Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

[ link colors: Demos | External Source | Citation to Evidence| Word Tools ]

Demos Home

Summary.

Introduction:.

Ephialtes’ Family and Character.

The Areopagus Before the Reforms..

The Reforms.

Political Background to Ephialtes’ Reforms: Cimon and Themistocles.

Political Background to Ephialtes’ Reforms: the People.

→ The Reforms Themselves.

The Death of Ephialtes.

Secondary Works Cited.

Index of Citations

General Index

Demos Home

Ephialtes 

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 27, 2003

page 8 of 10

· The Reforms Themselves ·

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Philochorus (Philoch. fr.).

By means of Ephialtes’ reforms, according to Aristotle, “the Council of the Areopagus was deprived of the superintendence of affairs. After this there came about an increased relaxation of the constitution” (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 26.1). A fragment from Philochorus, who was a historian writing in the 3rd century BCE, offers a little more detail. In his description of the nomophylakes, or “guardians of the laws” ( νομοφύλακες ), he says: “There were seven of them, and they were established when Ephialtes left to the Council of the Areopagus only those cases pertaining to the body” ( ἑπτὰ δὲ ἦσαν καὶ κατέστησαν, ὡς Φιλόχορος, ὅτε Ἐφιάλτης μόνα κατέλιπε τῇ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου βουλῇ τὰ ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος ) (Philoch. fr. 64).

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

To understand what Aristotle means by “deprived of superintendence of affairs”, or what Philochorus means by “only those cases pertaining to the body” we can only look at comments in the sources about the Court of the Areopagus’ role after Ephialtes’ reforms. Aristotle, describing the Court of the Areopagus and its functions in the middle of the 4th century BCE (over a century after Ephialtes’ reforms), says that this court had authority over trials of murder, wounding, death by poison, and arson, but that other similar crimes—involuntary manslaughter, murder of slaves or foreigners, accidental killings, or killings in self-defense—come before other courts, the Court of the Palladium or the Court of the Delphinium (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3). A law quoted in a speech by Demosthenes agrees (Dem. 23.22); but it is important to remember that laws quoted in speeches may have been added to the manuscript later, sometime centuries later.

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Pol.).
Plutarch (Plut. Per.).
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).

If Ephialtes’ reforms took many crimes out of the jurisdiction of the Court of the Areopagus and assigned them to other courts, with juries of citizens, then there would have been a greater need for citizens to serve on juries. And, in fact, several of the accounts of Ephialtes and Pericles reforming the Court of the Areopagus also the institution of pay for jury service, an innovation that may have aimed at meeting this new need. Aristotle relates the two reforms very closely, and relates them both to an increasingly democratic government: “Ephialtes and Pericles docked the power of the Council on the Areopagus, while Pericles instituted payment for serving in the law-courts, and in this manner finally the successive leaders of the people led them on by growing stages to the present democracy” (Aristot. Pol. 1274a; also Plut. Per. 9.3; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 27.2-3).

Read about the evidence
Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol.).
Lysias (Lys. 7).
Apollodorus (Dem. 59).
 
Plot on a Map
Athens.

The evidence from the 4th century BCE shows the Court of the Areopagus performing other functions, but it is impossible to say whether those were left by Ephialtes, or they were added sometime after his reforms. At the end of the 5th century BCE, after Athens had lost the Peloponnesian War, the city was governed for a short time by the so-called Thirty Tyrants, whose first order of business was to undo Ephialtes’ reforms (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 35.2). After the Thirty Tyrants were, themselves, overthrown, the city returned to democratic rule (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 36-41). It is possible that the Court of the Areopagus was given new authority over specific matters at this time. For example, in the 4th century the court had authority over people accused of digging up sacred olive trees, the penalty for which death or exile (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 60.2; Lys. 7.22). We also find them investigating matters pertaining to piety, but with limited powers of punishment (Dem. 59.80).

Read about the evidence
Lysias (Lys. 1).
Aeschines (Aeschin. 1).
 
Plot on a Map
Greece.

Ephialtes’ reforms took authority away from the Court of the Areopagus and put it into the hands of the people, but the court did retain its status as a time-honored and exalted institution. At the beginning of the 4th century, Lysias could say to the Athenians, “you have, in the council of the Areopagus, the finest model in Greece: a court so superior to others that even the men convicted in it admit that its judgements are just” (Lys. 1.12). Half a century later, Aeschines offers this praise for the body: “Take the example of the Council of the Areopagus, the most scrupulous tribunal in the city. I myself have before now seen many men convicted before this tribunal, though they spoke most eloquently, and presented witnesses; and I know that before now certain men have won their case, although they spoke most feebly, and although no witnesses testified for them. For it is not on the strength of the pleading alone, nor of the testimony alone, that the members of the court give their verdict, but on the strength of their own knowledge and their own investigations. And this is the reason why that tribunal maintains its high repute in the city.” ( χρήσασθε δὴ παραδείγματι τῇ βουλῇ τῇ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγου, τῷ ἀκριβεστάτῳ συνεδρίῳ τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει. πολλοὺς γὰρ ἤδη ἔγωγε τεθεώρηκα ἐν τῷ βουλευτηρίῳ τούτῳ εὖ πάνυ εἰπόντας καὶ μάρτυρας πορισαμένους ἁλόντας· ἤδη δέ τινας κακῶς πάνυ διαλεχθέντας καὶ πρᾶγμα ἀμάρτυρον ἔχοντας οἶδα νικήσαντας. οὐ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ λόγου μόνον οὐδ᾽ ἐκ τῶν μαρτυριῶν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐξ ὧν αὐτοὶ συνίσασι καὶ ἐξητάκασι, τὴν ψῆφον φέρουσι. τοιγάρτοι διατελεῖ τοῦτο τὸ συνέδριον εὐδοκιμοῦν ἐν τῇ πόλει. ) (Aeschin. 1.92).

[ back to top ]

page 8 of 10