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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

William Smith, A Smaller History of Ancient Greece

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER V

Early History of Athens down to the Establishment of Democracy by Clisthenes, B.C. 510

ELPENOR EDITIONS IN PRINT

HOMER

PLATO

ARISTOTLE

THE GREEK OLD TESTAMENT (SEPTUAGINT)

THE NEW TESTAMENT

PLOTINUS

DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE

MAXIMUS CONFESSOR

SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN

CAVAFY

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Page 3

Such is the legendary account of the change of government at Athens, from royalty to an oligarchy. It appears to have taken place peaceably and gradually, as in most other Greek states. The whole political power was vested in the nobles; from them the nine annual archons were taken, and to them alone these magistrates were responsible. The people, or general body of freemen, had no share in the government.

The Athenian nobles were called EUPATRIDAE, the two other classes in the state being the GEOMORI or husbandmen, and DEMIURGI or artisans. This arrangement is ascribed to Theseus; but there was another division of the people of still greater antiquity. As the Dorians were divided into three tribes, so the Ionians were usually distributed into four tribes. The latter division also existed among the Athenians, who were Ionians, and it continued in full vigour down to the great revolution of Clisthenes (B.C. 509). These tribes were distinguished by the names of GELEONTES (or TELEONTES) "cultivators," HOPLETES "warriors," AEGICORES "goat-herds," and ARGADES "artisans." Each tribe contained three Phratriae, each Phratry thirty Gentes, and each Gens thirty heads of families.

The first date in Athenian history on which certain reliance can be placed is the institution of annual archons, in the year 683 B.C. The duties of the government were distributed among the nine archons in the following manner. The first was called THE ARCHON by way of pre-eminence, and sometimes the Archon Eponymus, because the year was distinguished by his name. The second archon was called THE BASILEUS or THE KING, because he represented the king in his capacity as high-priest of the nation. The third archon bore the title of THE POLEMARCH, or Commander-in-chief and was, down to the time of Clisthenes, the commander of the troops. The remaining six had the common title of THESMOTHETAE, or Legislators. Their duties seem to have been almost exclusively judicial.

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