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Aeinautae (Greek: Ἀειναῦται, Aeinautai, from aeí always and naûtai sailors) were magistrates at Miletus around 600 BC, consisting of the chief men in the state, who obtained the supreme power on the deposition of the tyrants, Thoas and Damasenor. Whenever they wished to deliberate on important matters, they embarked on board ship (hence their name), put out at a distance from land, and did not return to shore until they had transacted their business.[1][2]

The historic source is Plutarch Moralia Vol. IV, fasc. 21, Quaestiones Graecae (Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά), 32.298c-d:

Ancient Greek:

Τίνες οἱ ἀειναῦται παρὰ Μιλησίοις;

Τῶν περὶ Θόαντα καὶ Δαμασήνορα τυράννων[3] καταλυθέντων ἑταιρεῖαι δύο τὴν πόλιν κατέσχον, ὧν ἡ μὲν ἐκαλεῖτο Πλουτὶς ἡ δὲ Χειρομάχα. Κρατήσαντες οὖν οἱ δυνατοὶ καὶ τὰ πράγματα περιστήσαντες εἰς τὴν ἑταιρείαν, ἐβουλεύοντο περὶ τῶν μεγίστων ἐμβαίνοντες εἰς τὰ πλοῖα καὶ πόρρω τῆς γῆς ἐπανάγοντες· κυρώσαντες δὲ τὴν γνώμην κατέπλεον, καὶ διὰ τοῦτ´ « ἀειναῦται » προσηγορεύθησαν.

Translation:[4]Who are the Perpetual Sailors among the Milesians? When the despots associated with Thoas and Damasenor had been overthrown, two political parties came into control of the city, one of which was called Plutis,[5] the other Cheiromacha.[6] When, accordingly, the men of influence gained the upper hand and brought matters into the control of their party, they used to deliberate about matters of the greatest importance by embarking in their ships and putting out to a considerable distance from the land. But when they had come to a final decision, they sailed back; and because of this they acquired the appellation of Perpetual Sailors.

Further there are three known stone inscriptions from the island Euboea which feature the word aeinautai. The first one, IG XII.9.923 from Chalkis, is broken so badly that we are left merely with a list of names and the word aeinautai. A second inscription LSAG 88.21a.S433 [7] from Eretria,[8] records a dedication of a herma made by the "association" (koinon) of the aeinautai.[9] It dates to the 5th century BC. The third, IG XII.9.909, is a dedicatory inscription from the 3rd century BC, also from Chalkis.


  1. ^ Smith: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, p. 22
  2. ^ Peck: Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, p. 281
  3. ^ In the Teubner edition of 1935 Titchener changed τυράννων to τυράννωυς, while Halliday in his 1928 Oxford commentary suggests that the word should be deleted as a gloss.
  4. ^ Babbitt: Plutarch: Moralia, Volume IV, Roman Questions & Greek Questions, Loeb Classical Library No. 305, p. 215, 1936
  5. ^ Plutis (Πλουτὶς) literally refers to the class of the rich; the wealthy upperclass
  6. ^ Cheiromacha (Χειρομάχα) literally means the "hand-users", "hand-workers" or even "hand-flighters". It appears to refer to the lower class of the poor.
  7. ^
  8. ^ It was initially found near House IV (west quarter)
  9. ^


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray.
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainPeck, Harry Thurston, ed. (1898). "article name needed". Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York: Harper & Brothers.