Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Schedule of Meetings.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of March 26, 2003
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One of the four meetings in each prytany was the “Sovereign Assembly” (κυρία ἐκκλησία), the agenda for which included the confirmation of magistrates currently serving, issues of the food supply and defense, announcements of private property to be confiscated, and announcements of lawsuits regarding inheritance (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.4).
In each prytany, there were three regular assemblies in addition to the “Sovereign Assembly” (κυρία ἐκκλησία); these were simply called “Assemblies” (ἐκκλησίαι) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.3; IG II2 330). It seems likely that in the
Apart from the Sovereign Assembly, one of the remaining three was an occasion for any citizen who wished to present a suppliant-branch (ἱκετηρία) and address his fellow citizens about any public or private matter that concerned him (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.6). The ability of citizens to voice complaints in this public forum may have deterred certain bad behavior, or at least made the perpetrators think twice. Aeschines recounts how some men assaulted a man named Pittalacus; on the next day Pittalacus went to the marketplace, and his attackers came up to him and tried to placate him, because there was to be an Assembly that day, and they were afraid that the whole city would learn of their crime (φοβηθέντες ὅ τε Ἡγήσανδρος καὶ ὁ Τίμαρχος μὴ ἀνακηρυξθῇ αὐτῶν ἡ βδελυρία εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν πόλιν παρ᾽, ἐπῄει δὲ ἐκκλησία) (Aeschin. 1.60).
The other two regularly scheduled meetings in each prytany were concerned, according to Aristotle, with “other things” (περὶ τῶν ἄλλων) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.6). Some of this other business was scheduled to happen at particular assemblies during the year. At an assembly held on the 11th day of the first prytany, the people voted on whether or not to hold a review of all the laws (νόμοι) (Dem. 24.21). In the 6th prytany, there was discussion of whether or not to hold an ostracism, discussion of any information against people charged with being informers (συκοφαντῶν προβολάς) — in this category, no more than three citizens and three metics — and discussion of people accused of failing to perform some assigned public service (κἄν τις ὑποσχόμενός τι μὴ ποιήσῃ τῷ δήμῳ) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.5). A meeting during the 6th prytany was also the occasion for election of military officers (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.4).
At least until the
Assemblies do not seem to have taken place on fixed days during each prytany, but they did not happen on days when the law-courts were in session (Dem. 24.80). They seem also to have been scheduled around other important events, such as religious festivals. Aeschines is highly critical of an Assembly that was called on the 8th day of the month Elaphobolion, a day of sacrifices to Asclepius (the orator says that this was unprecedented in memory) (Aeschin. 3.67), and Demosthenes criticizes a motion to have the Assembly meet on the 12th of the month Hecatombaion, a festival day for Cronus (Dem. 24.26).
In addition to Sovereign Assemblies (κυρίαι ἐκκλησίαι) and Assemblies (ἐκκλησίαι), there were “Called-together Assemblies” (σύγκλητοι ἐκκλησίαι); the term appears only in literary evidence (not in inscriptions) during the 4th century, and its meaning is not entirely clear. Sometimes our sources seem to use it to refer to extra meetings, in addition to the normal four that happened in each prytany. Aeschines mentions a time when Athens was in such a panic over Philip of Macedon’s war against Amphipolis, that “there were more Called-together Assemblies (ἐκκλησίας συγκλήτους) than scheduled Assemblies (τὰς τεταγμένας)” (Aeschin. 2.72). But at other times the term seems to indicate an Assembly called at short notice, but not necessarily an extra Assembly. During a military crisis involving Philip, Demosthenes says that a regular Assembly met and disbanded, but that people continued to discuss matters in the Agora, thinking that another Assembly, a “called-together Assembly” (σύγκλητος ἐκκλησία), might be called at any time (Dem. 19.123). One such Assembly was called on short notice when news came that a fleet under the command of Leodamas had been captured by Philip of Macedon (Dem. 18.73); another was called, with the hurdles set out and the trumpeter summoned, upon news that Elatea was captured (Dem. 18.169). Other examples of Called-together Assemblies are at Aeschin. 2.63, where we find that the Assembly met on two subsequent days to discuss foreign policy issues (in this case, the first Assembly was devoted to discussion of the issues, and at the second there was only voting, without discussion [Aeschin. 2.65]), and at Aeschin. 3.68, where Demosthenes calls for an Assembly to meet immediately and discuss a treaty with Philip. This last provides good evidence that the term συγκλήτος ἐκκλησία referred mainly to an Assembly called on short notice, because an inscription shows us that at this very Assembly a certain amount of normal business was discussed before the pressing issues regarding Philip came up for a vote (IG II2 212.53-7). Furthermore, another inscription mentions a “Called-together Sovereign Assembly” (ἐκκλησία κυρία συγκλήτος) (IG II2 359), which must refer to a Sovereign Assembly called on short notice.
It seems, too, that extra Assemblies were not called lightly. Demosthenes mentions an occasion on which the Council chose to act on its own, because there was “no remaining Assembly” (ἐκκλησία ὑπόλοιπος) in that prytany (Dem. 19.154).
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