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The Bacchiadae (Ancient Greek: Βακχιάδαι Bakkhiadai), a tightly-knit Doric clan, were the ruling family of archaic Corinth in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, a period of Corinthian cultural power. Corinth had been a backwater in eighth-century Greece.[1] In 747 BCE (a traditional date) an aristocratic revolution ousted the Bacchiad kings of Corinth, when the royal clan of Bacchiadae, numbering perhaps a couple of hundred adult males and claiming descent from the Dorian hero Heracles through the seven sons and three daughters of a legendary king Bacchis, took power from the last king, Telestes.[2] Practicising strict endogamy[3] which kept clan outlines within a distinct extended oikos, they dispensed with kingship and ruled as a group, governing the city by electing annually a prytanis who held the kingly position[4] for his brief term,[5] no doubt a council (though none is specifically documented in the scant literary materials) and a polemarchos to head the army.

In 657 BCE the Bacchiadae were expelled in turn by the tyrant Cypselus,[6] who had been polemarch. The exiled Bacchiadae fled to Corcyra but also to Sparta and west, traditionally to found Syracuse in Sicily, and to Etruria, where Demaratus installed himself at Tarquinia, founding a dynasty of Etruscan kings. The royal line of the Lynkestis of Macedon also claimed Bacchiad descent. The foundation myths of Corcyra, Syracuse, and Megara Hyblaea[7] contain considerable detail about the Bacchiadae and the expeditions of the Bacchiad Archias of Corinth, legendary founder of Syracuse in 734/33 BCE, and Philolaos, lover of Diocles of Corinth, victor at Olympia in 728 BCE and a nomothete (lawgiver) of Thebes.

List of Bacchiad Kings of Corinth[8]


  1. ^ Édouard Will, Korinthiaka: recherches sur l'histoire et la civilisation de Corinth des origines aux guerres médiques (Paris: Boccard) 1955.
  2. ^ Telestes was murdered by Arieus and Perantas, who were themselves Bacchiads. Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I p. 450). To what extent this early "history" is genealogical myth is debated.
  3. ^ Herodotus 5.92.1.
  4. ^ Perhaps the designation "king" was retained, for reasons of cult, as a king was normally an essential intercessor with the gods. (Stewart Irvin Oost, "Cypselus the Bacchiad" Classical Philology 67.1 (January 1972, pp. 10-30) p. 10f.) See: rex sacrorum.
  5. ^ Diodorus Siculus, 7.9.6; Pausanias 2.4.4.
  6. ^ His mother had been of the Bacchiadae, but being lame, married outside the clan.
  7. ^ From the lost Megarian Constitution of Aristotle Plutarch derived his Greek Questions 17, 18 and 59 (W.R. Halliday, Plutarch's Greek Questions, 1928, p. 92.
  8. ^ Diodorus Siculus, 7.9

Further reading

  • Will, Edouard. Korinthiaka. Recherches sur l'histoire et la civilisation de Corinthe des origines aux guerres médiques


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