Epidauros – Inscriptions

 Some Inscriptions from Epidauros

How did the building contracts actually work? It is perhaps instructive to see some samples, so I have  chosen two different examples, from the first, and the last of the temple contracts. The inscriptions begin with some large single contracts, each with one or two guarantors. But notice the fourth item, which is the annual payment for the architect Theodotos. Although sculptors were often extremely well paid in ancient Greece, architects were not,  and Theodotos is only paid 353 drachma for the whole year,  which would appear to be one drachma a day — with no allowance for feast days. In ancient Greece architects were merely considered to be superior workmen and were paid no more than a superior workman.


Contract 1. Mnasikles of Epidauros took up the contract to quarry, cart, and set in place (the stones for) the foundation‑core of the colonnade, for 2,400 dr.; his guarantors were   —  and Kleanor.

Contract 2.  Lykios of Corinth took up the contract for quarrying and delivering to the sanctuary (the stone for) the colonnade, for 6,400 dr.; his guarantors were Orsias and Hagemon.

Contract 3. Antimachos of Argos took up the contract for the construction of the visible foundation steps and the stylobate, for 869 dr.; his guarantor was   ‑  .

7‑9  The architect Theodotos takes his salary for the year, 353 dr. The month of Panamos: priest: Nikasilas, son of Dameas; phrourarch: Sophanes of the tribe Hysininatas.


By comparison, here is the last slab, numbered 300, which is for a number of smaller items, none of which needs a guarantor. But note how many appear to be for messengers, which I would consider to be the ‘marketing’ function of the operation.

Note that an obol is one sixth of a drachma,  so in my suggested conversion to modern money,  if a drachma, which is one days’ work, is approximately £100,  then an Obol,  is somewhere in the region of £15 to £20


To Aristaios, for work on the treasury, 6o dr.

To Antiphanes, for rings and bolts for the grille, 68 dr.

To Pasithernis, wages for (work on) the pediment sculptures, 12 dr.

To Xenon for lead, 12 dr. i ob.2ch.

For carting, 1dr‑ 5 ob. 8 ch.

To the herald for going to Corinth, 6 dr.

To Hektoridas, for a model of the painted decoration, on the lions’ heads, 16 dr. ½ ob.

To Aristaios, for bringing in timbers, 1 dr. 5 ob.

To the  messenger, 2 ob.

To Aristalos, for temporary cover, 2dr.

To Kleinias, for white‑washing the door‑panels, 1 dr.

To Aristaios, for carrying the door‑panels, 4 ob.

From Alison Burford, The Temple Builders of Epidauros, p 220.


Finally I append a brief account from Alison Burford’s book on Craftsmen in Greek and Roman Society in which she compares the financing of a building in Persia which was a society where although they used money, it was not a market economy, and the payments made for building the Erechtheion.


“In the societies of the Near East, craftsmen remained anonymous. The differences in concept come over clearly in a comparison of the record which Darius, Great King of Persia, published of the palace built at Susa c. 500 BC, with the Athenian building accounts for the Erechtheion, near completion in 408/7 BC. The Persian document says:

This is the palace which I built at Susa. From afar its ornamentation was brought; the earth was dug deep down until I reached rock-bottom. . . . The cedar was brought from Lebanon, the Assyrians brought it to Babylon, and from Babylon the Ionians [Greeks] and Carians brought it to Susa. . . . the stone pillars were brought from Elam; the craftsmen who dressed the stone were Ionians and Lydians. . . . At Susa here a great work was ordered; it turned out very splendid. May Ahura Mazda protect me and Hystaspes who is my father, and my land.

The Athenian inscription includes such items as these:

Salaries. To the architect Archilochos of Agryle, 36 dr. To the under-secretary Pyrgion, 3o dr. . . . To the encaustic painter Dionysodoros living in Melite, for treating the kymation on the inner epistyle, at 5 ob. per foot, 113 feet, we gave out in addition to what he had before, his guarantor being Herakleides of Oe,44 dr. 1ob. . . . For fluting a column, . . . Ameiniades living in Koile, 18 dr., Lysamas, 18 dr., Somenes (slave) of Ameiniades, 18 dr., Timokrates, 18 dr.”


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 Uploaded 27th September 2011