Akamas at Synnada

Christos Aristopoulos, University of Cyprus
As a part of my research on Hadrian’s Panhellenion, [1] a league of Greek cities under the Roman Empire, I noticed the very strange case of the city member of Synnada and the local cult of the hero Akamas, son of Theseus. Akamas, does not appear in Homer, at least not as the son of the Athenian king and hero. The name however, is mentioned for two individuals in the Iliad. There is a Trojan Akamas, son of Antenor (Book 12, line 100), killed by Myrionis, and another one, leader of the Thracians before the arrival Rhesus (Book 2, line 844). We are informed about the presence of the Athenian Akamas in the Epic Tradition through fragments of Ilias Parva (fr. 17) and Ilioupersis (fr. 3) and Patriarch Photius, in his Chrestomathia of Proclus, where he places him, along with his brother Demophon, in a mission to rescue their grandmother Aethra (who had been captured by the Dioscuri and became Helen’s servant) from the burning Troy. [2] But still, it remains uncertain whether Akamas was one of those few who were inside the Wooden Horse as well, or if he simply entered the city with the rest of the Achaean army. The Athenian narrative, even from the 5th century includes him into the Horse. According to Pausanias (1.23.8), he, among the three other “Athenian” heroes, was depicted, or rather sculpted, getting out of a huge bronze horse that was dedicated in Acropolis and now it has perished. He is accompanied by his brother Demophon, Menestheus leader of the Athenian troopers and Ajax’s half-brother Teucer. We are able to identify it as work of Chairedemus, son of Evangelus, around 420 based on an inscription that was found there (IG I3 895).
A few decades before Pausanias visit to Athens, at the year 131 AD the Panhellenion was founded there, as a league of ancient and important Greek Metropoleis and Colonies. Among Among those considered to be the latter, there were more than a few cities, deep into Asia Minor that were either indigenous or Macedonian military colonies. Cities like Thyateira, Laodicea, Eumeneia, Cibyra, Tralleis Aezanoi, even Sardis, justified their presence as colonies of Athens, Sparta, Argos or Iolkos by presenting a syngeneia towards them. There is a plethora of such dedications into Athens or Sparta and among their own agoras, where they clearly state that they are descendants of those great Greek cities. The Phrygian city of Synnada is one of those fake colonies that participated into the Panhellenion. The son of Theseus and eponymous hero of the Akamantis tribe, has been recognized on coins of the city from the era of Antoninus Pius (138–161 AD) up until the first half of the third century. [3] During the same period, there are other coins issued that describe the city either as a colony of Dorians, or of Ionians or even as both of them (ΣΥΝΝΑΔΕΩΝ ΔΩΡΙΕΩΝ ΙΩΝΩΝ). [4]
As far as we know, Hellenicity at Synnada begins early at the times of the Diadochi and the Epigoni of Alexander the Great, under Antigonos the One-eyed or his general Dokimos. The city was one of the earliest military strongholds and colonies of the Dorians-Macedonians and until 302 BC, the seat of the royal treasury of Antigonos (Diodorus, 20.107.3; Paus. 1.8.1). It is very probable though, that there was a previous, non-Greek, settlement there, due the strategic position of Synnada into the Persian Royal Road. [5] The population, like in every other Macedonian colony in Phrygia, was a mixture of local residents and Greek settlers from Macedonia and Trace (the latter after Lysimachus conquered the area). They only ascended to the status of a Greek city during the second century BC. [6] Later the same century, the city issued coins with the image of goddess Athena Polias [7] but as we will see, this is not indicative of an earlier myth of an Ionian colonization, contrary to the (far less plausible) opinion of C. P. Jones. [8]
Needless to say, no Ionian or Dorian settlers ever managed to penetrate that deep into Anatolia and create their own colony at the times of the Apoikismoi, the times that the epic tradition was born and flourished. It took a philhellene emperor and his radical vision for Akamas to become the founder of Synada. Under the Empire, the ever-competing cities of Anatolia were struggling for imperial benevolence and its benefits. While the major cities of the coast, like Smyrna, Meletus and Ephesus were boasting for their ancient history and their riches, the poorer and younger cities of the Macedonians, once proud for having an Antigonos or a Seleucos as a founder, now found themselves with the side of the defeated of the Macedonian Wars. To make matters worse for Synnada, the neighboring indigenous city of Pesinous had already from Augustus risen to the status of provincial seat of Galatia, [9] by helding the Imperial Cult due to a myth of Aeneas, being a Phrygian (Herodian, 1.11.3).
The chance for a change of the origins of the city and an elevation to a close League of prestigious cities came at the final decade of Hadrian’s reign (117–138). This is the time when Synnada will promote a Dorian and an Ionian heritage simultaneously! The Dorian origins will be shown with coins that bare the images of Hercules, Lakedaimon and the hero Thynnaros. [10] They will also issue coins with the double pyloi helmets of the Dioscuri. This is not simply a Dorian ancestry that has a historical base, because of the Macedonians. This is a direct attempt to connect the city with Sparta. Sparta at the time, was the second but still most important pillar of the Panhellenion since it shared an equal part of glory with Athens after the Persian Wars. Since Hadrian, the city of Lycurgus will reveal a vast network of alleged colonies, from Cyrene and Apolonia in Cyrenaica to Tralleis, Thyateira and Synnada in Phrygia. Those cities had no issues of starting a brand-new narrative of their foundation and were more than happy to declare their proud kinship with Sparta. [11]
We are able to identify a very active citizen of Synnada, known through honorary inscriptions and dedications in Sparta and Athens as well, a man who acted as an ambassador of his city to the Panhellenion, already from 131 AD, and is responsible for the construction of the fable of this Ionian and Dorian colonialism. His name was Tiberius Claudius Attalos Andragathos and he was also a priest of Zeus Eleutherios at Plataia, a cult that revived under Hadrian and was directly connected to the Persian Wars and Panhellenism. [12] He will make a dedication in Sparta to Athena Polias, where he refers to the Spartans as colonists of his city through the hero Thynnaros (SEG XI, 771). Therefore, it is not hard to guess that the previous presence of this particular Athena Polias in the Synnadean coins of the late second century BC is not an indication of an Athenian ancestry. As for Attalos Andragathos, he will not promote just the Spartan heritage of his city, but, by 140, at the reign of Pius, he will be admitted into the Akamantis tribe of Athens and the demos of Sphettos (modern day Koropi) thus becoming an actual Athenian citizen. This is the same time when Akamas will be introduced as the hero who founded Synnada, according to the coinage that was mentioned earlier. It can be by no coincidence that those two events are directly connected with each other.
Fortunately enough, the myth that sprung during the era of Pius has survived through the Ethnica of Stephanos Byzantios. According to this version (592), after the fall of Troy, Akamas reached Phrygia. There, he assisted a besieged local ruler and for his actions he received a land where he built a city. This city was colonized by Greeks that Akamas brought from Macedonia into Asia. Due to the occurred synagogi and synoikisis, its original name was Synnaia, later misspelled by the locals as Synnada. Stephanos will include into Synnada the nearby village of Dokimeion as well, without giving any further explanation or making any reference to the Antigonid general Dokimos who named this fortress. Still, Dokimeion was without any doubt, the most valuable asset of Synnada. It was the location of the quarries of the famous and extremely expensive pavonazzetto marble. [13] This is the marble that was used by Hadrian for the hundred columns of his Library in Athens and Pausanias includes into his description of the Panhellenion (1.18.6,1-8,9)! As for my interpretation of the myth, I find it quite interesting that it does not deny the Macedonian heritage of the first inhabitants. However, it does place them in the era of mythical heroes, the era that was widely adored by everyone in the Empire and in synchronicity with the great ancestor of the Romans, the Phrygian (as we saw earlier according to Herodian) Aeneas. Therefore, the founding of Synnada predates the First and Second Colonization of the Greeks into Asia, at least for as long as this myth was credible, within and without the Panhellenion League.
Interestingly enough, Synnada was not the only city that reinstitutes its history according to the alleged wanderings of Akamas. Akamas is considered as a founder, a ktistes, of Dorylaeum at some time during the second century, [14] again in Phrygia, which is also known as Akamantion. Dorylaeum is not proven to be one of the cities that belonged to the Panhellenion but this does not mean that it was certainly not one. On the contrary, if we examine the criteria for one city to become member, then Dorylaeum seems as a perfect candidate, waiting for a discovery of an inscription to prove it. It is not however the purpose of this paper to do so.
Stephanos Byzantios provides us with the information that the son of Theseus built that city after making an alliance with the people of Solymoi (56). It becomes now clear that Akamantion/Dorylaeum does not only choose to create a bondage with Athens but also, that it makes use of the Cypriot locations of Akamas and Soloi (though there were another Soloi, right above Cyprus, in Cilicia, as well). The Athenian colonial presence and its later military expeditions in Cyprus are not out of context in this case. On the contrary, it is perhaps a solid base for the citizens of Synnada and Dorylaeum to strengthen their bond with Athens. The campaigns of the son of Miltiades, Kimon the besieger, the “poliorketes” in Cyprus and Thrace during the second quarter of the 5th century had a great impact upon the Athenian reception of the Trojan War. In the year 475, Kimon will use his own sieging techniques and will enter the fortress of Eion in Thrace. For this achievement, he and his hoplites will be praised as the descendants of king Menesthenus in an epigram found on three herms. [15] As professor Theodoros Mavrogiannis has pointed out, Kimon started the the fulfillment of the Plataean oath to Zeus Eleutherios, that the Greeks will not build any temples to their gods until they have officially avenged the Persians. His dedication of the statue of the goddess of Amathous, Nemesis-Hathor (the nemesis of the Persians for invading Attica, initially at Marathon), is also a demonstration of the Athenian control over Cyprus. [16] It is also the beginning of all those other narratives that Lefkowitz and Ferrari described as the Athenian appropriation of the fall of Troy. [17]
Kimon’s consecration of the statue of Nemesis (which is also the mother of Helen of Troy according to Pausanias 1, 33) comes as an answer and a replacement for the looted “xoano” of Artemis in the very nearby Brauron. The same Artemis that Orestes and Iphigeneia brought from the Tauroi and the same Artemis that is venerated in Acropolis with a huge bronze Trojan Horse. Later, at 458 BC, Aeschylus in his Suppliants will call the Trojans as Phrygians (527). Not only this, but as Herodotus narrates, king Xerxes himself, into his Hubris, right before flogging the sea, sacrificed to king Priam and proclaimed that he will become his avenger (7.43.1–2). This trend, will continue throughout the whole fifth century, long after the death of Kimon in Cyprus, especially after the alliance of the Satrap of Phrygia Pharnabazos with the Spartans, at 420, [18] and will reach at its peak under the king Evagoras and the spreading of the myth of the Teucrids.
As for Akamas and the Athenian narrative, his presence into the ten tribes was an action of great significance for the Democracy. The rebranding of Athens under Cleisthenes was a brilliant chance for promoting and highlighting a series of traditions that were placing the city among the other, greatly esteemed poleis of the sixth century. In a way, something like Synnada did seven hundred years later. The legend of Troy was without any doubt one of the most popular topics among the whole Greek kosmos. It was also, along with the nostoi, the final event into a saga of an era of heroes, an event that included so many places and personalities that it could be easily exploited for creating mythical ancestries or declaring a city’s might. The epic cycle in its totality was offering chances for Athenian glory that could not simply be drawn very easily from the Iliad alone. Of course, Ajax had to be included but he could not be seen as a direct ancestor of the Athenians, especially since Salamis was annexed by Athens only recently. When the epic cycle praises the best of the Achaeans, it seems that there is only limited or none space for the proud, indigenous, Ionians to fight for their own geras, share of trophies, into it. We must always keep in mind the fact that even under Cleisthenes, Athens was not yet the great power among the Greek cities. Instead, during the seventh and the sixth century, it would rank as a second-class city behind Sparta, Argos, Corinth and even Samos or Eretria. The presence of Akamas and Demophon during the burning of Troy is a fortunate addition from the creators of the epics. However, their presence into the “special task force” of the best of the Achaeans that hid into the Horse is something entirely different. Let us not forget that the brothers are not the kings or princes of Athens. Menestheus war the current regent of Athens, after he ousted Theseus and blamed him for being “a foreigner despot”, according to Plutarch (Theseus, XXXII). During the Archaic period, Akamas, his famous father and his grandfather, they were broadly considered by the rest of the Greek world as a non-Athenians but as Avandes, somewhere from the North! [19] But their family was also the one that participates and appears into the most myths and heroic deeds of the Greeks. Cleisthenes had to solve this problem. Therefore, he included names from both the categories. On the one hand, the widely accepted as indigenous kings like Kekrops, Erechtheus and Pandion, the king who adopted the foreigner Aegeus and on the other hand, Aegeus himself, his grandson Akamas and the nearby Salaminian (super)hero, Ajax. I am certain that by that time Akamas was not viewed yet in Athens as a passenger of the Horse. This could only happen after the Persian Wars. By that time, Athens had already been established as the greatest power into the Aegean basin and Troy was not only a predecessor state of Persia, but also another tragically burned city, a parallel to Athens as Ferrari proposed. [20] Under those circumstances then, Athens had enough prestige to create this third level of reception, the one in which Akamas is hidden into the Horse.
To sum up, we now have the complete journey of the hero Akamas. A non-Athenian epic tradition places him and his brother into the burning city of Troy. Cleisthenes will elevate him among the ten heroes of the tribes of his Democracy and the glorious fifth century will allow him to take the place of the best of the Achaeans and depict him at Acropolis, into the horse itself. At the same century, a second reception of the epic tradition will relate Troy with Phrygia, but without interfering yet Akamas. Finally, the last level of reception will come as the result of the Panhellenic policy of Hadrian and the ambassador of a Phrygian city into Athens. They no longer care for the animosity between Athens and Troy/Persian Phrygia. After all, if Aeneas is also a Trojan and a Phrygian he can no longer be seen as an enemy, for obvious reasons. The Dorian/Macedonian city of Synnada that cannot be associated with the Colonizations, will choose to export the far more ancient tale of a prestigious Athenian hero that passed through their land after rescuing his grandmother Aethra from a city that now belongs into their own roman province of Asia. This narrative, as imaginative as it may be, it became the reality of the Synnadeans and through the Panhellenion it obtained the imperial support. For this reason, since it was believed, it became a truth and this truth is the only one that survived from Stephanos Byzantios. The second imaginary foundation myth, the one from Sparta that includes Hercules, Lakedaimon and Thynnaros, though equally contemporary and perhaps more original, due to the Macedonians, it got lost after the collapse of the Panhellenion, when Athens was destroyed by the Herulli, in the year 267 AD. But the story of the Dorian heroes of Synnada is something that will be discussed into another paper.


Bernabe, A. 1987. Poetae epici graeci: Testimonia et fragmenta 1. Leipzig: BG Teubner.
Cartledge, P., and A. Spawforth. 2002. Hellenistic and Roman Sparta: A Tale of Two Cities. London and New York.
Cohen, G. M. 1995. The Hellenistic settlements in Europe, the islands, and Asia Minor (vol. 17). University of California Press.
Ferrari, G. 2000. “The Ilioupersis in Athens.” HSPh 100:119–150.
Hall, E. 1989. Inventing the barbarian: Greek self-definition through tragedy. Oxford.
Head, B. V. 1906. B.M.C. Catalogue of the Greek coins of Phrygia. London.
_________. 1911. Historia numorum, 2nd ed. Oxford, 587:2.
Imhoof-Blumer, F. 1901. Zur syrischen Münzkunde.
Jones, C. P. 1996. “The Panhellenion.” Chiron 26:29–56.
Lefkowitz, M. R. 2020. “The ‘Wooden’ Horse on the Athenian Acropolis.” Hesperia 89(3):581–591.
Μαυρογιάννης, Θ. 2008. Tο «Iερόν της Nεμέσεως» στην Kύπρο, η Nέμεσις του Pαμνούντος και ο Kίμων . . . και για τον άγιο Nείλο, Αρχαιολογία και Τέχνες 106:63–74.
Nafissi, M. 1995. “Tiberius Claudius Attalos Andragathos e le origini di Synnada. I culti plataici di Zeus Eleutherios e della Homonoia ton Hellenon ed il Panhellenion.” Ostraka, 4:119–136.
Oliver, J. H. 1970. Marcus Aurelius: aspects of civic and cultural policy in the East. Hesperia Supplements 13:i–168.
_________. 1978. The helladarch. RSA 8:1–6.
_________. 1981. Roman emperors and Athens. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, (H. 4):412–423.
Page, D. L., ed. 1981. Further Greek Epigrams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Σακελλαρίου, Μ. Β. 2018. Ελληνικά έθνη κατά την εποχή του Χαλκού, Ηράκλειο.
Sartre, M. 20132. Ρωμαϊκή Αυτοκρατορία: Οι Ανατολικές Επαρχίες από τον Αύγουστο μέχρι τους Σεβήρους, Αθήνα.
_________. 20162. Η Ελληνιστική Μικρασία: Από το Αιγαίο ώς τον Καύκασο, Αθήνα.
Spawforth, A. J., and S. Walker. 1985. “The world of the Panhellenion. I. Athens and Eleusis.” JRS 75:78–104.
Strubbe, J. H. 1984. “Gründer Kleinasiatischer Städte Fiktion und Realität.” AncSoc 15:253–304.


[ back ] 1. It is not possible to reconstruct all the actions and reasons that led to the foundation of the league and particularly every detail of the participation of those cities. The works of Spawforth & Walker (1985) and those of Oliver (1970, 1978 and 1981) can give us a good introduction into what we actually know until now. Archaeology has also discovered very important leads that provide us names of member-cities and reveal a strong bondage of the Pan-Hellenes and the imperial cult of the Antonines. If we add the ancient texts of the 2nd’s century AD writers, we get a much better view of this league.
[ back ] 2. Bernabe 1987, IP arg. 21–22; MI fr. 20. 2.
[ back ] 3. Head 1906:393–406, n. 8–73.
[ back ] 4. Head 1911:S. 686.
[ back ] 5. Cohen 1995:322–325.
[ back ] 6. Sartre 2016:153.
[ back ] 7. Imhoof-Blumer 1901:295n19.
[ back ] 8. Jones 1996:40.
[ back ] 9. Sartre 2013:233.
[ back ] 10. Strubbe 1984:18.
[ back ] 11. Cartledge & Spawforth 2002:114.
[ back ] 12. A further analysis of T. C. Attalos Andragathos and the cult of Zeus Eleutherios in Panhellenion can be found at Nafissi 1996:119–136.
[ back ] 13. Sartre 2013:245.
[ back ] 14. Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas pertinentes n. 527.
[ back ] 15. Page 1981:255–259, n. xl.
[ back ] 16. Mavrogiannis 2008:72.
[ back ] 17. Lefkowitz 2020:581–591; Ferrari 2000:119–150.
[ back ] 18. Hall 1989:110.
[ back ] 19. Sakellariou (2018) has conducted a thorough research on this scenario (p. 593), as for the origins of the Avantes he has collected all the available data into the first chapter of this research (pp. 85–94).
[ back ] 20. Ferrari 2000:119–150.