1902 Encyclopedia > Sicyon

Achaia, Greece

SICYON was a city in the east of Achaia, Greece, about 2 miles inland from the Corinthian Gulf, situated on and below a hill in the angle formed by the confluence of the rivers Asopus and Helisson; the site is now occu-pied by the village of Vasilika. It possessed a harbour on the coast round which was a well-fortified town, which was almost a suburb of the main city (SIKWOVIW A.t/xrjv). The ancient and native form of the name was 2eKvi6v. The earliest inhabitants were Ionians; but it was con-quered by the Dorian invaders of Argolis, who extended their dominion over Corinth, Sicyon, and the whole valley of the Asopus. Phalces, son of the first Dorian king of Argos, Temenus, was said to have been the conqueror of Sicyon and founder (CHKIO-T?JS) of the Dorian city, which, like Corinth, probably continued for a long time subject to the powerful kings of Argos. The population of the Dorian Sicyon was divided into four tribes; the Dorian conquerors constituted three—viz., the usual Dorian tribes Hylleis, Dymanes, and Pamphyli—and a part of the pre-Dorian population constituted the fourth tribe, which was called iEgialeis. (Previous to the Dorian conquest the city bore, according to Strabo, the name iEgiali, or ac-cording to Pausanias iEgialeia.) The rest of the ancient population were reduced to the state of serfs, called Kartava-Ko<f>opot, or Kopvvrjdjopoi, whose position was similar to that of the Helots in Sparta. As in most of the cities of Greece, the conflict between the aristocracy and the com-mons, who were superior in number but inferior in organiza-tion, in education, and in power, resulted in the rise of a dynasty of tyrants, the Orthagoridse, who destroyed the rule of the Dorian oligarchy and reigned in Sicyon for a century, from about 665 B.C. Under the strong hand of these dynasts Sicyon attained great wealth. Lying near the great commercial centre Corinth, and possessing a harbour, it shared in the immense development of trade with the Italian peninsula which took place in the 8th and 7th centuries. Its marine was considerable, though ap-parently never of the first rank; at a later time it sent fifteen triremes to fight against the Persians at Salamis. The bronze work of Sicyon was renowned, as Strabo mentions; and we may gain some conception of its style from some of the bronzes found at Olympia, which have probably been fabricated either at Sicyon or in the closely connected workshops of Argos. The Dtedalid sculptors Dipcenus and Scyllis from Crete settled in Sicyon about the beginning of the 6th century, and gave the first im-pulse to a school of art, working mainly in bronze or in wood covered with bronze, which lasted for some genera-tions at Sicyon, Corinth, and Argos, and played a very prominent part in the development of Greek art. The early bronze work of the Sicyo-Argive workshops in all probability formed the model after which the Hesiodic description of the Shield of Hercules was composed by a poet of the 7th century. The fame of Sicyonian bronze work gave rise to the epithet TeXxtvta, which was sometimes applied to the city. Terra-cotta vases which have been fabricated at Sicyon are found in Etruria, whither they were exported in the Italian trade. They closely resemble in style the vases of Corinth, from which they are distinguished by the peculiar form of the letter epsilon in the inscriptions painted on them, and they usually belong to the 6th century. The market-gardens of the fertile Asopus valley supplied the populous Corinth with fruit and vegetables. At least in later times the fine shoes made in Sicyon were widely used in Greece. In the 4th century Sicyon continued to be one of the foremost states in an artistic point of view. The Sicyonian school of painting was founded by Eupompus, and some of the greatest foreign artists, such as Pamphilus and Apelles, studied in it. Lysippus also, who gave a new impulse and tone to Greek sculpture, was a native of Sicyon.

In the dynasty of the Orthagoridse Andreas began to reign about 665, his son Myron before 648 ; of Aristonymus, son of Myron, nothing is known ; Myron II., son of Aristonymus, reigned seven years ; Isodamns, brother and murderer of Myron II., reigned a
short time, and about 596 was replaced by his younger brother
Clisthenes, who ruled till about 565. The dynasty ended with
Clisthenes, who had no son ; but his institutions continued in
force for sixty years longer, until Sicyon came under the influence
of the Peloponnesian confederacy, in which the Dorian Sparta was
the chief power. The policy of the Orthagoridae had always been
strongly anti-Dorian, and under the Dorian reaction the most
unfavourable colour was given to their actions ; hence grew the
extremely unpleasant picture of them in the pages of Herodotus,
who gives the current Peloponnesian accounts of the 5th century.
These accounts are contradicted by the long rule of the dynasty
and the permanence of their policy after their extinction. Myron
I. won a chariot-race at Olympia in 648, and dedicated a bronze
ed\a/ios (probably a large chest or VCUITKOS covered with bronze),
with an inscription, which Pausanias saw in the Olympian treasury
of the Sicyonians. The building of this treasury is ascribed to him
by Pausanias, but excavation has shown that the building is not
earlier than 500 ; it consists of a simple cella with a pronaos in
antis, and is built of Sicyonian stones, cut and numbered at Sicyon,
and thence transported by water to Olympia. Clisthenes was the
most powerful and famous of the Sicyonian despots, and he con-
tinued the anti-Dorian policy of his predecessors ; but, as we have
seen, it is impossible to trust the details of his action as given by
Herodotus (v. 67). He is said to have forbidden the rhapsodists
to recite the epics in which the fame of Dorian heroes was sung,
and to have encouraged the worship of Dionysus, a non-Dorian
deity. Another object of his policy was to secure the favour of
the Delphian oracle, and he used all his power in the Sacred War
on the side of Delphi against Crissa (590 B.C.). He won a victory
in the chariot-race at Delphi in 582. Clisthenes had no son, and
he desired to obtain the noblest of the Greeks as a husband for his
daughter Agariste. The story of the wooing of Agariste as it was
current in Athens, probably in poetic form, has been preserved by
Herodotus. Clisthenes, when declared victor at the Olympian
games (572 or 568), invited the best of the Greeks to Sicyon.
Twelve representatives from all parts of Greece (wdiose names are
chosen by the poet with little regard to chronological possibility)
assembled there and spent a year as guests of Clisthenes. First
among them all were two Athenians, one of whom, Megacles the
Alemseonid, was at last preferred to his rival Hippoclides ; and
the careless remark of the latter, " Hippoclides cares not," became
proverbial. Megacles and Agariste were parents of Clisthenes,
who became famous after 510 as the second founder of the Athenian
democracy, and their grand-daughter Agariste was mother of the
still more famous Pericles. When Sicyon again came under the
Dorian influence shortly before 500, the oligarchical form of govern-
ment was reintroduced and lasted till about 369, when the de-
mocracy was again established ; but its form was used by Euphron
to exercise his own power, and after him a series of tyrants ruled
the city, till in 251 Aratus reintroduced the democratic government
and Sicyon joined the Achaean league. Under the Roman rule
Sicyon profited by the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C.; it received
part of the Corinthian territory together with the presidency of the
Isthmian games. But it sank into decay as Corinth revived, and
was almost depopulated when Pausanias visited it in the 2d century
after Christ. Among the bishoprics of the Byzantine time New
Sicyon occurs regularly ; it is probable that this was a town on a
new site near the old city. (W. M. RA.)

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