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geographic location of Sicyon northwest of Corinth

Sikyon ( ancient Greek Σικυών ) was an ancient city-state ( Polis ) in the northern Peloponnese between Corinth and Achaia ( Pellene ).

The name of the polis is traced back to a king ( Pausanias 2, 5, 6) in local legend , and from Eustathios of Thessalonike to the plant σίκυα síkya "(bottle) gourd, melon".

As a polis, Sikyon occupied a middle position in size and importance; like Tegea , Mantinea or Korkyra, it was among the “little ones of the big ones”.

Name of the polis

Although Sikyon has become known in history under this polis name alone, it can refer to four other names and thus founding legends:

  • Aigialeia (Pausanias 2,5,6; 2,6,5): a local tradition saw Aigialeus as the founder and first king of the Polis .
  • Mekone ( Μηκώνη ): according to a legend, Demeter is said to have discovered the poppy (mekon) there. The name Mekone is already attested in Hesiod ( Theogony 536), the identification with Sikyon is confirmed by later sources. According to Hesiod's account, an assembly took place in Mekone in the mythical prehistory at which the separation of gods and men and the future obligation of men to make sacrifices were regulated. The god father Zeus was taken advantage of by the clever titan Prometheus , who stood up for the people.
  • Telchinia (after Eustathios of Thessalonike and Stephanos of Byzantium ): based on the malicious, magical blacksmith demons ( Telchinen ), who are usually located on Rhodes . A Telchin (also Telchis) also appears on the list of kings named by Pausanias (2,5,6).
  • Demetrias: refers to the new Hellenistic founder of the Polis, Demetrios I. Poliorketes , after he founded the settlement in 303 BC. Had destroyed; the name seems to have been dropped by the residents and Sikyon was taken up again.


With an area of ​​around 360 km², Sikyonia had a relatively extensive area. In the east it reached the Korinthia (border river Nemea ), in the west to Pellene (border river Sythas ). In the south and southwest the border ran indefinitely in the mountains. The second larger place in Sikyonia is next to Sikyon Titane .

The extremely fertile coastal plain of more than 3.5 km to the Gulf of Corinth is likely to have been the main settlement area of ​​the Sicyonians in the archaic and classical times (collection of village settlements). It is closed by a triangular, steeply rising plateau with a length of 2.5 km. This offered a possible vanishing point and probably also the cultic center in the sense of the castle hill ( acropolis ) characteristic of the Greek poleis . However, this cannot be proven archaeologically. The re-establishment of the city in Hellenistic times was probably concentrated on the castle hill.

The port was also separated from the actual polis. Since there is no natural bay or safe anchorage on the coast, it was artificially created and fortified ( Xenophon , Hellenika 7, 3, 2; 7, 4, 1) at the mouth of the Asopos or the Helisson , the two rivers that limit the fertile plain.

Agriculture, Art and Commerce

The coastal plain to the Gulf of Corinth is one of the most productive areas of the Peloponnese. In addition to growing cereals, grapes, raisins and vegetables, there were also important olive cultures. Particularly a pronounced horse breeding - the luxury object of antiquity -, which was practiced until the 4th century, illustrate the apparent abundance ( Homer , Ill. 23, 293-299). Accordingly, several names with a hippo component can be found in the Pausanias king's list. Kleisthenes von Sikyon ( Herodotus 6, 126, 2) and Myron I are named as successful outfitters of four-horse chariots at the Olympic Games .

In the southern mountains of Sikyonia, wood was felled for ships and buildings - such as the rebuilding of the temple in Delphi  . Sicyon fishing was famous for a special conger eel and its preparation.

The main industries of the polis, however, were metalworking ( bronze ), arts and crafts and pottery . The real reputation of Sikyon was based on vase painting and sculpture . In the 6th century BC The Cretan artists Dipoinos and Skyllis (works of marble, wood and ivory) worked in the polis. In the second half of the 5th century BC Through the activities of Kanachos and Aristocles , the city became a center of sculpture and ore casting with far supraregional importance. Around 450 BC The ore caster Polyklet of Argos founded the fame of the Sicyon school, as its climax in the bronze technique Lysippus in the 4th century BC. Is seen.

With regard to the development of painting , Timanthes and Eupompos provided far-reaching impulses in Sikyon . The latter set up a painting academy to which Pamphilos and Pausias belonged.

A famous export item of the polis were also luxurious shoes for women.

If one summarizes the development of the city-state's economy, it can be assumed that there will be brisk, if not significant, trade.


At the time of the transition from the archaic to the classical period, the population of Sikyon must have comprised 15,000 to 20,000 people. This corresponds to a management class of around 180 to 200 people, a military force of 1,800 to 2,000  hoplites and around 3,600 to 4,000 citizens ( lit .: Ruschenbusch). Generally speaking, the mixture of men, women, children, free strangers, dependents and slaves that is characteristic of the Poleis can be assumed, within which the full citizens, graded according to property, represented the rulers. The polis became indirectly known through two noble individual personalities, Kleisthenes of Sicyon and Euphron of Sicyon .

The history of the polis

Sicyon Theater

Early history

The beginning of the story Sicyon is mythical transfigured. The Iliad mentions Adrastos as the first king . A Myron from Sikyon is listed as the first winner from a great noble family in a four-horse race for the 33rd  Olympic Games of Antiquity (648 BC).

In the following time a dynasty of the Orthagorids is said to have established itself, at the end of which was Kleisthenes of Sikyon (first half of the 6th century BC). Aristonymos, Myron and Andreas are listed as his ancestors. The tyrant Kleisthenes of Sicyon is thus the first historically credible figure and is characterized in more detail by Herodotus (VI, 126-130). Not least because he is the grandfather of the Alkmeonid Kleisthenes of Athens , his name is mainly linked to the renaming of Phylen .

His measure can be interpreted as a demarcation of Sikyon from the claims of supremacy of the neighboring polis Argos . The action may also hide an internal reorganization of the polis aimed at improving military capabilities. However, there is no evidence of a struggle of the citizens within the polis, after which the Doric phylums that arose in the mythical time of the Doric migration were devalued or even humiliated and a non- Doric fourth was valued as the predominant one. At most it can be assumed that the tyrant attempted to break old, grown ties between the population and leading aristocrats by restructuring the phylums and to achieve new power relations in his favor.

The so-called First Holy War for Delphi (around 591 BC) and the participation of Sikyon and Kleisthenes in the events are also ongoing subjects of scientific discussion .

Sicyon in the 5th and 4th centuries BC Chr.

After the phylenes were renamed 60 years after the death of Kleisthenes of Sikyon (around 496/495 BC), Sikyon appears in a coalition with Sparta and Aegina against Argos ( Battle of Sepeia , 494 BC). The main contribution of the polis are warships and triremes . Cash payments to Argos are also known from the same period; Overall, however, Sikyon shows itself to be a loyal Graubünden Sparta.

Throughout the 5th century BC BC Sikyon is involved in all major political and military events: the Persian Wars , the Peloponnesian War and the Corinthian Wars . In the defense of the Xerxes train the polis is involved with Salamis with fifteen triremes and with Platää with 3,000  hoplites . Accordingly, on the serpent column erected in honor of the victory over the Persians , Sikyon is named fifth after Sparta, Athens , Corinth and Tegea .

As the Bündner Sparta during the Peloponnesian War, Sikyon repeatedly provided warships and hoplites. The polis appears as the controlling power of the northern Peloponnese and is aligned against the Attic-Delian League and Argos.

In the Corinthian War, Sikyon became a rallying point for the Spartans and their Graubünden people before the Battle of the Nemeabach (394 BC). With the rise of Thebes under Epameinondas (defeat of Sparta in the Battle of Leuctra (371 BC)), the Sikyonians changed to the Theban side (369 BC).

367 BC The former oligarch Euphron introduced democracy with the help of Arcadian and Argentinean troops, which he soon expanded into a tyranny . Through brutal persecution of his political opponents, he plunged Sikyon into severe internal turmoil, which resulted in the intervention of the more important neighboring states and only ended with his murder.

The following time

The from approx. 490 BC Coins minted in BC often show a chimaira on the obverse and a flying dove on the reverse.

Hemidrachm from Sikyon with Chimaira, approx. 360-330 BC Chr.
Back of the hemidrachm with pigeon

In the Hellenistic period , Sicyon once again experienced tyrannical rule until 264 BC. Under Cleon and then under Abantidas and his father Paseas . After the fall of the last tyrant Nicocles in 251 BC. The city became a leading member of the Achaean League . The most important statesman at this time was Aratos of Sikyon , who acted as strategist of the Achaean League from 245 to 21 BC. For the unification of the free Greek cities against the Macedonian hegemony .

The destruction of Corinth in 146 BC BC brought Sikyon an increase in land and the presidency of the Isthmian Games ; yet it was already indebted in Cicero's time.

During the Roman Empire , it was dwarfed by the rebuilt cities of Corinth and Patrae . In Pausanias ' time (around 150 AD) it was almost devastated. In Byzantine times , Sikyon became a bishopric . Judging by its later name Hellas, it was a refuge for Greeks fleeing Slavic immigrants in the 8th century AD .

The village of Vasiliko , which stands in the same place today, is meaningless.

See also

Web links

Commons : Sikyon  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Hans-Joachim Gehrke : Beyond Athens and Sparta. The third Greece and its world of states. Beck, Munich 1986, pp. 138-140, ISBN 3-406-31537-2
  • Audrey Griffin: Sicyon. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1982, ISBN 0-19-814718-X
  • Konrad H. Kinzl : Reflections on the Elderly Tyranny. In: ders. (Ed.): The Elderly Tyrannis up to the Persian Wars. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1979, pp. 298–325 ( English translation )
  • Eberhard Ruschenbusch : Studies on the state and politics in Greece from 7. – 4. Century BC Chr. Aku Fotodr. and Verl., Bamberg 1978, p.
  • Charles H. Skalet: Ancient Sicyon with a Prosopographia Sicyonia. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore 1928.
  • Yannis Lolos: Land of Sikyon: Archeology and History of a Greek City-State (= Hesperia . Supplementum 39). American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Princeton [NJ] 2010.

Coordinates: 37 ° 59 ′ 2.8 ″  N , 22 ° 42 ′ 40.1 ″  E