Samariopolis

A city on the island of Samarios formed by the synoecism of five tribes, in obedience to an oracle from Mount Samars. It is on the west coast of Samarios, on the estuary of the Mennon, a sacred river which springs in the sanctuary of Mount Samars. Samariopolis is notable for its walls and temples of black basalt, quarried on Mount Samars, and held by their colour to protect the oaths of friendship and union of the five tribes.

Samariopolis was originally ruled by a council of the five anaxoi of the five tribes, but power gradually seeped to a gerusia and then to an apella, originally constituted as (respectively) supreme judiciature and legislature. Samariopolis never had legal restrictions on the wealth necessary to hold office: the prominence of the eupatridai in the Samariopolitan state was based solely on their leisure.

In the Archaic Period Samariopolis is the greatest city in Gehennum. It has a reasonable port, and derives wealth from trade, but the foundation of its greatness is the Samariosian League, a league including most of Samarios and not a few cities on other islands. Samariopolis’ dominance of the supposedly egalitarian league is based on its control of the sanctuary of Mount Samars, the prestige of its famous Sacred Band, the presence of the league’s council-house, treasuries, and so forth in Samariopolis, and the city’s favour in the eyes of the daimon of Mount Samars, from which the league takes oracles.

When the empire of Gehennum was constituted, the five princes of Samariopolis were admitted to the imperial gerusia, and the city was granted a charter of self-government and allowed to send a representative to the Apella. Although all cities with monarchs in the Gerusia were eventually granted such charters, Samariopolis was the first and for some time the only city with such privilege of double representation.

In the Classical Period Samariopolis has dwindled in everything except population. The city is the seat of an episkopos, who uses the old buildings of the Samariosian League for the imperial administration of a much smaller territory. The Sacred Band has been wiped out, neither the imperial tagma nor any of the militia units continuing its tradition. The oracle of Mount Samars is little consulted, and the sanctuary is the site chiefly of agricultural ceremonies and a conventional cult directed at preventing eruptions. Only the Amphiktionic Games, held at the sanctuary of the mountain every five years, continue the memory of the League.

In the Decadent Period there are signs that the old character of Samariopolis may be re-emerging. The episkopos has arranged a Sacred Band, subsidises the Amphiktionic Games, and has renewed the cult of Mount Samars. Tension between Samariopolis and Thekla is almost palpable.


Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.