- Museum number
Fragment of a marble stele with a Greek inscription, an honorary decree by which the demos of Brykountii grants a golden crown to Menokritos, son of Metrodoros, a Samian, for his services as a physician during more than twenty years. At an earlier period, before he received a salary, he gave his services for free while residing in Karpathos, and cured many people of dangerous illnesses.
- Production date
Height: 60.96 centimetres
Width: 41 millimetres
Depth: 12 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- As reflected in the text, the inscription is commissioned by the citizens of Brycounti, a city and deme in the island of Karpathos that, according to Strabo (x. 5. 17), was once a Tetrapolis. The text tells us of a tribute paid to a physician, Menocritos, from Samos. Though a stranger, it is testified that he prioritized his professional virtues to any beneficial or ethnic considerations and offered his best services to all the inhabitants of the city and its suburbs. He did so for twenty years without receiving any payments. Therefore, he is now rewarded with a golden crown, an honorary proclamation in the Asklepian games, and a permission to help with the city festivals.
This inscription documents a general tendency, and most likely a feverish attempt, towards keeping up with contemporary democratic systems, centered in Athens, in a notable, yet lesser known, Hellenistic city in the Aegean. Karpathos, the biggest island in the Dodecanese after Rhodes, lost its independence to the latter at the end of the fifth century (Anderson and Dix 2013: p. 3697). It was, however, already a subordinate ally to the Athenian empire following their invasion to the islands supporting Sparta during the Peloponnesian wars. As a result, the name of Brykous appears in the Athenian Tribute Lists as a koine (subject ally), one of the three poleis in Karpathos (Anderson and Dix 2004: 5). As such, the inscription shows that the city and deme of Brykous employs most, if not all, of the Athenian institutional conventions in an attempt to fit in the standard format of a poleis. This is particularly observable in the well-established line clearly drawn between “the citizens” and “the strangers inhabited in the city” (line 8), and also in the inclusion of the citizens “living in the suburban areas” (peripoli, line 17). Despite his plainly admitted poverty, Menocritos never charged people in accordance with (good) law (eunomikos) and justice (dikayos) (line 16). This can be presumed as another testimony to the exclusion of non-citizens in Brycounti, who supposedly couldn’t earn anything from the city and its inhabitants.
Therefore, the decree shows a crucial change in Menocritos’ status. He is now allowed to help with the public festivals, an exclusive right to the citizens of a poleis. As mentioned above, Karpathos consisted of more than one city, with a point of ambiguity between three and four in number. A reference to the citizens who were visited by Menocritos as “those living in Rhodes” (line 12) suggests that all cities of Karpathos, or probably even other neighbouring islands including Rhodes, were involved in this dedication. Supportive is the fact that this official certificate of his allocations was given a place “in the temple of Poseidon Porthmios” (pronounced “Poteidon” by mistake or according to the local dialect, line 35), the protector deity of the whole island, mentioned as such by Apollonius Rhodius in Argonautica 4: 1635-37. This is comparable with another recognized placement of an inscription from the late third or the early second century BC into this temple, which contends the arbitration of “the people”, most likely of Brykous, between two unnamed states apparently over the issue of “the codification of a legal system” (Ager 1996: 174).
- Ager, S. L. 1996. Interstate Arbitrations in the Greek World, 337-90 BC, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
- Anderson, C. A. and Dix, T. K. 2004. Small States in the Athenian Empire: the Case of the Eteokarpathioi, Syllecta Classica, volume 15, pp. 1-31.
- Anderson, C. A. and Dix, T. K. 2013. Karpathos. In Bagnall et al (eds), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, first edition, London: Blackwell.
- Dietz, S. and Papachristodoulou, I. 1988. Archaeology in the Dodecanese, Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark.
- Wescher, S. and Wescher, B. 1886. Revue Archéologique, N.S. viii.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number