Greek clubs, sacred and secular, are attested as early as the time of Solon, one of whose laws gave legal validity to their regulations, unless they were contrary to the laws of the state; and we hear of political clubs (hetaireiai) in Athens in the 5th cent. bc. In the Classical period the societies known to us are mostly religious, carrying on the cult of some hero or god not yet recognized by the state, such as the votaries of Asclepius, and Dexion, the heroized Sophocles. In Hellenistic times, clubs become much more frequent and varied, and though many of them have religious names and exercise primarily religious functions, their social and economic aspects become increasingly prominent and some of them are purely secular. They are found throughout the Graeco‐Roman world, but are esp. common in such cosmopolitan trade‐centres as Piraeus, Delos, and Rhodes, in Egypt, and in the flourishing cities of Asia Minor, and they appear to have played a valuable role in uniting in a common religious and social activity different elements of the population—men and women, slaves and free, citizens and aliens, Greeks and ‘barbarians’. On the titles and aims of these guilds, their cults and festivals, their social and economic aspects, their membership and officials, their organization and finance, much light has been thrown by inscriptions.
Subjects: Classical studies