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 8 of 21

· The 4th c.: Impiety and Olives ·

Read about the evidence
Apollodorus (Dem. 59).

Among the serious crimes that fell to the Areopagus were certain kinds of sacrilege. One example we know of had to do with a woman who had served as a priestess for the festival of Athensteria, in honor of the god Dionysus (Dem. 59.78). In this case, the woman was married to an Athenian named Theogenes, and it became known that she was not herself properly an Athenian citizen (Dem. 59.81). The matter was investigated by the Areopagus, “which in other matters also is of high worth to the city in what pertains to piety” (Dem. 59.80). According to Apollodorus, the Areopagus was initially inclined to impose “the highest fine in its power” (ἐζημίου ὅσα κυρία ἐστιν) on Theogenes for allowing his wife to serve as priestess under false pretenses (Dem. 59.81), but they relented because Theogenes convinced them that he had been deceived, and meant no harm (Theogenes immediately expelled his wife from his house) (Dem. 59.83).

Plot on a Map

An inscription from 352 or 351 BCE records that the Assembly gave the Areopagus certain authority over the religious sanctuaries of Attica (IG II2 204.16-33; source for date, Hansen, p.291).

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Lysias (Lys. 7).
Plot on a Map

The Areopagus had authority over the sacred olive trees of Attica as well. If anyone was accused of cutting down a sacred olive tree, he was tried before the Areopagus (Lys. 7.22). Aristotle explains that the city of Athens collected the fruit from the olive trees and pressed it into oil, which would then be stored on the Acropolis or sold; if anyone dug up or cut down one of the trees, he would be tried by the Areopagus, and if he were found guilty, the penalty used to be death (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.1-2). But, Aristotle continues, in his own time (the middle of the 4th century), “while the law still exists, such a trial has fallen out of use” ( μὲν νόμος ἔστιν, δὲ κρίσις καταλέλυται) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.2). Even in the early 4th century, it seems that the penalty was not death, but exile and confiscation of property (Lys. 7.2; Lys. 7.32; Lys. 7.41).

[ back to top ]

page 8 of 21