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date: 26 November 2022

founders, cityfree

founders, cityfree

  • Antony Spawforth


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Reception

Founders were chiefly important before Alexander (3) the Great in the case of colonies (see apoikia), founded under the leadership of an oikist (οἶκιστής‎), whose achievements frequently led to his posthumous worship as a hero (see hero-cult). In 5th-cent. bce Athens oikists were state officials who returned home after completing their task, as with Hagnon at Amphipolis. Among Hellenistic founders of cities (ktistēs was now the preferred term) kings naturally loomed largest, although not all attended in person the founding rituals like Alexander the Great (Arr.Anab. 3. 1. 5). As a device for asserting a Hellenic ancestry compatible with the cultural and ethnic preferences of the ruling power, city-founders acquired a new significance in the Hellenistic and Roman empires: thus Cilician Mallus gained tax-exemption from Alexander (Arr. Anab. 2. 5. 9) on the strength of mutual kinship through Argos (1). Precisely because such claims had a political value, their ‘truthfulness’ must be assessed cautiously, especially when they were set in the mythic past and demand belief in otherwise unattested mainland Greek colonization of Asia. In the Roman east, stimulated by the Panhellenion, city-founders were celebrated in local coinages and monuments as important sources of civic prestige; rhetors were advised to measure their praise according to the order ‘god, hero, or man’ (Menander Rhetor 1. 353, ed. Russell and Wilson). ‘Ktistēs’ by now was also an honorific title applied to civic benefactors, especially patrons of building. See also archēgetēs.


  • W. Leschhorn, ‘Gründer der Stadt’ (1984).
  • J. Strubbe, Ancient Society 1984–6, 275–304.
  • I. Malkin, Religion and Colonization in Ancient Greece (1987).
  • C. P. Jones, New Heroes in Antiquity (2010).