Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: Before Draco's time. - Constitution of Athens
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CHAP. III.: Before Draco’s time. - Aristotle, Constitution of Athens [320 BC]
Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens, trans. Thomas J. Dymes (London: Seeley and Co., 1891).
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Before Draco’s time.
Now, the form of the old government before the time of Draco was of this kind. Officers of state were appointed on the basis of merit and wealth, and at first remained in office for life, but afterwards for a period of ten years. And the greatest and earliest of the officers of state were the king, and commander-in-chief, and archon; and earliest of these was the office of king, for this was established at the beginning; next followed that of commander-in-chief, owing to some of the kings proving unwarlike, and it was for this reason that they sent for Ion when the need arose; and last (of the three) was the archonship—for most authorities say it was established in the time of Medon, but some in the time of Acastus; and they adduce as evidence the fact that the nine archons swear to exercise their office just as they did in the time of Acastus — as the Codridæ having retired in the time of his kingship . . . Now, which of the two accounts is correct is of little importance, but there is no doubt of the fact having actually occurred in these times: and that it was the last of these offices that was established, there is further evidence . . . . that the archon administers just like the king and the commander-in-chief, but . . . . for which reason it is only recently that the office has become important, its dignity having been increased by the privileges that have been added to it. Thesmothetæ* were appointed many years afterwards, being elected to their offices from the first for a year, for the purpose of recording the enactments in writing, and preserving them against the trial of such as transgressed the law; for which reason it was the sole office that was not established for more than a year. So far, therefore, these take precedence of others. The nine archons did not all live together, but the king occupied what is now called the Boukolium, near the Prytaneum (in confirmation of which even to this day the marriage of the king’s wife with Dionysus takes place here), and the archon resides in the Prytaneum, and the commander-in-chief in the Epilyceum. This was formerly called the Polemarchæum, but from the time that Epilycus, when polemarch, rebuilt and furnished it, it was called Epilyceum: and the Thesmothetæ occupied the Thesmotheteum. But in the time of Solon they all lived together in the Thesmotheteum. And they had power to decide law-suits finally, and not as now merely to hold a preliminary inquiry. Such, then, were the arrangements in respect of the officers of state. The duty of the council of the Areopagitæ was to jealously guard the laws, and it administered most of the affairs of state, and those the most important, both by punishing and fining all offenders with authority; for the election of the archons was on the basis of merit and wealth, and of them the Areopagitæ were composed; this is the reason why it is the only office that continues to be held for life up to the present time.
[* ]Thesmothetes. As this word means ‘law-giver,’ ‘legislator,’ it seems better, to prevent misapprehension, to retain it in its Greek form. This passage tells us why they were originally appointed; frequent references are made to them elsewhere in the book, and their duties will be found detailed in chap. lix.