Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ The 4th c.: Impiety and Olives.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 26, 2003
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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).
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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
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