Inscribed stele on the liberation of slaves from the village Kofoi, Almyros, Magnesia

Inscribed stele on the liberation of slaves from the village Kofoi, Almyros, Magnesia

At the end of the 19th century, on the hill where the modern village of Kofoi in Almyros of Magnesia, is situated, the archaeologist N. Giannopoulos located ruins of ancient walls made of large rectangular stones, which may have come from a fortified settlement of the late Classical-early Hellenistic times. The name of this settlement is not yet known to us, but its location is in the present wider area of Almyros, which was included in the borders of Achaia Fthiotis, a neighbor area (perioikoi) of Thessaly. Giannopoulos himself also testifies the existence of an ancient cemetery east of the village and a stone stele (IG, IX 2, 102), in which acts of freeing slaves are inscribed.

In ancient times the slavery regime was fed by prisoners of war, descendants of slaves, exposed children, debtors. Slaves belonged to the state, to sanctuaries or to individuals. For various reasons, their masters may have set them free, but they may also have been able to pay off their freedom.

In Thessaly there are o lot of inscriptions on the liberation of slaves and give us important information with historical, political and social dimensions. These are official lists of slaves being drawn up by a public authority. On a stone stele, many liberating acts can be inscribed, because they are not private, but public administrative acts. These stelae are deposited in public places (sanctuaries, theaters, markets, etc.) so that everyone can receive knowledge. Liberation acts, according to the ancient custom of hierodouleia, can also be a symbolic dedication of the freed slave by his master to a god, as a guarantor of liberation. In the case of the inscription from the village Kofoi, there is no reference to a deity.

The stele (Museum of Volos no. ΒΕ 22826) is kept today in the courtyard of the Giannopouleio Archaeological Museum of Almyros, it is ambiguous, meaning that is engraved on both sides, on a slate stone (length 0.40 m., width 0.67 m., thickness 0.13 m.) and is incomplete. The surface of the stone has small recesses and protrusions, which result in the verses not being aligned. According to the official standard of the time, the inscription publishes a) the names of the Generals of the Koinon of Thessaly (Pausanias, Sosipatros, Ip[polochos]), on whom the liberation took place and who were considered supreme rulers from the moment of its foundation of the 2nd Koinon of Thessaly (196 BC), b) the names of the Fthiotic months (Adromiou, Kouraliou, Apolloniou, Itoniou, [-]oimnou), which determine in time more precisely the freeing of slaves , according to the month names of the local calendar (as the names of the months of the individual cities, communities and various Koinon differed, c) the name of the city treasurer (Evnostos) (who changed every year or twice a year) , d) the name of the freed slave with his patronymic, if it exists, (eg Stratonika Stratonikou), e) the name of the slave master (eg Theodotus) and f) the specified amount of release, which had to be paid for the redemption of the slaves’ freedom by deposit at the city treasury «according to the law». The price of the liberation of slaves in Thessaly was set at 15 staters and remained constant, at least during the Hellenistic period.

According to the studies that have been done so far, the above persons mentioned in the inscription (Pausanias, Sosipatros, Ip[polochos), served as Generals of the 2nd Koinon of Thessaly either in the first half of the 2nd c. e.g. (A. Babakos) or in the second quarter of the 1st c. e.g. (after 70 BC) (H. Kramolisch).

Finally, it is worth mentioning two very important examples of inscriptions concerning liberation of slaves from Thessaly, which depict the monetary change from staters to dinars, on the verge of political and administrative change of the Roman State, in which Thessaly was included. In the first stele (IG, IX 2, 415) that comes from Feres, Augustus himself is mentioned as the General of the Koinon of Thessaly, which is a strong element for its dating around 27 BC. Also, through the inscription, we are informed about the conversion and the exchange rate of the Greek staters with the Roman dinars, the so-called diorthoma, according to which the 15 staters, which was the standard amount of ransom for the freedom of the slaves, corresponded to 22 ½ dinars. In the second stele, which comes from ancient Demetrias (Museum of Volos no. BE 41353), 6 freed slaves are recorded in four releases, with the return of the legal amount in dinars, making it safe to date the inscription between the 1st c. BC and the 1st c. AD with a terminus post quem in 27 BC.


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