Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Election of Officials.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of March 26, 2003
page 12 of 23
A large responsibility of the Assembly was the election of public officials, both civil servants and military officers.
Aristotle says that the Assembly elected generals (ἀρχαιρεσίας στρατηγῶν), officials with civic and military responsibilities, cavalry commanders (ἱππάρχων), and other “War Leaders” (τῶν πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον ἀρχῶν), “in whatever manner seemed good to the people” (καθ’ ὅ τι ἂν τῷ δήμῳ δοκῇ); these elections happened at a meeting of the Assembly held as soon as possible, weather permitting, after the 6th prytany (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.4; also Dem. 4.26). The Assembly elected ten generals (στρατηγοί), and voted on which general would assume which specific duty: one commanded heavy infantry on foreign expeditions; one took charge of the defense of Attica; one managed the military harbor at Munychia and one the harbor at “the Point” (εἰς τὴν Ἀκτήν); one managed the Symmories (συμμορίαι), which were the groups of citizens, called trierarchs (τριήραρχοι) responsible for maintaining warships; and others were dispatched wherever they were needed (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.1). The Assembly also elected ten infantry commanders or taxiarchs (ταξιάρχαι) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.3). Demosthenes mentions being, himself, elected taxiarch (Dem. 40.34). They elected two cavalry commanders, or hipparchs (ἵππαρχοι) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.4), and a special hipparch for the island of Lemnos (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.5). The Assembly elected ten phylarchs (φύλαρχοι), who each commanded the cavalry units contributed by one of Athens’ Tribes (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.4).
In addition to these officials, the Assembly elected “stewards” (ταμίας) who were responsible for the ships Paralus and Ammon, which were used for special official functions (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 61.7). The Assembly could dispatch these ships on missions and establish their budgets (Dem. 21.173). Naval architects (ἀρχιτέκτονας ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς) were also elected by the Assembly (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 46.1). On at least one occasion, Demosthenes proposed that the Assembly meet on a certain date to elect officials to oversee the maintenance of the city walls (Aeschin. 3.27). At one time, according to Aristotle, the Assembly also elected an official to manage the parade featuring a 30-oared ship that carried young people through the streets of the city during the Festival of the Dionysia (ἀρχιθέωρον τῷ τριακοντορίῳ τῷ τοὺς ᾐθέους ἄγοντι) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 56.4).
The Assembly chose a Treasurer of Military Funds, the Controllers of the Theoric Fund, and the Superintendent of Wells; all of these officials held office from one Panathaea (the “All Athens Festival”) to the next, four years (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.1). The Assembly elected by show of hands ten sacrificial officers called “Superintendents of Expiations” (τοὺς ἐπὶ τὰ ἐκθύματα), responsible for making sacrifices to appease the gods (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 54.6), and ten “yearly Sacrificial Officers” (τοὺς κατ’ ἐνιαυτὸν), who performed sacrifices and administered all the four-yearly festivals, except the Panathenaea (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 54.7). Demosthenes accuses a man named Meidias of demanding to be elected overseer of the festival of the Dionysia, which might suggest that a certain amount of campaigning went on for these offices (Dem. 21.15).
Aristotle says that the Assembly elected, by show of hands, a clerk to read document at meetings of the Assembly and of the Council (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 54.5); at one time a special “Clerk of the Presidency” (γραμματέα τὸν κατὰ πρυτανείαν) was also elected, but later came to be chosen by lot (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 54.3). These clerks enjoyed free meals in the Tholos (Dem. 19.249).
Demosthenes mentions a law that no commissioner (σύνδικος) elected by the people is permitted to serve more than once (μὴ ἐξεῖναι ὑπὸ τοῦ δήμου χειροτονηθέντα πλεῖν ἢ ἅπαξ συνδικῆσαι) (Dem. 20.152). But he also claims that the Assembly elected Meidias to the offices of steward (ταμίας) of the Paralus, hipparch, and superintendent of the Mysteries, sacrificer, and buyer of victims (μυστηρίων ἐπιμελητὴν καὶ ἱεροποιόν ποτε καὶ βοώνην), which certainly suggests that there was no limit to the number of different offices a man could hold (Dem. 21.171).
Just as the Assembly could elect officials, it could also impeach them. See Impeachment.
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