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The Assembly 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of March 26, 2003

page 8 of 23

· The Conduct of Meetings ·

Officials of the Council called together a meeting of the Assembly, which opened with various religious rituals before the citizens were invited to speak and vote on matters of public business.

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Apollodorus (Dem. 59).

“Those serving as Prytaneis” ( οἱ πρυτανεύοντες ) (the same word, “prytaneis” refers to the governmental “months”, ten each year, and to the members of the Council who were presiding during a given “prytany”), normally called meetings of the Assembly (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.3), and posted the agenda beforehand (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.4). In the case of the special Assembly for the ratification of laws, if the Prytaneis failed to call for an Assembly on the assigned date, they were each to be fined 1000 drachmas (Dem. 23.21). If the Assembly was to vote on some matter by ballot, the Prytaneis distribute the ballots (Dem. 59.90).

Read about the evidence
Xenophon (Xen. Hell.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 2).

In the 5th century, the Prytaneis actually managed the conduct of a meeting of the Assembly (Xen. Hell. 1.7.14), but in Aristotle’s time (after the middle of the 4th century), the President of the Council ( ἐπιστάτης ) appointed nine Proedroi ( προέδροι ) for each Assembly; these were chosen from members of the Council who were not currently serving as Prytaneis ( οἱ πρυτανεύοντες ) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.2). These Proedroi managed the conduct of the Assembly; deciding when to put a question to the vote (Aeschin. 2.84; Aeschin. 2.68), and deciding when to cut off discussion of a matter (Aeschin. 2.67).

Read about the evidence
Xenophon (Xen. Hell.).

The People did, on occasion, override the will of the officials conducting the meetings, as when, in the late 5th century, the Prytaneis were unwilling to allow a vote, the People overrode them with menacing shouts (Xen. Hell. 1.7.14).

Read about the evidence
Aeschines (Aeschin. 3).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 2).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Demosthenes (Dem. 19).

The selection or appointment of Proedroi was potentially subject to corruption, which Aeschines hints at on two occasions (Aeschin. 3.73; Aeschin. 2.90). In addition to these Proedroi, the Assembly elected a clerk ( γραμματεύς ) to read documents aloud (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 54.5); the orator Aeschines served as a clerk early in his career, although we do not know whether he was the clerk appointed to read in the Assembly (Dem. 19.79).

Read about the evidence
Aeschines (Aeschin. 2).
Demosthenes (Dem. 24).
Demosthenes (Dem. 19).
Demosthenes (Dem. 23).
Aristophanes (Aristoph. Thes.).
Demosthenes (Dem. 18).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 1).
Aristophanes (Aristoph. Ach.).
Aristophanes (Aristoph. Eccl.).

The opening of a meeting of the Assembly was marked by rituals. A sacrifice was made and carried around the area, and there was a prayer, both of these intended to purify the proceedings (Aeschin. 1.23; Aeschin. 2.158; a parody of this prayer is found at Aristoph. Thes. 314). The heralds ( κῆρυξ ) offered the prayer (Aeschin. 1.23; Dem. 24.20). If a joke in Aristophanes is to be trusted, libations played some part in these rituals as well (Aristoph. Eccl. 140). The herald also called down curses ( καταρᾶται ) on anyone who would mislead the Assembly (Dem. 19.70; Dem. 23.97; there is a parody of this at Aristoph. Thes. 335). After these rituals, the Herald asked “Who wishes to speak” ( τίς ἀγορεύειν βούλεται ), and the assembly was opened (Dem. 18.191; Aeschin. 1.26; Aristoph. Ach. 46; cf. a possible parody of this at Aristoph. Eccl. 130).

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