Milesian Decree Relating to Political Banishments
The excavations conducted at Miletus in the North agora at the beginning of the last century have brought to light a marble base preserving an important document. It is a banishment decree by the city for a group of inhabitants of Miletus, together with their children and descendants. The initial part of the decree was engraved on a stele, which has never been found; hence, we cannot determine the number of offenders. The severity of the punishment and its extension to the descendants suggests, however, that it was a political crime, possibly treason. The officers who had to enforce the decree are the epimenioi. This term is attested in many Greek poleis to mean officers who had to fulfil monthly duties, for example sacrifices; at Miletus though, as it is implied by the present text, this board had wider duties. The mention of the epimenioi gives us 437-436 BC as a terminus ante quem: after this date the Milesian council was presided by a committee of prytaneis (hence substituting the epimenioi), which suggests a constitutional change based on the Athenian model. The historical context is obscure: the traditional interpretation sees these banishments as an evidence of the imposition of the democratic faction over the oligarchic faction at the middle of the fifth century, but it cannot be excluded that the decree was rather a measure against other groups (supporters of tyranny or supporters of the Persians).