Despite the considerable number of private associations attested in the Peloponnese, epigraphic sources from this region only rarely allow us an insight into norms of the associations’ internal organisation. Beyond a regulation for the use of an hestiatorion, ‘banquet-hall’, and a chalkion (in this context the term probably refers to ‘bronze cooking utensils’ or the place where they were stored) on a metal tablet from Sicyon (sixth/fifth century BC), which is followed by a list of seventy-three male names,Footnote 1 and an extremely fragmentary inscription from Mantinea,Footnote 2 which refers to a nomos and to imposition of fines, texts of this type are not preserved. Some indirect light on private associations’ rules and regulations is further shed by a small number of honorific decrees originating in Peloponnesian towns. This chapter will focus on this category of texts from Mantinea.
Four honorific decrees have been singled out as an interesting homogeneous group of documents that are dated within a limited period of time and that display similarities in their content. All Mantinean inscriptions under discussion are dated from the second quarter of the first century BC to the first half of the first century AD: the synodos of the Koragoi (ἡ σύνοδος τῶν Κοραγῶν: 61/60 BC), the synodos, also referred to as koinon, of the priestesses of Demeter (ἁ σύνοδος/τὸ κοινὸν τᾶν ἱερειᾶν τᾶς Δάματρος: 43/42 BC), the synodos of the priests of Asclepius (ἡ σύνοδος τῶν Ἀσκληπιοῦ ἱερέων: first half of the first century AD) and the synodos of the priests of Zeus Epidotes (σύνοδος τῶν ἱερέων τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ Ἐπιδώτου: first half of the first century AD). A further common element of all these associations is that they were active within the broader scope of religious life, concentrated around popular cults of the town, and their decrees in question passed in honour of prominent women for whom religion was the only field of activity in public life.
A religious dimension is to be found in every association, as it has been convincingly argued.Footnote 3 Our examination will not, however, concentrate on the religious activity of the Mantinean collectivities. Rituals will be regarded here merely as prescribed events in their schedule, which offer snapshots of their collegial life.Footnote 4 Our attempt will be first to gain an insight into the regulations that governed the associations and second to search for tangible traces of their interaction with local societies, since the degree of openness to public life and interplay with the external world could affect an association’s organisation. The original set of rules at the moment of the establishment of the associations has been preserved in none of the cases under examination. Their honorific decrees allow us, however, to draw some indirect information about pre-existing rules and their internal organisation, as these texts refer on the one hand to predefined procedures that had to be followed, to codified sets of regulations and even to archives where important documents concerning their communal life were deposited; on the other hand, they contain new pieces of regulations that had to be henceforth respected by their members. These clauses further include punishment in cases of infringement and measures to secure the advertisement of the associations’ decisions and regulations. These honorific decrees contain specific pieces of regulations that give us an idea of the groups’ legislative corpora, which have not been preserved to us: in them, the image of an ordered environment emerges clearly. It is actually noteworthy that, despite the differences, remarkable similarities can be observed in the wording and the scheme of privileges granted to the benefactors in all honorific decrees under examination. Moreover, a similar set of ethical values that determined their practices and decisions is to be traced. All texts reveal the associations’ aspiration to connect with members of the local elites and their effort to claim a role in the public life of the town.
The Association of the Koragoi
The name of Koragoi implies a connection with the celebration of the festival of Koragia in honour of Kore, a very popular goddess in Arcadia.Footnote 5 The Koragoi define themselves as a synodos at various points of their decree in honour of Nikippa, a prominent and wealthy woman whose statue was seen by Pausanias (8.6.9) in Mantinea almost two centuries later. From the record of Nikippa’s numerous benefactions towards the synodos (IG V.2 265, ll. 1–26), we gain some details regarding the organisation of the Koragia, which should be regarded as the main event of the association’s activity. Nikippa apparently undertook the costs (l. 13: τὰν λειτουργίαν lit. ‘the service’, with related expenses) of the festival that took place in the eighth month (l. 10) and included several ceremonies. Performance of the secret mysteries of the goddess (ll. 11–12; 20–1) should have been of central importance. A procession (ll. 15–16), sacrifices (ll. 11 and 17) and examination of the omens on behalf of the association (l. 17) are further mentioned. The new peplos that Nikippa offered to the cult statue of the goddess (l. 20) was apparently part of the ritual and not an expression of her personal generosity. The celebration also included a ritual carrying of the (cult statue of) the goddess to the priest’s house,Footnote 6 perhaps as part of the procession (ll. 21–3); in this case, it was Nikippa who welcomed the statue of the goddess at home (we will return to this issue). Finally, she performed the conventional procedure (τὰ νομιζόμενα ‘what is customary’) connected to the opening of the temple on the 30th day (ll. 23–5). Since a temple was devoted to the cult of Kore and Nikippa took care of its additional building needs (ll. 25–6: προενοήθη δὲ καὶ ἇς προσεδεῖτο ὁ ναὸς [ο]ἰκοδομᾶς ‘she also provided for the building work of which the temple was in need’), the question arises as to what the phrase ἐστέγασεν καὶ εὐσχημόνισεν τὰ περὶ τὰν θεὸν ἄρρητα μυστήρια means (ll. 20–1, literally, ‘she gave a roof to the sacred mysteries and decorated them’).Footnote 7 Furthermore, she gave 80 drachmas for an urgent, unspecified need (ll. 18–19).
The Koragoi served therefore a popular cult, displayed a long-lasting devotion to Kore, contributed to the needs of the cult and repeatedly accepted the benevolence of various benefactors. On the basis of the decree in honour of Nikippa, we can draw indirect information about pre-existing rules of the association, such as those prescribing the annual schedule of the rites and the exact procedure that should be followed. Furthermore, common banquets are to be recognised as important events of their internal activity. It arises that certain individuals organised and hosted banquets on specific days, where they were supposed to invite the benefactors. Invitation of the benefactors to the banquets and sharing ritual food with them was a central element in the honours granted to all benefactors of the synodos (ll. 30–2): οἱ ἀεὶ ὑποδεχόμενοι,Footnote 8 ‘those who each time host a meal’ (or offer a sacrifice), were supposed to invite Nikippa ἐπὶ τὰ γέρα, ‘to (offer her) perquisite’, on specific days along with other individuals who had been honoured by the association. Further, αἶσα, ‘her share’ (of common meals or sacrifices where she apparently could not partake for ritual or personal reasons) was to be sent to her.Footnote 9 Sacrifices followed by a banquet and the sharing of sacrificial meat were therefore of crucial importance to the synodos of Koragoi (cf. ll. 29–34).
The honorific distinctions for Nikippa voted by the association were henceforth permanently in effect and their abolition entailed intervention of an official titled epignoma, who was expected to force the offender to fulfil the obligations towards the benefactor; if he still refused to do so, a penalty of 50 drachmas was to be imposed on him, as he would be considered guilty of having ignored the honours awarded by the synodos, which were in fact integrated into the set of ‘regulations’ that should be fostered by its members. The decisions of the synodos, as they are presented in the decree, aimed thus at permanent validity.
The decree further arranges the publication of the honours voted for Nikippa. The priests appointed eight men charged with the task to commission a stele bearing the decree (ll. 41–2: καταστασάτωσαν δὲ οἱ ἱερεῖς … ‘the priests shall set up …’). The place for the erection of the stele is specified as ‘the most prominent spot of the sanctuary’.Footnote 10 A copy of this decree was also to be deposited εἰς τὰν κοινὰν πινακίδα, ‘in the common tablet’, probably an archive of the association. The sanctuary mentioned in the decree, apparently the Koragion, which should have been the main setting of the Koragoi’s activity, was not a private clubhouse, but a public sanctuary, as it arises from the decree of the priestesses of Demeter, which will be discussed below.Footnote 11
Rules regarding the internal structure, membership, various administrative issues or further events of the Koragoi remain unknown. What clearly arises from the decree is that functionaries and members were expected to respect a certain code of behaviour, which echoes basic values of the synodos. Compliance with the code of conduct towards the benefactors was so important that transgression meant the activation of a predetermined procedure: exhortation of the transgressor to comply with the regulations was the first step, and if not taken into account, a prescribed economic penalty was to be imposed on him. The emphasis given to the compliance with the conduct code within the association, the description of the steps from exhortation to punishment and the publication of the honorific decree at a prominent spot in parallel to the preservation of a copy in the association’s archive show that decisions of the synodos should be indisputably obeyed and ethical values should be respected by its members. A set of these ethical values is reflected on the ‘institutionalisation’ of appropriate behaviour towards benefactors.Footnote 12 The ethical qualification of the honorand is underlined in stressing her areta, ‘goodness’, dikaiosyne, ‘righteousness’, philanthropia, ‘benevolence’ (towards people), eusebeia, ‘piety’ (towards gods), eunoia, ‘favour’ (towards the synodos) (ll. 2–6, 28–9). The moral code that was embraced by the association formalised reciprocity to the benefactor’s generosity – namely, the tangible expression of the ethical qualification mentioned above – as a principle that should be obeyed; otherwise, a member whose behaviour would not be in compliance with that principle was regarded as [κατ]αλύων τὰ δεδόμενα … [ὑπὸ τᾶς συνόδου] τίμια ‘someone who abolishes the honours given by the synodos’ (ll. 37–8), namely, as an offender of the reciprocity measures that had been voted by the synodos and hence been in power as rules that should be followed. Moreover, insistence on appropriate behaviour towards benefactors may reflect the strong need of the association to inspire further beneficial activity of the honorand or of others, since it is clearly stated in the decree that they maintained hopes for future benefactions (ll. 40–1). In this case, reciprocity would not be merely expected in a context of moral principles of civility and politeness, but it would also form a necessary condition to continue attracting euergetism.
The Association of the Priestesses of Demeter
From the decree of the priestesses of Demeter in honour of Phaena, it is clear that she had already assumed the priesthood of the goddess.Footnote 13 During her term, she fulfilled in the most generous way her duties in respect both to the cult and to the priestesses of Demeter, as she spent profusely for any need of the cult or the priestesses (ll. 6–9). Mετὰ τὸ ἱεριτεῦσαι ‘after serving as priestess’, that is to say, when her term as priestess was over,Footnote 14 Phaena continued to hold splendid banquets and to spend for the cult of Demeter and the synodos. Moreover, she ordered her daughter and granddaughter to undertake the costs of the annual needs of the synodos in the case that she was unable to execute her duties. She donated 120 drachmas for the repair of the megaron, ‘hall’, or for the cover of any other need at the discretion of the priestesses, an action pointing out to the fact that the association possessed some sort of treasury and accepted funds.
For the ritual side of the association’s activity, we have very limited information. From the phrase ἐν ταῖς γινομέναις ἀντ’ ἐ̣νιαυτοῦ θυσίαις τε καὶ σιταρχίαις ‘both in the sacrifices and in the banquets (sitarchiai) which take place during the year’ (ll. 35–6), we conclude that sacrifices and sitarchiai took place. In particular, ἀντ’ ἐ̣νιαυτοῦ is to be understood either as annual or as taking place throughout the year.Footnote 15 Sitarchiai are probably to be interpreted as ritual banquets of the association. The individual who was responsible for these banquets is called sitarcho (σιταρχώ).Footnote 16 Judging from the responsibilities of sitarchos mentioned by Harmodios of Lepreon in the context of the cults of Phigaleia (FrGrH 319), the sitarcho of the Mantinean association seems to be responsible for supplying food for the ritual banquet. The formulation of the text (ll. 36–7: ἀνακαλούσας τᾶς ἀεὶ ἀντιτυγχανούσας ἱερείας τε καὶ σιταρχοῦς ‘while anyone who may happen to serve both as priestess and as sitarcho will issue the invitation’) may imply that both capacities, priesthood and sitarchia, could be combined in the same individual.
As it did to its benefactors in general (ll. 39–40), the association granted lifelong honours to Phaena and invited her to the gera, ‘perquisites’, at the banquets (sitarchiai) of the whole year (ll. 39–40). The quotation of the oral announcement of the invitation perhaps implies that it was announced loudly before the public (cf. ll. 36–40). Lifelong offering of γέρα τὰ εἰθισμένα ‘customary perquisites’ shows that they were standard for all benefactors. Failure to award these honours meant that the culprit was to be indicted, to be liable to prosecution and to the payment of a fine of 100 drachmas to the honorand and her off-spring. The judges are not named, but the phrase ὑπόδικος ἔστω καὶ ἐνδεικτός ‘he/she shall be liable to trial and indictment’ implies, according to K. Harter-Uibopuu, that the judges may have been civic appointees or the whole community that was aware of the honours, since they were publicly announced.Footnote 17 It is, however, not clear whether the judges were civic appointees and not functionaries of the association, as well as whether ἔνδειξις, ‘indictment’, refers to the whole community and not to its members.
As for the publication of the honours for Phaena, a stele bearing the decree was to be set up in the Koragion. The place of the erection of the stele was determined by the archons and the synedroi (ll. 40–2), namely, civic officers, a fact that leads us to guess that the Koragion was not a private place belonging to the association, but a sacred place belonging to the whole community. Although cults of Demeter and KoreFootnote 18 were interconnected, the placement of a stele erected by the priestesses of Demeter in the Koragion poses questions about the relationship of the synodos of the priestesses of Demeter with the Koragoi as well as about the topographical identification of the Koragion and the megaron whose repair was financially supported by Phaena.Footnote 19
As in the decree of the Koragoi, special attention is paid to the proper behaviour towards the benefactress, who, moreover, gave instructions to her daughter and granddaughter to continue to support the synodos in case of her disability. That means that reciprocity between the benefactor and the association was important, perhaps – as we mentioned in the case of Koragoi – not only on a symbolic level of ethical values, but also on the practical level of the need for essentials, for whose cover the association could rely on benefactors.
Two Associations of Priests: The Priests of Asclepius and the Priests of Zeus Epidotes
Two synodoi of priests, those of Asclepius and of Zeus Epidotes,Footnote 20 honour the same outstanding woman, Iulia Eudia, for her donation of some plots of land to each group, a very important donation, if we take into account that landed property was an excellent source of income. The decree of the priests of Zeus Epidotes is very fragmentary, but it had apparently a similar content to that of the priests of Asclepius, which will be analysed here.
The priests of Asclepius decided for the advertisement of Eudia’s benefactions through (public) praise, as well as for certain further acts, which would be permanent in effect. A painted portrait of the honorand in an imago clipeata was to be dedicated in the temple of Asclepius. Further, a new event was introduced to the association’s annual schedule, namely, the celebration of Eudia’s birthday in the fifth month, which included sacrifices to Asclepius and Hygeia for her and her husband’s safety. The synodos was expected to invite Eudia and her husband epi ta gera, ‘to the perquisites’, at every banquet of the priests. A portion (aisa) was to be sent to her on the occasion of the banquets referred to as Isiaka kai pyrophorika deipnaFootnote 21 – in which priests of Asclepius apparently partook, but they did not organise them. Failure to invite the honorand resulted in a trial and a financial penalty of 50 drachmas was to be paid by the offender to Eudia, her descendants and the priests. It gives the impression that abolishment of these honours was to be taken as an insult not only to the benefactress, but also to the synodos that voted for them. The whole procedure was supervised by the epignoma.
The new event that was introduced into the association’s annual programme, the celebration of Eudia’s birthday, was not integrated into an existing set of events, but it created a new one that enriched its schedule. It shows that the internal organisation of the association’s life was not a fossilised set of rules, but a flexible and ongoing process.Footnote 22 The high honours voted for the benefactress and the punishment that was foreseen for any transgressors reflect the moral rules that formed the basis of the members’ behaviour. Moreover, the association not only voted for various honours for the benefactress, but also wished to advertise them, so that everybody be informed that it did express its gratitude in a tangible way, as it is formulated (ll. 34–7). As it was the case with the aforementioned Mantinean associations, reciprocity was apparently not only a matter of civility, but also a policy aiming at the attraction of further benefactions.
Remarks to the Associations of Mantinea
In the cases analysed above, all Mantinean associations in question were attached to popular traditional cults of the town, as further epigraphic, literary and archaeological evidence confirm. Devotion of private associations to the most important state cults is to be observed at several places, including other Peloponnesian towns, and obviously served strategies of both state and associations.Footnote 23 Beyond the service of traditional civic cults, further common elements are to be observed in regard to their regulations concerning honours and privileges of their benefactresses.
Regulations concerning the Grant of Honours: A Common Scheme Dictated by Moral Values and Historical Circumstances
The expression of gratitude of the synodoi resulted in granting a common scheme of privileges to the benefactors, such as invitation to common banquets, sharing of sacrificial meat and sending of aisa, erection of honorific monuments or publication of the honours at prominent spots of a sanctuary. The priests of Asclepius decided further for the addition of a new event to their annual schedule in honour of their benefactress; this is the only element that deviates from the common pattern of honours.
Inviting benefactors to the banquets and offering them a share from the sacrifices appears in all cases as an extremely important element. As a perquisite from sacrifices was a privilege of the priests, this honour assumes a special significance for benefactors who either had held the office of a priest (e.g. Phaena) or had undertaken priestly duties without having officially assumed the function of a priest (e.g. Nikippa).Footnote 24 Showing a long-lasting respect to the benefactresses as well as maintenance of their privileges appear as the main concern and pursuit of the associations’ decrees. Moreover, voting and publishing honours for them meant that a common unwritten ethical code of values assumed the form of concrete written regulations. According to these regulations, the abolition of honours to benefactors led in all cases to appeal to the judgement of arbiters and to the punishment of the offenders.
In order to perceive the insistence of the associations on a strict code of behaviour, we should place the activity of the three Mantinean benefactresses and the associations connected with them into their historical context. For this purpose, it is perhaps significant to take into account the conditions prevailing in Mantinea in the first century BC and the first decades of the Imperial period. Generally, for Peloponnesian towns, it is a phase of reconstruction and overcoming of economic difficulties caused by the long preceding period of hardship. Wars, changes of alliances and the exhaustion of human and economic resources during the Hellenistic period (cf. Plb. 36.17.5–6), followed by the annihilation of Corinth by Mummius in 146 BC, put severe strain on the towns and led to their gradual decline. The second half of the second century BC was marked by shrinkage of various aspects of public activity in the Peloponnese, which is obvious in the sharp drop in production of public texts and in the limited activity or even cessation of local mints. The dissolution of the important economic network earlier centred at Corinth, which certainly included numerous Peloponnesian towns, resulted in the region’s stagnation, introversion and poverty, which favoured the flourishing of Delos (Str. 10.5.4 (486)). This situation combined with piracy, which took full action, especially at the southern shores of the Peloponnese and impeded commercial activity, had a huge impact on local economies. The towns could not really recover throughout the second half of the second century BC and continued to experience further drainage of economic reserves and human capital during the Mithridatic wars and the Roman social wars, due to enormous Roman demands for recruitments and supplies of various kinds, as literary and epigraphic sources show.Footnote 25
In order to cope with this situation during the first century BC, the towns energised all existing mechanisms, above all euergetism. Inscriptions from various Peloponnesian towns of the first century BC imprint the scale of private initiatives of benefactors on various levels of public life in an attempt to return to normality. Cultic activities had been also neglected in several cases in the Peloponnese, and sanctuaries were left to collapse due to economic difficulties. Inscriptions of the first century BC attest to private individuals who undertook the restoration of sanctuaries or took up priesthoods of neglected cults.Footnote 26
It is thus understandable that euergetic activity of prominent women in Mantinea was very important during a period of reconstruction on all levels. It is further understandable that activity of private associations could offer a significant contribution to keeping various cultic procedures and celebrations upright and was for this reason apparently welcomed by civic authorities and communities. The social placement of private associations is obvious in an inscription from the Augustan age from Mantinea (IG V.2 268) recording honours awarded by the polis and the Roman negotiatores to an outstanding individual, Euphrosynos, son of Titus, and his wife Epigone. Under their benefactions, it is mentioned that ταμεῖα συνόδοις ἐχαρίσαντο ‘they donated (private) chambers to the synodoi’ (l. 37), which implies that the position of the synodoi in the town’s life was prominent enough to attract support of members of the elite. Euergetism towards associations was thus of high importance for the survival of these organisms and their capability to keep on their activity, which, in turn, ensured the continuity of performance of popular cults of the town. Under these circumstances, it becomes understandable why concrete regulations in the honorific decrees insisted on ensuring that privileges awarded to benefactors would not be abolished. Obviously, this reflects not merely a set of moral principles, but also awareness of the associations’ vital need for material support.
Internal Regulations or External Interventions? The Elusive Limits between Private and Public
In this context, the relationship of the associations with public authorities and the possibility of transfer of responsibilities from the public sphere to the level of a private association should be expected. In the Mantinean decrees in question, limits between public and private in several cases fluctuate. Elusive limits between public and private are to be observed at several places,Footnote 27 where private associations appear as an integral part of religious life and they seem not to contradict with public religious authorities, but to contribute to the organisation of the rites and to support financially any need of the ritual or material aspect of the cults.
Although the question of what belongs to the public sphere and what falls into an association’s private level is not the focus of this chapter, this aspect is not irrelevant to our discussion, as it is important to clarify what concerns the associations’ internal organisation and what belongs to the wider religious landscape of the polis, especially in crucial aspects of the associations’ activity, such as the field of justice. It is interesting to examine whether certain of the associations’ rules exclusively stipulated in-house settlement of their issues or allowed or invited external authorities to intervene and regulate internal affairs, such as punishment of delinquent behaviour. So, we can wonder whether the epignoma, who was supposed to force members of the Koragoi and the association of the priests of Asclepius to fulfil their obligations towards the benefactors, is to be regarded as a public authority, since he is attested as such in several cases in the Peloponnese and beyond.Footnote 28 Because private associations often imitate public organisation and functions, it is very well possible that the epignoma was a magistrate of the association.
In some cases, it is obvious that Mantinean associations collaborated with public authorities. So, for example, the exact place of the publication of the honorific decree for Phaena issued by the synodos of the priestesses of Demeter was to be determined by the archons and the synedroi (ll. 40–2), namely, civic officers of the highest rank. As already mentioned, the fact that these officers decided to erect the stele in the Koragion indicates that it was a public sacred place, since public authorities could not decide on the exact place of publication of a private decree at a private space. The Koragion was apparently connected with the activity of the Koragoi as well. A public sanctuary could be used with the consent of civic authorities by two private associations attached to the interconnected cults of Demeter and Kore, obviously because these private associations played such an important role in covering the needs of the cults and the sanctuary that they could in fact perform their activity seamlessly there – although civic authorities maintained supervision of the public sanctuary. Since the associations in question were attached to civic cults and performed ceremonies partially or exclusively in a public sanctuaryFootnote 29 – even if they also possessed private clubhouses – their processions and celebrations were apparently, at least to some degree, publicly visible. Therefore, we are not dealing with marginal associations totally focused on their internal and private affairs only, but with organisms open to the public, enjoying wide respect, collaborating in some cases with public authorities and even undertaking to some degree the town’s role in the finance of popular cults.
Their honorific decrees imitate the style of civic equivalents, borrowing clauses from civic honorific texts, and their pompous wording resembles that of civic documents. Although we know very little about their internal organisation, it is possible that they also imitated the civic structure or adopted civic titles for their functionaries.
A further confusion arises as to whether priests and priestesses mentioned in the decrees are to be understood as functionaries of the associations or as civic priests. A civic priest was expected to perform official sacrifices on behalf of the whole community – often followed by sacrificial meals for the community. For example, the fact that the priests of Asclepius decided to celebrate Eudia’s birthday with sacrifices reinforces the assumption that the association does not act as a college of priests in an official polis capacity, since the beneficiary of the sacrifice was not the citizens’ community but rather private individuals. The priests of the decrees under examination acted as private groups, which organised private events and accepted the benevolence of certain individuals whom they honoured privately. Common banquets organised by the associations, where the benefactors were invited, were not sacrificial meals for the whole community, but belonged to a private sphere and the priests were totally legitimised to single out certain individuals as guests.Footnote 30 It appears clearly in the case of the priests of Asclepius, who invited Iulia Eudia and her husband to their banquets but not to the Isiaka kai pyrophorika deipna, which were obviously not organised by them. Certainly priests were also expected to perform private sacrifices on behalf of isolated supplicants of the sanctuariesFootnote 31 or to perform rites outside the official scope of the city, yet these rites did fall within the framework of tradition.Footnote 32 Therefore, a priest could be activated both on a public and on a semi-private level, namely, public and private capacity could be combined in one and the same individual, but both capacities remained clearly separate and each could be used depending on circumstances. As Carbon and Pirenne-Delforge state,Footnote 33 ‘“private” worship was an integral part of the wider “public” context, of the so-called “polis-religion” framework’, and this seems to be true for Mantinean associations.
Given the important social and economic role of these associations in the religious life of their towns, their openness to the public, their collaboration with public authorities as well as imitation of various elements of civic structure, titles, wording, it becomes clear why limits between public and private appear – at least for the modern researcher – fluid. In the internal affairs of Mantinean associations, the public aspect is omnipresent.
The associations discussed above were activated in the wider spectrum of religion in Mantinea, being integral parts of social life. Despite the differences, remarkable common elements are obvious in their honorific decrees, which formed the basis of our investigation. In all cases, honorific decrees not only included the description of a common pattern of honours and privileges granted to benefactresses, but also regulated the members’ conduct and enforced respect to the benefactresses in a similar manner. This code of behaviour goes beyond politeness and gratitude and assumes the form of written internal regulations with long-lasting effect.
Thus, all associations were open to external benefactors and did not hesitate to share part of their communal activities, such as ritual food, with them. Participation in communal activities was apparently of such importance for these collectivities that the clause καλεῖν ἐπὶ τὰ γέρα ‘invite to the perquisites’ appears as a central privilege of the benefactors, whose abolishment led to punishment. Generally, privileges and honours were not to be abolished and severe measures of punishment were always foreseen for cases of infringement. Not only common moral values but also the importance of euergetism for the survival of the associations and careful strategy for attraction of prominent protectors and sponsors are traceable in the regulations in all cases under discussion.
This considerable openness to the external world, observed in all cases, and the abundant support of outstanding individuals allowed the associations to organise events of a decent, if not luxurious, standard. The sums of 80 and 120 drachmas donated to the synodoi of Koragoi and the priestesses of Demeter by Nikippa and Phaena, respectively, are important donations and show the high economic status of both women as well as the impact of the associations on local society. If we take into consideration the general economic situation of the Peloponnesian towns during the second half of the second century and the first century BC, it is understandable why important state cults sought support of outstanding associations that prolonged public organisation of certain rites and added magnificence and splendour by paying for building needs or performance of ceremonies. The role of euergetism becomes clear under these circumstances and the reciprocity to the benefactors appears as a central element of the internal behavioural code of the associations. The affiliation of outstanding individuals and highlighting their goodwill towards the associations were obviously the groups’ strategic choices in order to secure their financial support and, further, to gain prestige in the local communities. Conversely, displaying an euergetic activity towards associations that enjoyed public respect was for members of the elite an excellent opportunity to enhance their reputation. Placed in societies that depended much on euergetism, both associations and prominent individuals could profit from cooperation.
Openness to the public sphere, common to all associations examined here, certainly affected their internal organisation and the strategy of their activity. Their activity was highly visible to the public; they erected their monuments or documents in public places, obviously because they wanted them to be accessible to the public. The fact that special attention was paid to the place of publication of the honorific decrees may have been aimed at representing the synodoi as powerful, influential and visible organisms at the most conspicuous religious spaces. Moreover, they obviously aspired to present themselves as well-organised, strictly structured micro-societies that were governed by concrete rules, whose internal life obeyed ethical principles. Thus, associations represented themselves as respectful bodies within the town.