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The Council of the Areopagus 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003

page 14 of 21

· History: Areopagus and the Demos ·

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Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Pol.).
Plot on a Map

According to Aristotle, Ephialtes brought about a reform of the Court of the Areopagus by denouncing the Court before the Council (τῆς βουλῆς τῶν πεντακοσίων) and the Assembly (ἐν τῷ δήμῳ) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 25.4). So the reform was not, finally, the work of Ephialtes alone, but an act of legislation by two of the more democratic institutions in Athens. Aristotle connects this event to a newfound feeling of power among the common people of Athens following the Persian Wars, when the less wealthy citizens by serving in the navy had saved the city. He makes the connection between naval victories and the reform of the Court of the Areopagus explicitly in his Politics (Aristot. Pol. 1274a), and the Constitution of the Athenians strongly suggests the connection as well: “For he took away some of the functions of the Areopagus, and he urged the state very strongly in the direction of naval power, which resulted in emboldening the multitude, who brought all the government more into their own hands.” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 27.1; note that “he” in this quotation is Pericles, but as we have seen this work attributes these reforms to Ephialtes and Pericles, as does the Politics; see Aristot. Pol. 1274a).

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).

By 462 BCE, when Ephialtes made his reforms, the archons (the future members of the Court of the Areopagus) were chosen by lot, not by vote (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 22.5). It is possible that this change made the institution seem less prestigious, and thus worthy of holding fewer powers [This interesting suggestion is from P.J. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford, 1993) — CWB].

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page 14 of 21