Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

[ link colors: Demos | External Source | Citation to Evidence| Word Tools ]

Demos Home



The 4th c..

Composition in the 4th c..

Meeting Places in the 4th c..

Procedure in the 4th c..

The 4th c.: Intentional Homicide.

The 4th c.: Impiety and Olives.

The 4th c.: Other Powers.

History: Myth.

History: Before the 5th c..

History: Reforms of the early 5th c..

History: Cimon and Themistocles.

History: Areopagus and the Demos.

→ History: Ephialtes’ Reforms.

History: The Later 5th c..

History: After the Thirty Tyrants.

A Rock in Times of Trouble.

A Check on the Assembly in the 4th c..


Secondary Works Cited.

Index of Citations

General Index

Demos Home

The Council of the Areopagus 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003

page 15 of 21

· History: Ephialtes’ Reforms ·

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Philochorus (Philoch. fr. 63).

By means of Ephialtes’ reforms, according to Aristotle, “the Council of the Areopagus was deprived of the superintendence of affairs. After this there came about an increased relaxation of the constitution” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 26.1). A fragment from Philochorus, who was a historian writing in the 3rd century BCE, offers a little more detail. In his description of the nomophylakes, or “guardians of the laws” (νομοφύλακες), he says: “There were seven of them, and they were established when Ephialtes left to the Council of the Areopagus only those cases pertaining to the body” (ἑπτὰ δὲ ἦσαν καὶ κατέστησαν, ὡς Φιλόχορος, ὅτε Ἐφιάλτης μόνα κατέλιπε τῇ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου βουλῇ τὰ ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος) (Philoch. fr. 64).

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).

To understand what Aristotle means by “deprived of superintendence of affairs”, or what Philochorus means by “only those cases pertaining to the body” we can only look at comments in the sources about the Court of the Areopagus’ role after Ephialtes’ reforms. Aristotle, describing the Court of the Areopagus and its functions in the middle of the 4th century BCE (over a century after Ephialtes’ reforms), says that this court had authority over trials of murder, wounding, death by poison, and arson, but that other similar crimes—involuntary manslaughter, murder of slaves or foreigners, accidental killings, or killings in self-defense—come before other courts, the Court of the Palladium or the Court of the Delphinium (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3). A law quoted in a speech by Demosthenes agrees (Dem. 23.22); but it is important to remember that laws quoted in speeches may have been added to the manuscript later, sometime centuries later.

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Pol.).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).

If Ephialtes’ reforms took many crimes out of the jurisdiction of the Court of the Areopagus and assigned them to other courts, with juries of citizens, then there would have been a greater need for citizens to serve on juries. And, in fact, several of the accounts of Ephialtes and Pericles reforming the Court of the Areopagus also mention the institution of pay for jury service, an innovation that may have aimed at meeting this new need. Aristotle relates the two reforms very closely, and relates them both to an increasingly democratic government: “Ephialtes and Pericles docked the power of the Council on the Areopagus, while Pericles instituted payment for serving in the law-courts, and in this manner finally the successive leaders of the people led them on by growing stages to the present democracy” (Aristot. Pol. 1274a; also Plut. Per. 9.3; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 27.2-3).

[ back to top ]

page 15 of 21