Playing Sports may be fun, but I'll take all the Glory: The Synstremmatarches and the Synstremma in the Athenian Ephebia

John Friend

University of Texas at Austin

The synstremma was an ephebic sports team which competed in the various festivals of the Athenian calendar. The synstremma consisted of twelve members who competed as a team and as individuals in various events. The synstremmatarches was the team leader of the synstremma. Our main source of information about synstremmata comes from those inscriptions which the systremmatarchai erected to commemorate their teams' success. Both of these terms are only attested in the Roman period. The synstremma first appears in 140/1 A.D. (IG II2 2047) and the synstremmatarches in 163/4 A.D. (IG II2 2087).

These inscriptions show that the office of synstremmatarches was liturgical in nature, in that the synstremmatarches was a wealthy ephebe who was eager to gain glory and honor by sponsoring one or more synstremmata. My paper has several objectives. The first is to discuss the function, composition, and recruitment of the synstremma. The second is to explore the relationship between the synstremma and the ephebia as a whole. Dittenberger argues that, on account of the connection between the sophronistai and synstremmata, the ephebic class for that year was divided into twelve synstremmata. But I suggest that Dittenberger misunderstood the role of synstremmata and that synstremmata do not represent formal ephebic divisions. Finally, I will examine the origin of the synstremma, which is not well understood.


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