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The 6th Century BCE.

Cleisthenes and Ephialtes.

The 5th Century BCE.

The Oligarchic Coup of 411 BCE.

Between Oligarchy and Tyranny.

→ The Tyranny of the Thirty.

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The History of the Council 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 23, 2003

page 6 of 7

· The Tyranny of the Thirty ·

Read about the evidence
Lysias (Lys. 30).
 
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Sparta.
Athens.

In 404 BCE, when Athens surrended to Sparta, the government of the Thirty Tyrants, imposed on Athens by the Spartans, removed these published laws from the Stoa Basileios (Lys. 30.2-3). Nicomachus, the head of the “Law Publishers” was later put on trial, accused of manipulating the laws he published and helping the Thirty Tyrants consolidate their power (Lys. 30.1-3).

Read about the evidence
Andocides (Andoc. 1).
 
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Athens.

Like the Oligarchy of 411, the tyranny of the Thirty lasted only one year, and after it was overthrown and the city returned to democratic rule, Athens once again compiled and codified its old laws: “On the motion of Teisamenus the People decreed that Athens be governed as of old, in accordance with the laws of Solon, his weights and his measures, and in accordance with the statutes of Draco, which we used in times past. Such further laws as may be necessary shall be inscribed upon tables by the Nomothetae elected by the Council and named hereafter, exposed before the Tribal Statutes for all to see, and handed over to the magistrates during the present month. The laws thus handed over, however, shall be submitted beforehand to the scrutiny of the Council and the five hundred Nomothetae elected by the Demes, when they have taken their oath. Further, any private citizen who so desires may come before the Council and suggest improvements in the laws. When the laws have been ratified, they shall be placed under the guardianship of the Council of the Areopagus, to the end that only such laws as have been ratified may be applied by magistrates. Those laws which are approved shall be inscribed upon the wall, where they were inscribed aforetime, for all to see” (Andoc. 1.83-84).

An inscription, IG I3 105, survives that records a law limiting the Council’s authority. After two anti-democratic revolutions, this law says that in matters of war and peace, death sentences, large fines, disenfranchisement (that is, loss of citizenship), the administration of public finances, and foreign policy the Council cannot act without the approval of the Assembly.

Even with these careful restrictions to its authority the Council was a central institution in the restoration of the government, as the Athenians reestablished their democracy following an oligarchic coup and a tyranny imposed by a conquoring state. We can see that the Council, by establishing lawmakers ( νομόθεται ), by supervising their work, and by ratifying their laws according to their oath, was the central institution in defining the democracy as it would exist in the 4th century BCE.

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