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Perseus Encyclopedia

Thessaly

In the great flood, inhabited by the Aeolians, Salmoneus at first dwelt in, Pelias dwelt in, Pheres founds Pherae in, Herakles left behind by the Argonauts at Aphetae in, Phlegyas in, the country of the Pelasgians, Pelasgians formerly there, Darius' European tribute from nations east of it, Thessalian allies of Pisistratus, Lacedaemonian invasion of Thessaly, Aleuadae of Thessaly at Xerxes' court, description of Thessaly, its submission to Xerxes, Greek force there, danger to Phocis from Thessalians, Xerxes' march through it, Thessalian cavalry inferior to Asiatic, defeats of Thessalians by Phocians, and Thessalian revenge, Mardonius in Thessaly, Thessalians in his army, Artabazus in Thessaly, Melampus goes to, betrayed to Xerxes by Aleuads, invaded by Lacedaemonians under Leotychides, Agesilaus marches through, conquered by Pyrrhus, overrun by Gauls, cows of Thessalian breed.

Perseus Project

Tagus

Tagus (tagos), a commander or ruler, was more particularly the name applied to the chief magistrate of Thessaly, and to magistrates of the Thessalian towns, at various periods of the history of that country. Under this head it is proposed to give a short account of the constitution of Thessaly.
  The Thessalians are said to have been an Epirot tribe, which crossed the Pindus, conquered the country to which it subsequently gave its name, and either drove out or reduced to subjection the original inhabitants (Herod. vii. 176; Thuc. i. 12; Diod. iv. 57). They seem to have settled originally in that part of Thessaly known as Thessaliotis, and soon after to have completed the conquest of Pelasgiotis, for it was to these two districts that the Penestae, who were the remains of the earliest of the native tribes which submitted to their dominion, belonged. They then completed the conquest of the rest of Thessaly, and reduced the neighbouring tribes of Achaeans, Perrhaebi, and Magnetes, with which they had been long at war, to the condition of permanent dependencies (hupekooi, Thuc. ii. 101, iv. 78, viii. 3; see Perioeci).
  The princes who led the Thessalians to their new homes across the Pindus were, like the leaders of the Dorian invasion, Heracleidae. As the Heracleidae were found at Sparta in the families of the Agids and Eurypontids, and at Corinth in that of the Bacchiadae, so in Thessaly they were represented chiefly by the Aleuadae and Scopadae; and it is with the names first of Aleuas (see article at Ancient Larisa) and later of Scopas that the organisation of Thessaly is connected. Thessaly appears as a united whole under the rule of Aleuas the Redhaired (Aleuas ho Purros), a semi-mythical personage, to whom no date can even approximately be assigned. We are told, on the authority of Aristotle, that he divided the country into the four districts of Thessaliotis, Phthiotis, Pelasgiotis, and Histiaeotis, which were called tetrades. This division, which was probably based on some preceding natural division due to the mode in which the country had been conquered, continued unchanged to the latest times; and that it was not merely nominal, but had a material significance of the nature of which we are ignorant, is shown by the frequency with which it asserted itself as a real element in the Thessalian constitution. Aleuas is also said to have fixed certain regular military contingents, enjoining each kleros, which was perhaps a subdivision of the tetras, to furnish forty horsemen and eighty hoplites. We are further told that the tribute to be paid by the subject states was fixed by a certain Scopas (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 19, proeipe de kai tois perioikois pasi ton psoron hosper epi Skopa tetagmenos en pserein), who is assigned by modern authorities to the first half of the sixth century B.C.
  From this time to the Persian wars Gilbert thinks that there was always a king of Thessaly, and that he was chosen from the Heracleidae, though not always from the same family of this race. Herodotus calls the Aleuadae kings of Thessaly at the time of the Persian invasion (Herod. vii. 6), and he also states that in 510 B.C. Thessaly as a united whole (koinei gnomei chreomenoi) sent their king Kineen andra Koniaion (Kutinaion, Stein) to help the Pisistratidae (Herod. v. 63). As late as 454 B.C. we find a certain Orestes of Pharsalus called king of Thessaly (Thuc. i. 111), and even at this period Thessaly may have been a united nation, and the noble families have still considered. themselves vassals to a king of their own race and perhaps of their own choosing. There is no evidence to show that the names basileus and taeos were interchangeable; taeos may have been one of the titles of the monarch, as dictator and magister populi were probably amongst the titles of the ancient kings of Rome; and as the king at Athens became the. archon, so in Thessaly he may have become the taeos. The office was a temporary resumption of the monarchy, chiefly in respect of its military authority, and was created for the purpose of uniting the independent states of Thessaly for some common purpose. The Tagus was apparently elected by a majority of the states (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 8) and the whole military force of the country was placed under his command: the surrounding tribes, which seem, after the fall of the monarchy, to have been dependent on particular states, as the Perrhaebi in Larisa, were all brought under the control of this temporary central government (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 9, panta ta kukloi ethne hupekoa men estin, hotan taeos enthade katastei). The tribute (psoros), which they seem usually to have paid to the particular states on which they were directly dependent, was now exacted for the common purposes of the league (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 12); and they were made to furnish light-armed troops, which the Tagus levied (ib. vi. 1, 9). At the same time he raised the greatest force which the free states of Thessaly were capable of affording, and which amounted on these occasions to 6,000 cavalry and more than 10,000 infantry (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 8).
  But such a union of the states of Thessaly was rarely realised; and we meet with no actual instance of the appointment of a Tagus until after the Peloponnesian war. It is not known when the monarchy came to an end, but it probably continued, in name at least, down to the year 454 B.C. (Thuc. i. 111); it was followed by a general break--up of the union of Thessaly; and though the words of Thucydides (iv. 78, 3), to panton koinon, may point to some loose confederacy or common council, and though there seems to have been a strong common democratic sentiment running through the whole country, yet the different states were largely independent of one another and almost entirely under the control of their separate hereditary oligarchies (Thuc. l. c.). Thus Larisa was governed by the Aleuadae, Cranon by the Scopadae, and Pharsalus by the Creondae (Herod. vi. 127, vii. 6, ix. 58; Diod. xv. 61, xvi. 14). The Aleuadae and Scopadae we know were related, and perhaps most of the great families of Thessaly were connected, at least by being Heraclidae, and therefore of the original royal race, if not by being offshoots of the Aleuadae, who, we are told, ruled in many cities (Pind. Pyth. 10 ad fin., en d' agathoisi keitai patroiai kednai polion kubernasies). Sometimes a powerful state, like Pharsalus, extended its rule over other smaller cities (Xen. Hell. vi. 1, 8), but each of the larger states seems to have been practically independent both in foreign and domestic politics. In 431 B.C., at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war, we find that each of the cities which sent help to the Athenians appointed its own commander, and that the forces from Larisa were led by two generals, each chosen from a separate clan or faction in the city (apo tes staseos hekateros, Thuc. ii. 22); and we also find nobles, like Menon of Pharsalus in 364 B.C., arming their Penestae and taking an independent part in the wars of foreign nations (Dem. c. Aristocr.238). These instances point to the disorganised condition of Thessaly, which was indeed a noted characteristic of the country throughout its history (Liv. xxxiv. 51). The towns were under the control of a feudal nobility, who maintained their power the more easily through the preponderance of cavalry amongst the Thessalians, which their wealth and the character of the country enabled them to support, and the comparative unimportance of the hoplitai (Arist. Pol. iv. 3, 3; Thuc. ii. 22; Herod. v. 63). The country was distracted at once by clan-feuds and by the struggles of the democracy against the dominant castes. In some states a compromise was for a time effected, as at Larisa, where a mediator (archon mesidios) was at one time called in to allay the feuds in the ruling family (Arist. Pol. v. 6, 13), and where different magistrates of a democratic character, called politopsulakes and demiourgoi, were appointed, to satisfy the claims of the popular party.
  The rule of the nobility continued until the close of the Peloponnesian war; and it was not until 404 B.C. that the democratical reaction became strong enough to cause its overthrow. In this year Lycophron of Pherae attempted to raise himself to the position of Tagus of Thessaly (Xen. Hell. ii. 3, 4). Unable to secure his election by constitutional means, he made himself tyrant (Diod. xiv. 82), and attempted to unite the whole of Thessaly under his sway. This object was actually accomplished by his successor Jason in 375 B.C. (Xen. Hell. vi. 1 sq.; Diod. xv. 60); but after the assassination of the latter in 370 B.C., his successors Polydorus, Polyphron, and Alexander of Pherae were unable to maintain the constitutional hegemony, and the office of Tagus developed into an irregular tyranny (Xen. Hell. vi. 4, 33; Diod. xv. 61), for the suppression of which the aid of the Thebans under Pelopidas was repeatedly called in.
  Meanwhile we find that, about 364 B.C., an attempt was made at a reconstruction of the constitution of united Thessaly, for the purpose of joint action against Alexander of Pherae. We find again the koinon ton pettalon, composed of the four tetrades (C. I. A. ii. n. 88). At its head stood an archon, and each teras seems to have had its polemarchoi, with pezarchoi for the command of the foot-soldiers and hipparchoi for the command of the cavalry, and other officers, apparently of a religious character, called leromnemones (C. I. A. ii. n. 88, where polemarchoi and pezarchoi are mentioned; Dittenberger, n. 85--a treaty of alliance between Athens and Thessaly in 361 B.C.--l. 17, to koinon to thettalon--ton archonta hon heilonto thettaloi: l. 24, exorkososin Agelaon ton archonta kai tous polemarchous kai tous hipparchous kai tous hippeas kai tous leromnemonas kai tous allous archontas, hoposoi huper to koino to thettalon archosin). But this independent organisation was not of long duration. The subsequent usurpations of Sisiphorus and Lycophron induced the aristocracy to call in the assistance of Philip of Macedon, who deprived Lycophron of his power in 352 B.C. (Dem. Olynth. ii. p. 19,7); and this interference in the affairs of Thessaly paved the way for its subjection to Macedonia, which was effected in 344 B.C.
  Philip re-organised the country by instituting tetrarchies (tetrarchiai, Dem. Phil. iii., 35) and decarchies (dekadarchiai, Dem. Phil. ii., 24); but it is doubtful whether these two modes of organisation were coexistent, and, if so, what relation the latter bore to the former. The tetrarchy was no doubt a re-institution of the division into tetrades: and the decarchy has been variously explained as a council of ten under which each of the principal cities was placed, or as a similar council which governed each of the four divisions, or as a supreme council which was invested with the government of the whole country: this last alternative being on the whole the most probable. Thessaly remained henceforth dependent on the Macedonian kings until the year 196 B.C., when the Romans, by the victory of Cynoscephalae, wrested it from Philip V., and restored the autonomy of the country.
  From this time we get a renewal of the alliance of the Thessalian states (koinon thessalon); at the head of this confederacy stood a strategos, appointed yearly, and we find the names of such strategoi recorded both in inscriptions and on coins. The tribes formerly dependent on Thessaly--the Dolopes, Perrhaebi, and Magnetes--were now constituted as independent states (Liv. xxxiii. 34; Polyb. xviii. 30, 6): thus we find that the Magnetes had a general council of their own (Magnetum consilium, Liv. xxxv. 31), and a supreme magistrate who bore the title Magnetarches (Liv. xxxv. 39 and 43). The constitution of the separate Thessalian states, as they were organised by T. Quintius Flamininus, was of a timocratic character (Liv. xxxiv. 51, a cursu maxime et senatum et judices legit, potentioremque eam partem civitatium fecit, cui salva et tranquilla omnia magis expediebant ). On the occasions when the states were summoned to discuss measures which concerned the whole of Thessaly, the general council met at Larisa (Liv. xxxv. 31; xlii. 38, Thessalorum Larissae fuit consilium ).
During the Macedonian and Roman rule we find the word tagos occurring frequently as a title of the magistrates of the Thessalian states; it is found in the fourth century B.C. at Pharsalus and Cranon, in the third century at Larisa, and about the year 196, at the commencement of the period of Roman rule, at Cyretiae (C. I. G. n. 1770). At Larisa and Cyretiae they were the chief magistrates; thus letters of Philip V. of Macedon and of T. Quintius Flamininus are addressed tois tagois kai tei polei chairein (C. I. G. n. 1770): in other states they appear as directing the proceedings of the ekklesia, and as the executive and finance officers.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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