Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 17 August 2018

clubs, Greek

Despite the large number and great popularity of clubs in the Greek world, both in the Hellenistic and in the Graeco-Roman period, literature makes surprisingly few references to them, and the available evidence consists almost entirely of inscriptions and, in the case of Egypt, papyri. These provide a picture which, if incomplete, is at least vivid and detailed.

Greek clubs, sacred and secular, are attested as early as the time of Solon, one of whose laws, quoted by Gaius (Dig. 47. 22. 4), gave legal validity to their regulations, unless they were contrary to the laws of the state; and we hear of political clubs (hetaireiai) at Athens in the 5th cent. bce (Thuc. 3. 82; 8. 54; 65). In the Classical period the societies known to us are mostly religious, carrying on the cult of some hero or god not yet recognized by the state, such as the worshippers (see orgeones) of Amynus, Asclepius, and Dexion, the heroized Sophocles (1). In Hellenistic times, clubs become much more frequent and varied, and though many of them have religious names and exercise primarily religious functions, their social and economic aspects become increasingly prominent and some of them are purely secular. They are found throughout the Graeco-Roman world, but are specially common in the cosmopolitan trade-centres such as Piraeus, Delos, and Rhodes, in Egypt, and in the flourishing cities of Asia Minor, and they appear to have played a valuable role in uniting in a common religious and social activity different elements of the population—men and women, slaves and free, citizens and aliens, Greeks and ‘barbarians’. On the titles and aims of these guilds, their cults and festivals, their social and economic aspects, their membership and officials, their organization and finance, much light has been thrown by inscriptions, fully discussed by F. Poland (see below). See eranos; thiasos.

From the multifarious societies so revealed, incapable of a wholly satisfactory classification, three groups may be singled out for mention.

  1. (a) Among the religious guilds a leading place is taken by the Dionysiac artists (see dionysus, artists of).

  2. (b) In various cities wholesale merchants (ἔμποροι‎) formed associations of their own (Poland, 107 ff.), and in Athens they combined, for some purposes at least, with the shippers (ναύκληροι‎). In the 2nd cent. bce two vigorous and wealthy societies, in which these two elements unite with the warehousemen (ἐγδοχεῖς‎) are found on the island of Delos, the Heracleïstae of Tyre and the Poseidoniastae of Berytus (W. A. Laidlaw, History of Delos (1933), 212 ff. and L. Robert, in Études déliennes (BCH Suppl. 1, 1973), 486 ff.); the large and well-appointed clubhouse of the latter, which apparently served religious, social, and commercial ends, has been completely excavated (C. Picard, Exploration archéologique de Délos, 6. 1921).

  3. (c) Numerous guilds, some of which probably date from the Classical period, are composed of fellow workers in the same craft, industry, or trade. Their main function was religious and social rather than economic; and though we hear of troubles at Ephesus in which the guilds play a leading part (Acts 19: 24 ff.; Anatolian Studies presented to W. M. Ramsay (1923), 27 ff.), their chief object was social, rather than to modify conditions of labour or to champion the interests of the workers against their employers. See artists and craftsmen.


E. Ziebarth, Das griechischen Vereinswesen (1896).Find this resource:

    J. Oehler, Zum griechischen Vereinswesen (1905).Find this resource:

      F. Poland, Geschichte des griechischen Vereinswesens (1909).Find this resource:

        M. N. Tod, Sidelights on Greek History (1932), 69 ff.Find this resource:

          N. F. Jones, The Associations of Classical Athens (1999).Find this resource:

            For specific aspects or regions see M. San Nicolò, Aegyptisches Vereinswesen zur Zeit der Ptolemäer u. Römer (1913–15).Find this resource:

              P. Foucart, Des associations religieuses chez les Grecs (1873).Find this resource:

                F. Poland, Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft “Technitae”.Find this resource:

                  M. Radin, Legislation of the Greeks and Romans on Corporations (1910).Find this resource:

                    The decrees and laws of the Attic societies are collected in

                    Inscriptiones Graecae 22. 1249–1369.Find this resource:

                      The decrees and laws of the Delian corporations are in

                      Inscriptions de Délos 1519–1523.Find this resource:

                        For a selection of inscriptions relating to clubs see

                        W. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, 3rd edn. (1915–1924), 1095–1120.Find this resource:

                          C. Michel, Recueil d'inscriptions grecques (1900–1927), 961–1018.Find this resource:

                            For Egyptian religious associations A. D. Nock, etc., Harvard Theological Review 1936, 39 ff. (partly repr. in Nock’s Essays on Religion and the Ancient World (1972), 414 ff.).

                            J. K. Davies, Cambridge Ancient History 72/1 (1984), 283, 318 ff. (general).Find this resource:

                              P. M. Fraser, Rhodian Funerary Monuments (1977), 58 ff.Find this resource:

                                A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Dramatic Festivals of Athens3 (1988), 279 ff., 365 (artists of Dionysus).Find this resource:

                                  W. Brasheer, Vereine im griechisch-römischen Ägypten (1993).Find this resource:

                                    Do you have feedback?