Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Composition in the 4th c..
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003
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The Areopagus consisted of former archons (Plut. Sol. 19.1; Dem. 24.22; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.3). This meant that all members of the Areopagus had been thoroughly investigated by officials of the democracy. All archons were subject to “scrutiny” (δοκιμασία) by the Thesmothetae (the lower six of the nine archons)—an investigation into their qualifications to serve—before they assumed their office (Lys. 26.9). So, in a passage from Xenophon, the Areopagus is said to “consist of those who have undergone scrutiny” (ἐκ τῶν δεδοκιμασμένων καθίσταται) (Xen. Mem. 3.5.20). At the end of their year of service, each archon was investigated by the “People’s Court;” only those archons who passed this public audit (εὔθυνα) could become members of the Areopagus (Dem. 26.5). An archon could fail this audit (εὔθυνα) by violating any of the laws governing the conduct of his office (Dem. 24.22). For example, the Eponymous Archon was responsible for collecting and holding the olive oil that was given as a prize at the Panathenaic Games; this archon was not allowed to become a member of the Areopagus until he had handed all of the oil over to the treasurers (οἱ ταμίαι) on the Acropolis (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.3).
Appointment to the Areopagus was for life (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3.6; Lys. 26.11). Nevertheless, members of the Areopagus, the Areopagites, were still subject to audit (εὔθυνα). Aeschines describes this to his fellow Athenians as a democratic measure: “For, first, the Council of the Areopagus is required by the law to file its accounts with the Board of Auditors and to submit to their examination; yes, even those men, who sit with solemn aspect yonder as the court of highest competence, are brought under your verdict” (Aeschin. 3.20).
When Aristotle says that service on the Areopagus was for life, he describes that service as an “office” (ἀρχή): “It alone of the offices was held for life, as it is even now” (διὸ καὶ μόνη τῶν ἀρχῶν αὕτη μεμένηκε διὰ βίου καὶ νῦν) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3.6). But it was clearly not like the other offices in that someone could be an Areopagite and hold other offices at the same time. When Athenians were sworn in as jurors in the People’s Court, they swore “not to suffer the same man to hold the same office twice, or two offices in the same year” (Dem. 24.150). But we know from an inscription that a man named Euboulos was one of the Thesmothetae in
Members of the Areopagus seem to have received a free portion of the meat from certain sacrifices, an added benefit of service (Din. 1.56)
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