associations, is uncovered by a process of induction, so to speak, from the specific factual content of the regulations’ various dispositions and of other documents produced by associations, in particular honorific decrees. The characteristics expected from members – which also correspond to those praised and rewarded by associations – encompassed moral, religious, social and financial virtues: excellence (ἀριστεία), virtue (ἀρετή), piety (εὐσέβεια), favour (εὔνοια), benevolence (φιλανθρωπία), intimacy (οἰκειότης), friendliness (φιλοφροσύνη), love for what is good (φιλαγαθία), concern for good reputation (φιλοδοξία), distinction (λαμπρότης), generosity (μεγαλοψυχία), usefulness (εὐχρηστία), quality of being a benefactor (εὐεργεσία), love for social distinction that comes from one’s munificence (φιλοτιμία), liberality (ἀφειδία).Footnote 47 Ultimately, a member of an association should strive to be ‘good’ (καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός) – and behave accordingly.Footnote 48 Associations’ regulations did exactly this: they ensured that members were ‘good’ by requiring them to act in a specific manner towards each other and by striving to mould themselves as well-ordered groups.

The idea of ‘well-ordered’ employed here embraces both the moral concept of good behaviour, linked to obedience to regulations, and the modern notions of legal and institutional order, linked to procedural efficiency. As appears clear in their regulations and honorific decrees, associations strove to be well-ordered both by running their common affairs in an orderly fashion (with the help of clear, efficient and codified measures to that effect) and by gathering people with a moral imperative towards proper and excellent behaviour (who thus were expected to follow the rules). As a matter of fact, the former was only possible because of the latter: practical order was the direct and tangible result of a moral principle.

The various dispositions in their regulations exemplify how much associations cared to establish order and on which different aspects they put particular emphasis: it is clear that the self-presentation as well-ordered groups was therefore no trivial matter in the associations’ agenda. Beyond an interest for the (important) practical advantages of efficiency, associations had an added desire to be well-ordered because such a thing necessarily implied that the members were well-mannered, honest, trustworthy and respectable people – and as a corollary, that the association as a whole was too. The fundamental consequence of this is that associations thus created a specific profile within their local societies, with its associated social and economic advantages.

Associations’ Role within Local Society

It should never be forgotten that associations were very much local realities: they were inextricably embedded in their local society, from which they cannot be abstracted. Therefore, they must be analysed in their socio-political and geographical settings: local phenomena and dynamics greatly influenced associations, which adapted themselves on the basis of their surrounding circumstances and could behave differently depending on their location and period. In this respect, one ought to have an open-minded approach: one should not necessarily expect uniformity but rather a variety of different scenarios. Despite the initial potential bewilderment that one may have at the prospect of having to deal with a number of different contexts, this variety constitutes the interesting part of the analysis, as it showcases the vivacity, the dynamic character and the multifaceted essence of the ancient world.

Associations played a fundamental role in society as active agents on a variety of levels: they were in fact contributing to the life of their local communities on a wide spectrum, from economic to cultural and religious aspects. This was made possible by the specific social profile that they established, thanks to their nature – or, at all events, their self-portrayal – as well-ordered and respectable groups. It was exactly the fact that they were being perceived in this way, both as a whole group and as single members, that allowed them to have scope of action by creating bonds of trust and esteem with other local institutions and individuals.Footnote 49

First and foremost, associations had an important impact on local economic life: this is probably the most extensively studied feature of private associations and therefore also the most familiar topic to be treated when focusing on them. Although we do not intend to underplay this important aspect, the economy per se is not the central concern of this volume. Recent scholarship has uncovered a variety of details concerning the associations’ role in the ancient economy. In particular, through the employment of a larger theoretical scheme that incorporates the concept of ‘social capital’, some studies attempted to interpret the broader economic ramifications of associations’ regulations, more specifically, inside as well as outside of associations themselves: the reader should refer to these for a fuller analysis.Footnote 50 For our purposes here, it suffices to say that associations as groups could provide the setting for the facilitation of specific aspects in the organisation of a specific branch of a trade or profession. They often allowed the creation of a network that diminished transaction costs, eased trade and provided social and human capital; in some cases they represented platforms of cooperation with the state and could provide the framework for the mobilisation of foreign capital and for a freer business participation of agents whose action would have been otherwise more restricted (for instance, non-citizens in the Greek poleis). Associations could also act as substantial consumers of marketed goods and services, thus boosting the local market. In addition, they could provide employment. Single individuals also reaped different economic advantages by being members of associations. They could build networks of trust and create commercial alliances; they had at their disposal preferential channels for the availability of ready capital when necessary; they could have considerable advantage from the sharing of information, know-how and potential risks. As a matter of fact, although it is fairly impossible to quantify with certainty, the members of those associations that left a trace in our evidence were usually individuals who had at their disposal some means and time, which they were willing to spend in the setting of associational life.Footnote 51

Beyond the economy, associations contributed to the local life of their communities on a number of other levels. For instance, they often were in charge of the performance of some religious tasks or activities and provided services that others did not (for instance, in funerary practices); in some cases they could uphold the continuation of rites, which would otherwise have been discontinued, or could introduce new ones. They could also create the opportunity for the establishment of somewhat formalised social interaction between sections of the population for which full integration was not an option (for instance, foreigners in the Greek poleis). Furthermore, they could provide scope of action for those who could otherwise not have been able to contribute to their communities in the same way (for instance, women and slaves). Conversely, they could also operate as means for social distinction and as a way of separation from others. Their influence could also extend to the setting or diffusion of artistic trends and architectural typologies, as well as to the make-up of local topography.Footnote 52 Depending on the contingent situation, associations adopted a variety of different strategies and developed approaches and solutions in order to achieve their agenda: this wide-ranging sphere of action, which associations enjoyed, led to various degrees of impact on the most disparate facets of their societies.

On a deeper and more fundamental level, the input associations gave to their local communities may have also gone beyond the more tangible and practical matters discussed so far. In fact, by accepting and being subjected to the operation of specific regulations, which embodied particular principles, associations’ members internalised such values, made them their own – with various degrees of willingness and awareness – and exported them to some degree to their larger communities. In this way, associations could potentially become not inconsiderable influencers of society values. However, as said, associations (and their values) were at the same time also affected by the society in which they were active.

Overview of the Chapters

The first four chapters after this Introduction focus on various broader aspects of the regulatory behaviours of associations, namely, admission and financial survival, participation in associations’ life, religious concerns and normative attitudes towards physical space.

Chapter 2 by N. Giannakopoulos analyses the practice (often modelled on those of the hosting communities) by associations to vet admissions, regulate entrance-fees and secure financial contributions by the members, all important procedures to maintain associations’ purported egalitarian, well-ordered and prosperous profile. However, in certain cases, deviations which could prima facie seem to undermine the egalitarian character and immediate income of associations were contemplated: this was done in accordance with a well-planned attitude, which sometimes included practices long abandoned by the local political counterparts, to achieve greater advantages and respectability than by following standard norms.

B. Eckhardt in Chapter 3 explores the normative attempts by ancient associations in the Greco-Roman world to regulate the obligatory participation by members in associations’ activities and their implications for the relationship between associations and local societies. The practice was widespread among associations in time and place: associations relied on members’ participation for their existence; finding ways to ‘encourage’ their presence was of vital importance and formed a constituent part of associations’ regulatory practices.

Chapter 4 by J.-M. Carbon deals with normative concerns regulating the religious sphere, in particular concerning purity: through norms on purity, associations aimed at maintaining good order and propriety within the group, while at the same time attempted to expand their network of followers, for instance by regulating access to sanctuaries and behaviour for a wider community of worshippers. With precise technical display of epigraphical finesse, case studies (mainly from Asia Minor) showcase the wide spectrum of characteristics of these norms, which could mirror traditional civic practices or be more stringent, and the ways in which associations asserted and regulated (as well as enforced) them.

Chapter 5 turns our attention to a different aspect ingrained in the topic of regulations. Using modern sociological definitions of space, S. Skaltsa seeks to explain the ways in which associations created space and constructed their own identity through well-defined physical as well as social space. A major outcome of the chapter is to show how spatial arrangements were as much part of an association’s self-perception and self-presentation as the composition and activities of its membership. The empirical basis of this analysis consists of the epigraphic dossier of three ‘founders’ of associations: Epikteta from Thera, Poseidonios from Halicarnassus and Diomedon from Cos.

Chapters 69 allow us to turn our attention to defined geographical areas of the ancient world, with specific case studies centred on associations from Athens, Mantinea, Egypt and Ostia.

Chapter 6 by I. Arnaoutoglou investigates the attention to and regulation of orderly behaviour in the world of the so-called cult associations of Athens, from the late fourth century BC to the late second century AD. In this respect, the opposition of the two concepts of thorybos, ‘clamour, tumult, confusion’, and of eusthateia, ‘tranquillity, quiet conduct’, is presented and it is argued that Athenian associations shifted from allowing the former to stressing the latter as a response to Roman attitudes of diffidence towards possible unrest caused by associations.

S. Zoumbaki in Chapter 7 devotes her study to associations in Mantinea and their regulatory dispositions, in which specific values allowed the creation of an image of well-ordered and respectable institutions, in order to establish interactions with local society, in particular with local elites. Thanks to the adoption of specific strategies and sets of conduct, associations claimed a specific scope of action and role in public life within fields no longer monopolised by civic institutions, such as in the case of specific aspects of traditional religious life and of women’s participation. In so doing, they complemented polis institutions in the public life of their communities, while all agents involved (associations, polis and local elites) reaped full advantage from the practice.

The values embedded in the regulations by associations of early Roman Egypt, together with their relation to the values of the local communities and the provincial administration, and their attempt to present themselves as well-ordered and respectable institutions are investigated in Chapter 8 by M. Langellotti. Traditional ethical values fostered by associations continued to be successfully mobilised and adapted to conform with the new values of local societies and of political contingencies. Thanks to regulations, associations established a successful model of order that guaranteed their existence, also in the face of changed socio-economic circumstances.

Chapter 9 by N. Tran presents associations in Ostia in the second and third centuries AD, which had their regulations primarily kept in their own archives and thus often lost to us. However, the set of their regulations transpires from associations’ alba ‘membership lists’ and honorific texts: they testify the spread and wide-ranging dispositions for the upholding of a ruled environment, including vetting of admissions, expulsion of unworthy members and the regulation of activities, contributions, votes and appointments. These rules characterised the very existence of associations, which thus presented themselves as well-ordered, respectable and socially integrated institutions; just as they defined themselves as ordines, imitating the public sphere.

Chapter 10 broadens up the horizon of our investigation. Adopting a comparative approach with Greco-Roman associations, K. G. Evers brings into the analysis evidence of regulatory practices by associations from India and China, showing the communal Eurasian and thus global character of the phenomenon. Despite different inputs from diverse socio-political realities, Roman, Indian and Chinese associations with members sharing the same profession in fact developed parallel institutional traditions and independently adopted regulations (with comparable content, values and practices) to answer similar circumstances.

Chapter 11 provides some concluding remarks on the role and position of private associations in the societies of the ancient world, bringing together the various issues analysed in detail in the preceding chapters of the book.

Table 1.1. Tentative list of associations’ regulations and of texts with clear references to regulations from the ancient Greek-speaking world (VI cent. BC–IV cent. AD)

CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1584platiwoinoif. VI BCSEG 30:380Tiryns, Argolisblocks on wall; list of dispositionsGreek (Argaean)N/A
538N/AVI–V BCSEG 11:244Sicyon, Peloponnesebronze tablet; dispositions for the use of a dining hall, with list of membersGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1964LabyadaiVI–IV BCCID I 9Delphi, Phocisstele; decreeGreekthesmos ‘precept’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
1047MolpoiVI–II BC (?)I.Milet I.3 133Miletus, Ioniastele; decreeGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1687N/A391/0 BCde Cenival Reference de Cenival1988: 39–42Memphis (?), Egyptpapyrus; list of dispositionsDemotic EgyptianN/A
337Diataleiss. IV BCIG II2 1267Athens, Atticastele; decree (fragmentary)Greeknom[os ‘law’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
230Orgeones330–323 BCIG II2 1361Piraeus, Atticastele; decree (?)Greeknomos ‘law’
266Thiasotai325–275 BCIG II2 1275Piraeus, Atticastele; decree (?)Greeknomos ‘law’
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
109Orgeones of Heracles in Komelate IV BCASAA 2006: 534 no 10Kome, Lemnosstele; security boundary stoneGreekgrammateion orgeionikon ‘register/contract of the orgeones’The association’s financial activities were regulated by a grammateion.
1919N/A (Diomedon’s foundation)IV/III BCIG XII.4 1 348Cosstele; unilateral dispositions (foundation)Greekta syntetagmena ‘the orders’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
858eranosIV–III BCIG XII.7 58Arcesine, Amorgosslab; boundary stoneGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the association’s nomos.
264Thiasotai299 BCIG II2 1271Piraeus, Atticastele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the association’s nomos.
830N/A (Poseidonios’ foundation)285–240 (?) BCLSAM 72Halicarnassus, Cariastele; endowment and decree by Poseidonios and his descendantsGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
563Th[iasotai273/2 BCIG II2 1278Athens, Atticastele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Possible reference to the association’s nomos.
269Koinon of the thiasotai258/7 BCIG II2 1298Athens, Atticastele; list of members and decreeGreekN/A
1812N/Amid III BCDecourt and Tziafalias Reference Decourt, Tziafalias and Mazarakis-Ainian2012Larisa, Thessalystele; sacred lawGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1691N/A250–210 BCP.Bagnall 42Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement (?)Demotic EgyptianN/A
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1808Basaidai250–200 BCSEG 36:548Metropolis, Thessalystele; (communal) dispositionsGreeksyntheke ‘agreement’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
304Koinon of the eranistais. III BCIG II2 1291Athens, Atticastele; honorific decreeGreekno]moi koinoi ‘common laws’Reference to the association’s nomoi.
1688N/A245/4 or 244/3 BCVittman Reference Vittmann, Feder, Morenz and Vittmann2011Arsinoites, Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement (?)Demotic EgyptianN/A
281Koinon (of the Thiasotai)245/4 and 2444/3SEG 59:155; SEG 44:60Salamis, Atticastelae; honorific decreesGreeknomoi ‘laws’References to the association’s nomoi.
1657Basilistai243–197 (?) BCWörrle Reference Wörrle, Beck-Brandt, Ladstätter and Yener-Marksteiner2015Limyra, Lyciastele; decree (?) with list of membersGreekN/A
232(Thracian) orgeones241/0 BC and 240/39 BCIG II2 1283 and 1284Piraeus, Atticastele; decree (IG II2 1283); honorific decree (IG II2 1284)Greeknomoi ‘laws’Reference to the association’s nomoi in IG II2 1284.
1689The association of the temple of Horus-Behedet223 BC, 17 Mar-15 Aprde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 3–10Pisais, Ars., Egypt (from cartonnage from Ghoran)papyrus; (contractual) agreementDemotichp.w ‘laws’
754N/A (thiasos?)221 BC, 26 FebP.Enteux. 20Alexandrou Nesos, Ars., Egypt (from cartonnage from Magdola)papyrus; petition to the KingGreekthiasitikos nomos ‘law of the thiasosReference to the association’s nomos.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1645The koinon of the relatives210–195 BCIG XII.3 330 = Wittenburg Reference Wittenburg1990Therastatue pedestal; Epikteta’s testament and decree of the koinonGreeknomos ‘law’
539ThiasotaiIII BCI.Kalchedon 13Chalcedon, Bithyniastele; list of dispositionsGreekN/A
861Hierourgoi of Athena ItoniaIII BCIG XII.7 241Minoa, Amorgosstele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the group’s nomos. Uncertain whether this was a private association.
1707N/AIII–I BCP.Cair. II 30654 (dem.)Pathyrispapyrus; (contractual) agreement (?) (fragmentary)Demotic EgyptianN/A
235Dionysiastai185–175 BCIG II2 1325 and 1326Piraeus, Atticastelae; honorific decreesGreeknomos ‘law’Several references to the association’s nomos.
361Koinon of the orgeones183–174 BCIG II2 1328Piraeus, Atticastele; two decreesGreekN/A
1686N/Aearly II BCArlt and Monson Reference Arlt, Monson, Knuf, Leitz and von Recklinghausen2010Bakchias (?) Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement (?)Demotic EgyptianN/A
1655Koinon of the coppersmithsmid II BCSEG 58:1640Tlos or Xanthos, Lyciastele; Symmasis’ endowment and decree (?) by the koinonGreekN/A
1186(Bakchikos thiasos)II BCI.Kallatis 47Callatis, Euxine coast, Thracestele; sacred regulationsGreekN/AThese regulations likely concern the bakchikos thiasos attested in other inscriptions.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
10Koinon of the Haliadai kai HaliastaiII BCIG XII.1 155 c IV + d I–IIIRhodesstele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to a ‘current law’ and to an ‘unmovable (i.e. unchangeable) law of the association.
17SarapiastaiII BCIG XII Suppl. 365Thasosstele; decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the association’s nomos.
829Syggeneisca 200 BC-AD 100 (?)I.Halikarnassos 118Halicarnassus, Cariastele (?); dispositions (fragmentary)GreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1971N/A179 BC, 4 Feb-5 Marde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 39–40, 215–18Krokodilopolis, Ars., Egypt (found at Tebtynis)papyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptian[mt.wt] ‘words, matters’
1932The association of the priests of Sobek Lord of Tebtynis178 BC, 6 JanuaryBresciani Reference Bresciani1994Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributions (two sets, one fragmentary)Demotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Six sets of the yearly regulations of the same association have been preserved.
921N/A168–164 BCSEG 52:1197Apollonia (?), Mysiastele; list of dispositionsGreeknomos ‘law’
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1932The association of the priests of Sobek Lord of Tebtynis157 BC, 27 Aug-25 Sepde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 45–51 and 218–19Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Six sets of the yearly regulations of the same association have been preserved.
1932The association of the priests of Sobek Lord of Tebtynis151 BC, 30 Octde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 59–61 and 219–20Tebtynis, Ars. (Egypt)papyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Six sets of the yearly regulations of the same association have been preserved.
840Syggeneia150–100 BCIsager Reference Isager2014: 186–8, text AHalicarnassus or Mylasa (?), Cariablock; unilateral dispositions (testament?)Greekta diatetagmena, ta epitetagmena ‘orders’
845Heroistai150 BC–AD 100I.Mylasa 423Mylasa, Cariastele; orders or testament (?) (fragmentary)Greek
9Koinon of the Berytian Poseidoniastai149/8 BCI.Délos 1520Delosstele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to a nomos of the association.
1932The association of the priests of Sobek Lord of Tebtynis147 BC, 3 Jande Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 63–8 and 221–2Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Six sets of the yearly regulations of the same association have been preserved.
1932The association of the priests of Sobek Lord of Tebtynis145 BC, 20 Septde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 73–8 and 222–5Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Six sets of the yearly regulations of the same association have been preserved.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1690The association of [the processions and of the festivals?] in the Polemon district of the Arsinoites137 BC, 1 Mayde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 83–91 and 225–7Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Association’s name after Bresciani Reference Bresciani1994: 53 n. 16.
1970The association of [the companions?]137 BC, 3 Junde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 93–7 and 227–9Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement with list of members’ contributionsDemotic Egyptianhp ‘law’Association’s name after Bresciani Reference Bresciani1994: 53 n. 16.
645Phratores137/6 BCMarek, Stadt 1Abonoteichos, Paphlagoniastele; honorific decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the association’s nomos.
955Technitai from Isthmus and Nemea112 BCF.Delphes III.2 70Delphi, Phocisblocks on wall; senatus consultumGreeknomoi ‘laws’Several references to the association’s nomoi.
1480The Association of Amon-Opet109–108 BCde Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 103–31Thebes, Egyptpapyrus; dossier, (contractual) agreementsDemotic Egyptianmt.wt ‘words/matters’
142Koinon (connected with the gymnasium)II–I BCIG XII.3 253Anaphestele; list of dispositions (fragmentary)GreekN/A
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
176Koinon of the technitai of Dionysus from Isthmos and Nemea, performing in ChalcisII–I BCIG XII.9 910Chalcis, Euboeastatue base; honorific decreesGreek[nomos] ‘law’Reference to the association’s nomos (supplied).
777SynthiasitaiII–I BCC.Ptol.Sklav. 92Magdola, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; list of contributions; list of dispositionsGreekN/AThe association’s regulations may have been written in the missing part of the papyrus, before the list of contributions.
780SynodosII–I BCIG V.2 264Mantinea, Arcadiaplaque; decree (fragmentary)Greeknomos ‘law’References to the group’s nomos. Uncertain whether this was a private association.
348N/A (Dionysios’ oikos)II BC–I ADTAM V.3 1539Philadelphia, Lydiastele; unilateral dispositions as divine instructionsGreekparaggelmata ‘commandments’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
1292nekrotaphoi95 BC and 67 BCP.Ryl. II 65Oxyrhynchus (?), Egyptpapyrus; judicial sentenceGreek, DemoticAigyptia syngraphe ‘Demotic contract’Reference to an Aigyptia syngraphe entered by the members of the group, regulating the burial of corpses. This was either the group’s rules or a contract of partnership.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
654Synodos of Zeus Hypsistos69–58 BCP.Lond. VII 2193Philadelpheia, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreementGreeknomos ‘law’
1684Thiasos of the Dionysiastai50 BC–AD 50SEG 4:598Teos, Ioniastele; decreeGreeknomos ‘law’Reference to the nomos regulating finances. Uncertain whether this was a private association.
357Koinon of the Heroistai of Diotimos, [Zenon,] and Pammenes39/8 BCIG II2 1339Athens, Atticastele; decreeGreekN/A
1963The troop of the weavers of Coptos30 BC, 19 JanShort Texts I 158Coptosstele; (contractual) agreementDemotic Egyptianhn.w ‘agreements’
1782Hetairoi kai Sabbatistai27 BC-AD 14GRA II 152Elaeousa Sebaste, Ciliciastele; decreeGreekN/A
1514N/AI BCBGU XIV 2372Heracleopolite, Egyptpapyrus; (contractual) agreement (?) (fragmentary)GreekN/A
627N/AAD 1–50PAT 0991Palmyra, Syriastele; sacred lawAramaicN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1408N/AAD 14–37P.Mich. V 243Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; dispositions undersigned by membersGreeknomos ‘law’
1409ApolysimoiAD 43, 26 AugP.Mich. V 244Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; decree, list of members and subscriptionsGreekcheirographon ‘document’
1273ShepherdsAD 45/6P.Mich. II 123 recto, XVI l. 12Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1437Synodos theouAD 45/6P.Mich. II 124 recto, II l. 23Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1430Synodos of Psosneus the oil makerAD 45-47P.Mich. II 123 recto, VI l. 18Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1432BuildersAD 45–47P.Mich. II 123 recto, XVII l. 38Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1975Synodos of Kroni…AD 46, JanP.Mich. II 123 recto, IX l. 45Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1976Synodos of Kronion, son of KamesAD 46, JanP.Mich. II 123 recto, X l. 6Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1977Synodos of Herakleios, son of Pichis, of the ‘farmyard’AD 46, 30 JanP.Mich. II 123 recto, XI l. 36Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; entry in register of the record officeGreeknomos ‘law’
1658Salt merchants of TebtynisAD 47, 18 AugP.Mich. V 245Tebtynis, Ars., Egyptpapyrus; decree with list of five membersGreekN/AIt is possible that this constituted a partnership.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
349Synodos of the Herakliastai in the MarshesAD 90 (?)SEG 31:122Atticastele; decree with unilateral dispositions of the chief-eranistesGreekN/A
569N/Aend I ADIG II2 1346Athens (?), Atticastele; decreeGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1329Synodos of the hieronikaiI ADI.Smyrna 709Smyrna, Ioniastele; unilateral dispositions (endowment, fragmentary)GreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
491Mystai of the phyle of ZeusI–II ADREG 2 (1889): no 19Amorion, Phrygiastele; honorific decreeGreekN/A
1786Those gathering Mobrenis, son of Rhondos, and those with himI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Ada 3Lamos, Ciliciasarcophagus; funerary inscriptions, agreementGreekhomologon ‘agreement’
1788N/AI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Ada 15Lamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, agreementGreek[homologon] ‘agreement’Uncertain whether this was a private association.
1791KoinonI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Dir 6Lamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/APossibly the same association as CAPInv. 1793.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
1793KoinonI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Dir 7bLamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/APossibly the same association as CAPInv. 1791.
1795N/AI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Dir 9Lamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/A
1797Koinon; Rhodon, son of Kydimasas, Selgian, and those with himI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Dir 10Lamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/A
1798N/AI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Dir 11Lamos, Ciliciatomb monument; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/A
1799N/AI–II ADHagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium AntK 25Antiochia ad Cragum, Ciliciamarble slab; funerary inscription, dispositionsGreekN/A
1311N/AI/II ADSEG 40:624Gorgippia, northern coast of the Black Seastele; list of sacred regulationsGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
1659N/AAD 117–38MDAI (A) 32 (1907): 293–6 no 18Pergamum, Mysiastele; decree (?) (fragmentary)GreekN/A
1050Oikos of the naukleroiAD 131Ehrhardt and Günther Reference Ehrhardt and Günther2013Miletus, Ioniamarble block; letter of Emperor’s HadrianGreeknomos ‘law’Hadrian confirmed the nomos for the foundation of the association.
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
991Synodos thymelike peripolistike of the technitai hieronikai stephanitai of DionysusAD 134SEG 56:1359Alexandria Troas, Troadmarble slab; unilateral dispositions by Emperor Hadrian (Imperial letters)Greeknomoi ‘laws’
437Thiasos of Amandosmid II ADIG IX.12 670Physcus, West Locrisstele; list of dispositionsGreeknomos ‘law’
339Bakcheion (Iobacchoi)AD 164/5IG II2 1368Athens, Atticacolumn; decreeGreekN/A
308Eranoss. II ADIG II2 1369Mesogaia, Atticastone (lost); list of dispositionsGreeknomos ‘law’
306Hieros doumosAD 171/2TAM V.1 536Maionia, Lydiastele; order (cult rule) presented as a dedicationGreekUncertain whether this was a private association.
1081Corpus of the HeliopolitansII ADCIL X 1579Puteoli, Campaniamarble slab (boundary stone?); list of dispositionsLatinlex et conventio ‘law and agreement’
1138Symbiosis of the flax workers (?)II AD (?)I.Smyrna 218Smyrna (?), Ioniagrave stone; dispositions for members’ burialGreekN/A
1787The partners and associates with Neon son of NousII AD (?)Hagel-Tomaschitz, Repertorium Ada 4Lamos, Ciliciafunerary monument; list of dispositionsGreekN/A
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
979Synodos of the heroiastai of our children Epaminondas and Theokrinelate II ADRoesch Reference Roesch1982: 136–8 no 16Acraephia, Boeotiapillar; funerary foundationGreekN/A
476ThiasosII–III ADCorinth 8.3 308Corinth, Peloponnesestele (?); dispositions (?) (fragmentary)GreekN/A
747EriphiastaiII–III ADNigdelis Reference Nigdelis, Nasrallah, Bakirtzis and Friesen2010: 39 no 14Thessalonica, Macedoniaplaque; decree (?)GreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
907Symbiosis of philonikoiII–III ADTAM V.3 1521Philadelphia, Lydiaarchitrave; ordersGreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
143Semnotate ergasia of the purple-dyersII–III ADAltertümer von Hierapolis 133, 227, 342; AAT 101: 305, no 23Hierapolis, Phrygiastelae; epitaphs, unilateral dispositions (funerary endowment)GreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
170Ergasia thremmatikeII–III ADAltertümer von Hierapolis 227bHierapolis, Phrygiastele; epitaph, unilateral dispositions (funerary endowment)GreekN/AUncertain whether this was a private association.
984Hiera gerousia of the Saviour AsclepiusAD 212–50SEG 32:459Hyettus, Boeotiastele; decreeGreekN/A
CAPInv.Association’s NameDateSourceProvenancePhysical format and text typeLanguageTerminologyNotes
804N/Aend III ADIG X.2 1 Suppl. 1048Thessalonica, Macedoniastele; dispositions (fragmentary)GreekN/A
417Wool merchantsAD 301I.Ephesos VII.2 3803dHypaipa, Lydiaplaque; endowmentGreekN/AEndowment of vineyards and grape presses to the city and to six associations.
418Linen weaversAD 301I.Ephesos VII.2 3803dHypaipa, Lydiaplaque; endowmentGreekN/AEndowment of vineyards and grape presses to the city and to six associations.


2 For instance, the regulations of the Iobacchoi (IG II2 1368; LSCG 51 = CAPInv. 339, with Poland Reference Poland1909: 67–8 and passim, cf. A59; Tod Reference Tod1932: 71–93; Moretti Reference Moretti1986; Jaccottet Reference Jaccottet and Schlesier2011) or the hieros nomos from Philadelphia (Keil and von Premerstein Reference Keil1914: 18–21 no 18; TAM V.3 1539; Syll.3 985 = CAPInv. 348, with Weinreich Reference Weinreich1919; Barton and Horsley Reference Barton and Horsley1981).

3 For instance, Boak Reference Boak1937a; Boak Reference Boak1937b (on P.Mich V 243, 244, 245); Norsa Reference Norsa1937 (on PSI XII 1265); de Cenival Reference de Cenival1972: 3–10 (on P.Lille Dem. I 29) and 103–7 (on P.Berlin Dem. 3115); Arlt and Monson Reference Arlt, Monson, Ast, Couvigny, Hickey and Lougovaya2013 (= P.Bagnall 42 = P.Standford Green Dem. inv. 21).

4 Close attempts in this direction are de Cenival Reference de Cenival1972 (although providing a comprehensive and detailed study of all the Demotic material on the subject available at the time, this work fails to provide a larger historical analysis of the phenomenon in all its complexity and potentiality) and Schnöckel Reference Schnöckel2006 (re-edition of a 1956 doctoral dissertation, focusing on the regulations from the Tebtynis grapheion in early Roman Egypt). On the other hand, Muszynski Reference Muszynski1977 is a descriptive work with limited scope.

5 Roberts, Skeat and Nock Reference Roberts, Skeat and Nock1936: 72–7; Muszynski Reference Muszynski1977: 160–1.

6 Boak Reference Boak1937b: 219–20; Muhs Reference Muhs2001: 5.

8 See; each association recorded in the online Inventory of Ancient Associations is referred to by its unique identifier (CAPInv. #). This work was an international collaboration between forty specialists of various regions of antiquity and the principal outcome of the Copenhagen Association Project, generously funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

9 Despite our best efforts, we were unable to include a systematic treatment uniquely devoted to the rich Demotic material. However, the Demotic regulations are exploited in various chapters of the volume (for instance, in Chapter 3 by Eckhardt, Chapter 6 by Arnaoutoglou, Chapter 8 by Langellotti and Chapter 10 by Evers) in connection with the larger analysis of specific aspects of normative behaviours by associations.

10 For a lengthier discussion of the criteria defining private associations, see Gabrielsen and Thomsen Reference Arnaoutoglou, Gabrielsen and Thomsen2015 and See also Harland Reference Harland2009: 26–35.

11 One should, however, note that some degree of polysemy existed: for instance, the Greek word koinon was employed to define a great range of disparate entities, from (private) associations to political communities such as federations or leagues.

12 See Harland Reference Harland2005: 493 for justified scepticism towards the view that, unlike Christian groups, associations lacked a developed sense of community.

14 The term thiasos, if it was ever applied to the Thyadai, would most probably have meant simply worshippers. See e.g. [Plut.] Moralia 293d and 365a, with McInerney Reference McInerney1997: esp. 269 and 272.

15 And. 1.133–4. See Gabrielsen Reference Gabrielsen, Droß-Krüpe, Föllinger and Ruffing2016b: 94–5.

16 Associations and groups are treated indiscriminately in the essays collected in Fröhlich and Hamon Reference Fröhlich and Hamon2013a. For the reason stated, ‘Gruppenreligionen’ in Rüpke Reference Rüpke2007 may also be regarded as too vague a concept, not differentiating sufficiently between associations and other kinds of groups.

17 ‘Der Name einer Gennossenschaft braucht aber doch nicht ihren Zweck anzudeuten’ (Poland Reference Poland1909: 6). The contemporary Freemasonry is a further example in point: in spite of its name, the association neither gathers nor caters for stonemasons or builders (anymore).

18 A variety of purposes for associations is also maintained by van Minnen Reference van Minnen1987, Harland Reference Harland2003: 55–87, Gibbs Reference Gibbs2011, and Verboven Reference Verboven2011.

20 See the essays in Malkin, Constantakopoulou and Panagopoulou Reference Bowden2009 and in Taylor and Vlassopoulos Reference Taylor and Vlassopoulos2015a.

21 Osborne Reference Osborne2009; Fenn and Römer-Strehl Reference Fenn and Römer-Strehl2013. On network theory, in particular: Rutherford Reference Rutherford2009, plus the works cited in Taylor and Vlassopoulos Reference Taylor and Vlassopoulos2015b: 10–15 and in Davies Reference Davies2015.

22 Colonies: Malkin Reference Malkin2011 (also with some attention to cults). Leagues: Constantakopoulou Reference Constantakopoulou2015.

23 On networks of cults: Bowden Reference Bowden2009; Davies Reference Davies2009; see also Eidinow Reference Eidinow2011 and Rutherford Reference Rutherford2013. On amphictyonies: Hornblower Reference Hornblower2009: 39; Malkin Reference Malkin2011: 224; Davies Reference Davies2015: 252 n. 35.

24 Granovetter Reference Granovetter1983; Terpstra Reference Terpstra2013; Taylor and Vlassopoulos Reference Taylor and Vlassopoulos2015a; Bramoullé, Galeotti and Rogers Reference Bramoullé, Galeotti and Rogers2016.

25 The Koragoi of Mantinea, for instance, in all likelihood had their own archive where association’s records were kept: IG V.2 265, l. 46 = CAPInv. 428 (see discussion by Zoumbaki in Chapter 7). See also the synodos of landowners of Psenemphaia in the Egyptian Delta (CAPInv. 1441): I.Prose 49, l. 54 (5 BC). On archival practices in antiquity, see, for instance, the papers in Faraguna Reference Faraguna2013.

26 IG II2 1368; LSCG 51 (AD 164/5) = CAPInv. 339. On the Bakcheion and their rules see also Chapter 2 by Giannakopoulos, Chapter 3 by Eckhardt and Chapter 6 by Arnaoutoglou.

27 On Demotic regulations see de Cenival Reference de Cenival1972. The earliest example of association regulations from Egypt (IV cent. BC) is de Cenival Reference de Cenival1988 – evidence for associations is, however, older: see, for instance, de Cenival Reference de Cenival1986, an account of an association of mortuary priests from the sixth century BC. On the regulations of associations from early Roman Egypt, see also the discussion by Langellotti in Chapter 8.

28 The philosophical schools cannot be used as an objection to this, since they most probably were organised as associations themselves: Haake Reference Haake, Gabrielsen and Thomsen2015.

29 These rules of good conduct should be understood in a broad perspective, encompassing also, for instance, the so-called religious rules that codified the performance of rites and regulated worship. Piety, devotion and observance of traditions for the good relationship with the divine were in fact part of the proper behaviour fostered by associations.

30 On this point, see Arnaoutouglou in Chapter 6 and Eckhardt in Chapter 3.

31 E.g. the koinon ton thiasoton in IG II2 1263 (CAPInv. 263; Piraeus, 300/299 BC) and hoi Sarapiastai in IG XII Suppl. 365 (CAPInv. 17; Thasos, II cent. BC).

32 The importance of religion within associations is underlined in several chapters of this volume; see, for instance, Chapter 4 by Carbon, Chapter 5 by Skaltsa (in particular for the definition of space), Chapter 7 by Zoumbaki, Chapter 8 by Langellotti and Chapter 9 by Tran.

33 See also Monson Reference Monson2006.

34 E.g. IG II2 1275, ll. 7–9 (Piraeus, 325–275 BC), concerning a thiasos (CAPInv. 266).

35 E.g. IG XII.1 155 d I, ll. 38–95 (Rhodes, II cent. BC = CAPInv. 10).

36 On voting and decisional practices of private associations in Ptolemaic and early Roman Egypt, for instance, see Paganini Reference Paganini, Derda, Łajtar and Urbanik2016.

37 IG XII.3 330 (210-195 BC = CAPInv. 1645). Worse preserved is a specimen from Halicarnassus: Isager Reference Isager2014 (CAPInv. 840). See also discussion by Skaltsa in Chapter 5.

38 CAPInv. 348. See also discussion by Carbon in Chapter 4.

39 E.g. Isager Reference Isager2014: no 2A (CAPInv. 840).

40 One clear example of this is the Rhodian second-century BC Haliadan kai Haliastan koinon (CAPInv. 10): the association possessed a double set of ‘laws’, one ‘unmovable’ (ὁ νόμος ὁ ἀκίνητος: IG XII.1 155 d.III, ll. 103–4) and the other ‘current’ (ὁ νόμος ὡς κεῖται: ibid. l. 93), which may be the object of changes.

41 For instance, Monson Reference Monson2006; Venticinque Reference Venticinque2010: 284; Broekaert Reference Broekaert2011.

42 The evidence from Egypt is particularly instructive in this respect: on the systems of (internal) dispute resolution of private associations in Ptolemaic Egypt see, for instance, Paganini in press b. For an example of the use of state courts by associations from fourth-century Athens, see IG II2 1258 (CAPInv. 341): some members of the Eikadeis were prosecuted for false testimony in a dispute about the association’s property. On the unique case of direct evidence for the actual imposition of fines by an association see the late third- or early second-century BC Greek ostraca from Maresha (Idumaea) published by Ecker and Eckhardt Reference Ecker and Eckhardt2018.

43 See the insightful discussion of this aspect in Harland Reference Harland2005.

44 See Hansen Reference Hansen1991: 61–4.

45 Kaufhold Reference Kaufhold1976. In his review of Kaufhold, Degen Reference Degen1977: 147 called the document ein hochinteressantes und meines Wissens einzig dastehendes Dokument: ‘a highly interesting and to my knowledge unique document’. See Brock Reference Brock, Rousseau and Papoutsakis2009 (English tr. and brief commentary) and also discussion by Evers in Chapter 10.

47 Cf. I.Délos 1520 (CAPInv. 9), I.Prose 40 (CAPInv. 38) and IGR III 209–10 (CAPInv. 1969).

48 I.Délos 1520, l. 18 (CAPInv. 9); IG XII.1 155 d I, l. 9 (CAPInv. 10); P.Mich. V 244, l. 4 (CAPInv. 1409).

49 Standard work on the concept of ‘trust’ and ‘trust networks’, especially for their economic implications, is Tilly Reference Tilly2005. Related to it is the concept of ‘social capital’, developed in sociology and institutional economics: see, for instance, Coleman Reference Coleman1988 and Burt Reference Burt2005, with Ogilvie Reference Ogilvie2004. For a theoretical treatment of esteem and social recognition, including its economic implications, see, for instance, Brennan and Pettit Reference Brennan and Pettit2004.

51 See also the discussion by Giannakopoulos in Chapter 2 and by Langellotti in Chapter 8; see further Gabrielsen and Paganini in Chapter 11.

52 For an example of this, for instance, in the villages of Hellenistic Egypt, see Paganini Reference Paganini, Bowman and Crowther2020b. See also the discussion by Skaltsa in Chapter 5.

Figure 0

Table 1.1. Tentative list of associations’ regulations and of texts with clear references to regulations from the ancient Greek-speaking world (VI cent. BC–IV cent. AD)

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