Thracians: Theopompos on king Kotys I’s obsession with banquets (mid-fourth century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Thracians: Theopompos on king Kotys I’s obsession with banquets (mid-fourth century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified March 24, 2024,

Ancient authors: Theopompos of Chios (mid-fourth century BCE), FGrHist 115 F31, as cited by Athenaios, Sophists at Dinner 531e-532a (link to FGrHist).

Comments: This excerpt from Theopompos’ book on Philip of Macedon characterizes the Thracian (Osdrysian) king Kotys I as obsessed with luxury and banquets. Theopompos also suggests the king was brutal in his treatment of subjects and his own wife. The result is a negative depiction of a Thracian figure, perhaps suggesting a savage portrayal of Thracians generally.


Now, in the first book of his On Philip, Theopompos, speaking about Philip, says: “And two days later he arrived at Onokarsis, an estate in Thrace which included a very beautifully planted grove and one well adapted for a pleasant journey, especially during the summer season. In fact it had been one of the favourite resorts of Kotys [I, reigning ca. 384-360 BCE], who, more than any other king that had arisen in Thrace, directed his career towards the enjoyment of pleasures and luxuries. As he went around the country, wherever he discovered places shaded with trees and watered with running streams, he turned these into banqueting spaces. Visiting them in turn, as chance led him, he would offer sacrifices to the gods and hold court with his lieutenants, remaining prosperous and envied until he undertook to blaspheme and offend Athena.”

And the historian goes on next to relate that Kotys threw a banquet on the pretence that Athena was to be married to him, and after erecting a bridal chamber he awaited the goddess in a drunken revel. Then, going entirely out of his senses, he dispatched one of his bodyguard to see whether the goddess had arrived at the bridal chamber. When the poor fellow returned with the announcement that there was nobody in the chamber, Kotys shot him dead with his bow, and then killed a second messenger for the same reason, until the third man wisely said that the goddess had arrived a long while before and was waiting for him. This king once in a fit of jealousy against his own wife cut up the poor woman with his own hands, beginning with the genitals.


Source of translation: C.B. Gulick, Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1927-41), public domain (passed away in 1962 and copyright expired), adapted by Harland.

Leave a comment or correction

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *