Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Procedure for Meetings.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 23, 2003
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The Presidents summoned the Council into session, then handed the conduct of the meeting over to the nine Proedroi, chosen at random (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.2). The Proedroi received the agenda (πρόγραμμα) from the Chairman, and as Aristotle says, “they, having received the agenda, ensure good order, put forward matters of business to be discussed, count the hands for any vote, manage all other things, and they are empowered to dismiss the meeting” (οἱ δὲ παραλαβόντες τῆς τ’ εὐκοσμίας ἐπιμελοῦνται, καὶ ὑπὲρ ὧν δεῖ χρηματίζειν προτιθέασιν, καὶ τὰς χειροτονίας κρίνουσιν, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πάντα διοικοῦσιν, καὶ τοῦ τ᾽ ἀφεῖναι κύριοί εἰσιν) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.3).
During the two meetings in each prytany when the finances of Athens were on the agenda, it seems that the "Receivers" (ἀποδέκται), rather than the Proedroi, were in charge of the meeting (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 48.2). On other occasions, the Councilors were joined by other officials, such as the Board of the Theoric Fund, the Treasurer of the Military Fund, the Auctions Board (πωληταί), or the nine Archons (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 47.2-48.1).
Any Councilor could introduce a motion, but if the motion were later found to be illegal, that Councilor would be personally liable to indictment on a charge of “Illegal Proposal” (γραφὴ παρανόμων) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 45.4; Dem. 47.34; for a discussion of the charge of “Illegal Proposal”, see Legislation).
Citizens who were not serving as Councilors could speak, with permission of the Presidents or the Proedroi (Aristoph. Peace 907; IG I3 46.35-39). A citizen could not introduce a motion into the meeting without arranging for a Councilor to sponsor the motion under his own name (Aeschin. 3.125; IG II2 243.6-8). Aeschines, in his speeach against Ctesiphon, accuses Demosthenes of taking advantage of an inexperienced Councilor to have a motion of dubious legality introduced—the Councilor, after all, and not Demosthenes, would be liable to prosecution if the motion proved to be illegal (Aeschin. 3.125).
At least in the
Demosthenes mentions the Council House, on an occasion when important news was being delivered to the Council, being “full of private citizens” (τὸ γὰρ βουλευτήριον μεστὸν ἦν ἰδιωτῶν), which shows that citizens could sometimes attend meetings as spectators (Dem. 19.17; see also Aeschin. 3.125).
Foreigners could also attend meetings of the Council, but only with special permission. The inscription describing this privilege of “access” (πρόσοδον) is from the
There was a fence (κιγκλίς) around the Council House, and when the Council was discussing any secret matter all spectators were kept outside the fence. Because of the fence, Demosthenes, says, the Council “is master of all their secrets, and no private citizens may enter” (τῶν ἀπορρήτων κυρίαν εἶναι, καὶ μὴ τοὺς ἰδιώτας ἐπεισιέναι) (Dem. 25.23; Aeschin. 3.125).
The Council voted on matters by show of hands (χειροτονία), with the Proedroi judging the outcome (κρίνουσι) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.3). When the business of the meeting was complete, the meeting was brought to a close by the Presidents (in the
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