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


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The Council of the Areopagus 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003

page 19 of 21

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

Read about the evidence
Plutarch (Plut. Phoc.).
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After the battle of Chaeronea, 338 BCE (source for date: OHCW), we find some evidence for the Areopagus overriding certain decisions made by the Assembly. Plutarch says that after Chaeronea, when the Assembly elected Charidemus to be one of the ten Generals, the Areopagus overruled that decision and appointed Phocion in his place; this passage shows Plutarch’s anti-democratic bias: “When the defeat [at Chaeronea — CWB] had happened, and when the rabble-rousers and radicals in the city had dragged Charidemus up to the platform and pronounced him worthy of being General, the upper-classes (οἱ βέλτιστοι) grew afraid, and since the Council of the Areopagus was in the Assembly, by begging and weeping they persuaded the Areopagus to put the city into the hands of Phocion” (γενομένης δὲ τῆς ἥττης, καὶ τῶν θορυβοποιῶν καὶ νεωτεριστῶν ἐν ἄστει τὸν Χαρίδημον ἑλκόντων ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα καὶ στρατηγεῖν ἀξιούντων, ἐφοβήθησαν οἱ βέλτιστοι, καὶ τὴν ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου βουλὴν ἔχοντες ἐν τῷ δήμῳ, δεόμενοι καὶ δακρύοντες μόλις ἔπεισαν ἐπιτρέψαι τῷ Φωκίωνι τὴν πόλιν.) (Plut. Phoc. 16.4).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 18).
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Demosthenes also recounts a series of events in which the Areopagus seems to intervene twice in matters already decided by the People. The orator describes how Antiphon, who had been in exile from Athens, was caught in the city, but Aeschines defended him before the people (presumably in the People’s Court) and won acquittal (Dem. 18.132). Demosthenes goes on to say that, “Had not the Council of the Areopagus, becoming aware of the facts, and seeing that you had made a most inopportune blunder, started further inquiries, arrested the man, and brought him into court a second time, the vile traitor would have slipped out of your hands and eluded justice, being smuggled out of the city by our bombastic phrase-monger” (Dem. 18.133). The “bombastic phrase-monger” (σεμνολόγου τουτουί) to whom Demosthenes refers is his opponent Aeschines. Demosthenes then goes on to say that after this event, in which the Areopagus overturned a verdict from the People’s Court, they overturned a decision by the Assembly, which had chosen Aeschines to serve as an Athenian ambassador for a special mission; the Areopagus “promptly rejected him as a traitor, and gave the mission to Hyperides” (Dem. 18.134).

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page 19 of 21