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Summary.

Introduction.

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..

Investigations.

Secondary Works Cited.

Index of Citations

General Index

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The Council of the Areopagus 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003

page 7 of 21

· The 4th c.: Intentional Homicide ·

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Lysias (Lys. 1).

In the 4th century BCE, the Areopagus was responsible for trying cases of the most serious crimes. Aristotle says: “Trials for deliberate murder and wounding are held in the Areopagus, and for causing death by poison, and for arson” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3; Dem. 23.22). Other kinds of murder—involuntary homicide, conspiracy to murder, murder of a slave, resident alien, or foreign—were tried at the Palladium (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3). Still other kinds of murder—when the accused claimed that the killing was legal, as a matter of self-defense or in a case of adultery, or if someone accidentally killed a fellow citizen in war or during an athletic competition—were tried at the Delphinium (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3). In the case of adultery, the orator Lysias says that “the Court of the Areopagus itself, to which has been assigned, in our own as in our fathers’ time, the trial of suits for murder, has expressly stated that whoever takes this vengeance on an adulterer caught in the act with his spouse shall not be convicted of murder” (Lys. 1.30).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 20).

But, as Demosthenes says, the Areopagus was the “guard” ( φύλαξ ) against “vengeful murder” ( οἱ περὶ ἀλλήλους φόνοι ) (Dem. 20.157).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).

Elsewhere, Demosthenes describes the mythological origins of this function of the Court of the Areopagus, claiming that once upon a time the god Ares was put on trial for the murder of Halirrothius, the son of Poseidon; the hill was named after this event—the “Hill of Ares”—and the council that met on that hill enjoyed jurisdiction over homicide ever since (Dem. 23.66; see below for more sources for the mythological history of the Areopagus).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 40).
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 2).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Demosthenes (Dem. 54).
 
Plot on a Map
Brauron.

The Areopagus also heard cases of assault and wounding ( τραῦμα ) (Dem. 40.32; Dem. 23.22; Aeschin. 2.93; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3). The Areopagus did not merely punish the assailants themselves, but also had the power to punish accessories. Demosthenes mentions a case of assault where the Areopagus exiled a man for encouraging the assailant; the defendant in this case was the father of the priestess of Artemis at Brauron, and therefore an important Athenian, but punished as an accessory nevertheless (Dem. 54.25).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 3).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 2).
Demosthenes (Dem. 58).

According to Demosthenes, not only did the Areopagus permit ( δίδωσε ) Athenians to bring cases of homicide before it for judgement, but actually required it ( κελεύει ) (Dem. 23.67). Demosthenes himself was fined by the Areopagus, according to Aeschines, for failing to pursue a charge of assault ( τραῦμα ) against his cousin Demomeles (Aeschin. 2.93). Aeschines goes on to claim that Demosthenes had actually wounded himself and falsely accused his cousin (Aeschin. 3.15; Aeschin. 2.93), but regardless of that complication, Aeschines’ comment suggests that once there was an accusation of a crime over which the Areopagus had jurisdiction, the accuser was obliged to bring the matter to court. Demosthenes also describes how a certain Theocrines, whose brother was murdered, threatened to bring the case before the Areopagus, but dropped the matter when the murderer paid him money (Dem. 58.29)—the fact that Theocrines did this proves, according to Demosthenes, that he is a “wretch and false accuser” ( πονερὸς καὶ συκοφάντης ) (Dem. 58.27).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 54).

The members of the Areopagus, the Areopagites, also seem to have investigated murders and assaults personally. In a speech prosecuting Conon, Demosthenes says that it was possible for members of the Areopagus to come to the bedside of a victim of assault, because if the victim should eventually die, they would have to try the case of his murder (Dem. 54.28).

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 40).

It was a very serious matter to be charged with a crime before the Areopagus. In a speech written by Demosthenes for a client the speaker describes how his enemies plotted against him: “ When they have thus openly laid a plot, and got up a charge against me before the Areopagus, do you suppose there is any poisoning or any other such villainy from which they would abstain?” (Dem. 40.57). This passage compares being charged before the Areopagus with being poisoned, and gives us an idea of how serious such a charge was. Elsewhere in that same speech, the speaker explains that his enemies hoped that by charging him before the Areopagus, he would go into exile rather than risk conviction (Dem. 40.32).

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

According to the rules of procedure, a defendant charged before the Areopagus had the option of leaving the city rather than see the trial to its conclusion (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 23.69). If the defendant left, then his property was sold off by the “Venders” ( οἱ πωληταί ), after the Nine Archons gave their approval for the sale (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 47.2).

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