Sunday, 20 May 2012
Bribes in Ancient Greece
In 430bc the city of Athens decided to build a new temple to their patron goddess Athene (see page 182). The city hired the architect Actinus who not only designed the building but also organised its construction.
Actinus produced a monumental temple of elegant proportions that is famous today as the Parthenon. The cost of such contracts was enormous.
There was a great temptation to offer and accept bribes. Builders were keen to gain valuable contracts and were willing to share the profits with the men whose job it was to award the contracts.
Government officials were not allowed to take bribes and punishments could be severe. However many men elected as officials were fairly poor and might be tempted. A close watch was kept on officials.
Architeles, an Athenian official, was sent a box of food by a politician. Architeles staff thought the gift was of such low value that it was not a bribe., but a purse of gold coins was hidden under the food.
The Athenian admiral Themistocles took a bribe from the government of Euobea to bring the Athenian fleet to help them during the Persian wars (see page 28). He did not tell the Euobeans that this was what he had been ordered to do anyway.
An accusation of corruption was a favourite way to try to discredit a rival politician. Such allegations were difficult to prove, but they often created a climate of suspicion.
Themistocles was put in charge of rebuilding the port of Piraeus in about 485bc. The new port was much admired, but Themistocles was accused of taking bribes and forced to leave Athens.
Judges were often accused of taking bribes to favour one side or another in a court case. Any judge found to have taken a bribe was instantly dismissed.
Priests were sometimes bribed to spoil sacrifices to make it look as if the gods disapproved of certain people or actions. One priest from Delphi who took such a bribe was exiled for life.
from "100 Facts on Ancient Greece" buy your copy HERE