Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Rewards for Service.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 23, 2003
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Service on the Council was a privilege, but also a responsibility, a responsibility often difficult for an Athenian citizen to fulfill. The territory of Attica was large, and any Councilor who lived outside of the city of Athens would have faced a long walk before and after every meeting. A passage from Demosthenes confirms what common sense would suggest: that there were always Councilors who were not active participants in the business of the Council, and who did not even attend all of the meetings. In this passage, Demosthenes is asking, rhetorically, whether every member of the Council will suffer if the Assembly fails to award the Councilors a crown in honor of their service. [the business of awarding crown to the Council is described below.— CWB] Demosthenes asks, “If the Council does not receive a crown, does the disgrace fall on the one who is silent, and proposes no decree, and perhaps does not even enter the Council House most of the time? Surely it does not.” (
Demosthenes’ rhetorical question would not have been particularly meaningful or effective if his audience did not know that at least some Councilors skipped meetings. So what incentives induced Councilors to attend? We have already seen that the Presidents (
Councilors were paid to attend meetings of the Council. In the
Councilors were exempt from military service during their year in office (Lyc. 1.37). They also got to wear a crown (
It seems that the Council had to request that award, specifically from the Assembly, and put the request on the agenda for a meeting of the Assembly, as the end of the year approached. Aristotle tells us that, if the Council had not fulfilled its reponsibilities toward the Athenian navy, it was not eligible to receive its honorarium (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 46.1). Demosthenes also mentions the “the law that specifically denies to the Council the right to request an honorarium if they have not built the warships” (
Aeschines mentions one occasion on which the Assembly withheld the honorarium from the Council, due to the Council’s failure to punish two men suspected of embezzling funds from the treasury of Athene (Aeschin. 1.110-113).
Individual Councilors could be honored for exceptional service as well. An inscription from the
So, while we have seen evidence that not all Councilors took an active role, or even attended all the meetings, the Athenian democracy paid every Councilor for his daily service, afforded all Councilors certain privileges, could award the Council as a whole for having done good service, and could single out individual citizens whose service was exceptional.
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