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Headword: *diopei/qhs
Adler number: delta,1188
Translated headword: Diopeithes
Vetting Status: high
A proper name, and it declines in -ous.[1]
An Athenian.
Aelian [writes] concerning Diopeithes: "this man introduced a law [ordaining that] a person from the town [of Athens] staying in Peiraeus should suffer the death penalty. Then on one occasion he was through no fault of his own kept late and stayed over in Peiraeus; and his enemies brought him to justice."[2]
Greek Original:
*diopei/qhs: o)/noma ku/rion, kai\ kli/netai ei)s ous. *)aqhnai=os. *ai)liano\s peri\ *diopei/qous: ou(=tos no/mon ei)sa/gei to\n a)po\ tou= a)/steos e)n *peiraiei= mei/nanta, tou=ton teqna/nai. ou(=tos ou)=n w)yi/sqh pote\ a)/kwn kai\ kate/meinen e)n tw=| *peiraiei=: kai\ au)to\n oi( e)xqroi\ ei)s di/khn u(pa/gousin.
[1] The genitive singular form of the name.
[2] Aelian fr. 22b Domingo-Forasté (22 Hercher), quoted from gamma 392. See also omega 293, where we learn that the quotation is from Aelian's On Divine Manifestations.
Several men called Diopeithes are known from classical Athens; this one is probably the oracle-interpreter and religious fanatic PA 4309 (LGPN ii s.v. no.3), on whom see e.g. P.A. Stadter, A Commentary on Plutarch's Pericles (Chapel Hill 1989) 298. But even if this is so, nothing further is known of this law, and Diopeithes would seem to have avoided its consequences, as (if references in Xenophon, Hellenica 3.3.3 [web address 1] and Plutarch, Agesilaus 3 refer to the same interpreter of oracles) he was still alive in the fourth century.
Aelian (see gamma 392) suggested that his opponents 'silenced' Diopeithes. This may mean that the proposal Diopeithes introduced was defeated when it was revealed that he had himself stayed late in Peiraeus. The ridicule involved silenced him. If this is so, then the words ei)s di/khn u(pa/gousin were used loosely or in error by Aelian.
These considerations, together with the silence of Thucydides and other sources, suggest that Aelian's story may well originate from a comic play, and lack historicity. Nevertheless, *if* the incident is not a comic invention, we may speculate on possible contexts:
(a: TN) Following the Spartan fortification of Decelea in spring 413 BCE, with the law's aim to discourage citizens (and metics?) from abandoning the city of Athens at a time when life had become difficult. In support of this date is the evidence of Aelian's passage that Diopeithes (and anyone else) could move freely between the city of Athens and Peiraeus, a freedom of movement that did not exist after Thrasybulus occupied Peiraeus in May 403, the other obvious context that presents itself. See Xenophon, Hellenica 2.4.24ff. and web address 2. From Thucydides 7.28.2 (web address 3) we learn that following the Spartan occupation of Decelea the Athenians were rostered to guard the city's defences night and day both in winter and summer. This situation continued until the capitulation of Athens in 404. The quality of life in Athens must have suffered greatly and Thucydides emphasized this by describing the greatest city of the Greek world of the time as a 'fortress' (frouri/on). The temptation to leave Athens and avoid the restricted lifestyle and its onerous responsibilities must have been great, especially for the better-off people.
(b: DW) either c.432/1, with Diopeithes trying to stop people flocking to Peiraieus for the new and (to him) alien Bendideia festival (on which see generally Robert Garland, Introducing New Gods: the politics of Athenian religion (London 1992) 111-114); or 404-3, during the oligarchical regime of the Thirty Tyrants, when 'town' and Peiraeus were at odds.
Swoboda, H. 'Diopeithes (8) and (7?)' in RE 5,1 col.1046
Connor, W.R. 'Two Notes on Diopeithes the Seer'. Classical Philology, 58.2 (April 1963), pp. 115-118
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: biography; comedy; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; historiography; history; law; military affairs; religion
Translated by: Tony Natoli on 8 January 2003@01:43:07.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented and modified note; cosmetics) on 8 January 2003@05:09:51.
Tony Natoli on 3 February 2003@16:27:34.
David Whitehead (augmented note; cosmetics) on 4 February 2003@07:02:14.
Tony Natoli (Added another hypothesis.) on 29 June 2003@00:20:50.
Tony Natoli (Added reference.) on 12 February 2010@03:03:38.
David Whitehead (my typo) on 12 February 2010@03:06:44.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 12 July 2012@07:35:54.
Catharine Roth (updated reference, upgraded links) on 5 October 2012@01:33:45.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 2 January 2015@01:00:08.


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