Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alexander III letter to the Chians

In 334 BCE, Alexander invaded Asia as leader (hegemon) of the Corinthian league, the alliance of Greek cities and the Macedonian king that was to fight against the Achaemenid Empire. One of the articles of the Corinthian treaty stated that the Greek towns were to remain autonomous, and that their constitutions were to remain unchanged. However, the Greek cities in Asia Minor were no members, and Alexander did interfere with their internal affairs, as is shown in the following letter to the people of the island of Chios. The inscription was translated by J.C. Yardley.

From king Alexander to the people of Chios, written in the prytany of Deisitheos:[1] All those exiled from Chios are to return [2], and the constitution on Chios is to be democratic. Drafters of legislation are to be selected to write and emend the laws so as to ensure that there be no impediment to a democratic constitution and the return of the exiles. Anything already emended or drafted is to be referred to Alexander.

The people of Chios are to supply twenty triremes, with crews, at their own expense, and these are to sail for as long as the rest of the Greek naval force accompanies us at sea. With respect to those men who betrayed the city to the barbarians, all those who escaped are to be exiled from all the cities that share the peace [of Corinth], and to be liable to seizure under the decree of the Greeks. Those who have been caught are to be brought back and tried in the Council of the Greeks.

In the event of disagreement between those who have returned and those in the city, in that matter they are to be judged by us. Until a reconciliation is reached among the people of Chios, they are to have in their midst a garrison of appropriate strength installed by king Alexander. The people of Chios are to maintain the garrison.

Remark 1: The prytany of Deisitheos was probably in 334, but the formula "from king Alexander" is not common before the battle of Issus in 333.
Remark 2: One of the returned exiles was the historian Theopompus.