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HAVING traced in the preceding chapters the scanty stream of Peloponnesian history, from the first commencement of an authentic chronology in 776 BC to the maximum of Spartan territorial acquisition, and the general acknowledgment of Spartan primacy, prior to 547 BC, I proceed to state as much as can be made out respecting the Ionic portion of Hellas during the same period. This portion comprehends Athens and Euboea, the Cyclades Islands, and the Ionic cities on the coast of Asia Minor, with their different colonies. 

In the case of Peloponnesus, we have been enabled to discern something like an order of real facts in the period alluded to,—Sparta makes great strides, while Argos falls. In the case of Athens, unfortunately, our materials are less instructive. The number of historical facts, anterior to the Solonian legislation, is very few indeed; the interval between 776 BC and 624 BC, the epoch of Drako’s legislation a short time prior to Kylon’s attempted usurpation, gives us merely a list of archons, denuded of all incident.

In compliment to the heroism of Kodrus, who had sacrificed his life for the safety of his country, we are told that no person after him was permitted to bear the title of king, his son Medon, and twelve successors, Akastus, Archippus, Thersippus, Phorhas, Megakles, Diognetus, Pherekles, Ariphron, Thespieus, Agamestor, Aeschylus, and Alkmaeon, were all archons for life. In the second year of Alkmaeon (752 BC), the dignity of archon was restricted to a duration of ten years : and seven of these decennial archons are numbered, Charops, Aesimides, Kleidikus, Hippomenes, Leokrates, Apsandrus, Eryxias. With Kreon who succeeded Eryxias, the archonship was not only made annual, but put into commission and distributed among nine persons and these nine archons, annually changed, continue throughout all the historical period, interrupted only by the few intervals of political disturbance and foreign compression. Down to Kleidikus and Hippomenes (714 BC), the dignity of archon had continued to belong exclusively to the Medontidae or descendants of Mean and Kodrus : at that period it was thrown open to all the Eupatrids, or order of nobility in the state.

Such is the series of names by which we step down from the level of legend to that of history. All our historical knowledge of Athens is confined to the period of the annual archons; which series of eponymous archons, from Kreon downwards, is perfectly trustworthy. Above 683 BC, the Attic antiquaries have provided us with a string of names, which we must take as we find them, without being able either to warrant the whole or to separate the false from the true. There is no reason to doubt the general fact, that Athens, like so many other communities of Greece, was in its primitive times governed by an hereditary line of kings, and that it passed from that form of government into a commonwealth, first oligarchical, afterwards democratical.


We are in no condition to determine the civil classification and political constitution of Attica, even at the period of the archonship of Kreon, 683 BC, when authentic Athenian chronology first commences, much less can we pretend to any knowledge of the anterior centuries. Great political changes were introduced first by Solon (about 594 BC), next by Cleisthenes (509 BC), afterwards by Aristides, Pericles, and Ephialtes, between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars: so that the old ante-Solonian,— nay, even the real Solonian, — polity was thus put more and more out of date and out of knowledge. But all the information which we possess respecting that old polity, is derived from authors who lived after all or most of these great changes,— and who, finding no records, nor anything better than current legends, explained the foretime as well as they could by guesses more or less ingenious, generally attached to the dominant legendary names. They were sometimes able to found their conclusions upon religious usages, periodical ceremonies, or common sacrifices, still subsisting in their own time; and these were doubtless the best evidences to be found respecting Athenian antiquity, since such practices often continued unaltered throughout all the political changes. It is in this way alone that we arrive at some partial knowledge of the ante-Solonian condition of Attica, though as a whole it still remains dark and unintelligible, even after the many illustrations of modern commentators.

Philochorus, writing in the third century before the Christian era, stated that Cecrops had originally distributed Attica into twelve districts,— Cecropia, Tetrapolis, Epakria, Dekeleia, Eleusis, Aphidnae, Thorikus, Brauron, Kytherus, Sphettus, Kephisia, Phalerus, — and that these twelve were consolidated into one political society by Theseus. This partition does not comprise the Megarid, which, according to other statements, is represented as united with Attica, and as having formed part of the distribution made by king Pandion among his four sons, Nisus, Aegeus, Pallas, and Lykus, — a story as old as Sophocles, at least. In other accounts, again, a quadruple division is applied to the tribes, which are stated to have been four in number, beginning from Cecrops, called in his time Kekropis, Autochthon, Aktaea, and Paralia. Under king Kranaus, these tribes, we are told, received the names of Kranais, Atthis, Mesogaea, and Diakria, —under Erichthonius, those of Dias, Athenais, Poseidonias, Hephaestias : at last, shortly after Erechtheus, they were denominated after the four sons of Ion (son of Kreusa, daughter of Erechtheus, by Apollo), Geleontes, Hopletes, Aegikoreis, Argadeis. The four Attic or Ionic tribes, under these last-mentioned names, continued to form the classification of the citizens until the revolution of Cleisthenes in 509 BC, by which the ten tribes were introduced, as we find them down to the period of Macedonian ascendency.

It is affirmed, and with some etymological plausibility, that the denominations of these four tribes must originally have had reference to the occupations of those who bore them,—the Hopletes being the warrior-class, the Aegikoreis goatherds, the Argadeis artisans, and the Geleontes (Teleontes, or Gedeontes) cultivators : and hence some authors have ascribed to the ancient inhabitants of Attica an actual primitive distribution into hereditary professions, or castes, similar to that which prevailed in India and Egypt. If we should even grant that such a division into castes might originally have prevailed, it must have grown obsolete long before the time of Solon: but there seem no sufficient grounds for believing that it ever did prevail. The names of the tribes may have been originally borrowed from certain professions, but it does not necessarily follow that the reality corresponded to this derivation, or that every individual who belonged to any tribe was a member of the profession from whence the name had originally been derived. From the etymology of the names, be it ever so clear, we cannot safely assume the historical reality of a classification according to professions. And this objection (which would be weighty, even if the etymology had been clear) becomes irresistible, when we add that even the etymology is not beyond dispute; that the names themselves are written with a diversity which cannot be reconciled : and that the four professions named by Strabo omit the goatherds and include the priests; while those specified by Plutarch leave out the latter and include the former.

All that seems certain is, that these were the four ancient Ionic tribes — analogous to the Hylleis, Pamphyli, and Dymanes among the Dorians — which prevailed not only at Athens, but among several of the Ionic cities derived from Athens. The Geleontes are mentioned in inscriptions now remaining belonging to Teos in Ionia, and all the four are named in those of Kyzikus in the Propontis, which was a foundation from the Ionic Miletus. The four tribes, and the four names (allowing for some variations of reading), are therefore historically verified; but neither the time of their introduction nor their primitive import are ascertainable matters, nor can any faith be put in the various constructions of the legends of Ion, Erechtheus, and Cecrops, by modern commentators.


These four tribes may be looked at either as religious and social aggregates, in which capacity each of them comprised three phratries and ninety gentes; or as political aggregates, in which point of view each included three trittyes and twelve naukraries. Each phratry contained thirty gentes; each trittys comprised four naukraries : the total numbers were thus three hundred and sixty gentes and forty-eight naukraries. Moreover, each gens is said to have contained thirty heads of families, of whom therefore there would be a total of ten thousand eight hundred.

Comparing these two distributions one with the other, we may remark that they are distinct in their nature and proceed in opposite directions. The trittys and the naukrary are essentially fractional subdivisions of the tribe, and resting upon the tribe as their higher unity; the naukrary is a local circumscription, composed of the naukrars, or principal householders (so the etymology seems to indicate), who levy in each respective district the quota of public contributions which belongs to it, and superintend the disbursement,— provide the military force incumbent upon the district, being for each naukrary two horsemen and one ship, — and furnish the chief district-officers, the prytanes of the naukrari. A certain number of foot soldiers, varying according to the demand, must probably be understood as accompanying these horsemen, but the quota is not specified, as it was perhaps thought unnecessary to limit precisely the obligations of any except the wealthier men who served on horseback, — at a period when oligarchical ascendency was Paramount, and when the bulk of the people was in a state of comparative subjection. The forty-eight naukraries are thus a systematic subdivision of the four tribes, embracing altogether the whole territory, population; contributions, and military force of Attica, — a subdivision framed exclusively for purposes connected with the entire state.

But the phratries and gentes are a distribution completely different from this. They seem aggregations of small primitive unities into larger; they are independent of, and do not presuppose, the tribe; they arise separately and spontaneously, without preconcerted uniformity, and without reference to a common political purpose; the legislator finds them preexisting, and adapts or modifies them to answer some national scheme. We must distinguish the general fact of the classification, and the successive subordination in the scale, of the families to the gens, of the gentes to the phratry, and of the phratries to the tribe,— from the precise numerical symmetry with which this subordination is invested, as we read it, —thirty families to a gens, thirty gentes to a phratry, three phratries to each tribe. If such nice equality of numbers could ever have been procured, by legislative constraint operating upon preexistent natural elements, the proportions could not have been permanently maintained. But we may reasonably doubt whether it did ever so exist: it appears more like the fancy of an author who pleased himself by supposing an original systematic creation in times anterior to records, by multiplying together the number of days in the month and of months in the year. That every phratry contained an equal number of gentes, and every gens an equal number of families, is a supposition hardly admissible without better evidence than we possess. But apart from this questionable precision of numerical scale, the phratries and gentes themselves were real, ancient, and durable associations among the Athenian people, highly important to be understood. The basis of the whole was the house, hearth, or family, — a number of which, greater or less, composed the gens, or genos. This gens was therefore a clan, sept, or enlarged, and partly factitious, brotherhood, bound together by, —

1. Common religious ceremonies, and exclusive privilege of priesthood, in honor of the same god, supposed to be the primitive ancestor, and characterized by a special surname.

2. By a common burial-place.

3. By mutual rights of succession to property.

4. By reciprocal obligations of help, defence, and redress of injuries.

5. By mutual right and obligation to intermarry in certain determinate cases, especially where there was an orphan daughter or heiress.

6. By possession, in some cases at least, of common property, an archon and a treasurer of their own.

Such were the rights and obligations characterizing the gentile union: the phratric union, binding together several gentes, was less intimate, but still included some mutual rights and obligations of an analogous character, and especially a communion of particular sacred rites and mutual privileges of prosecution in the event of a phrator being slain. Each phratry was considered as belonging to one of the four tribes, and all the phratries of the same tribe enjoyed a certain periodical communion of sacred rites, under the presidency of a magistrate called the phylo-basileus, or tribe-king, selected from the Eupatrids; Zeus Geleon was in this manner the patron-god of the tribe Geleontes. Lastly, all the four tribes were linked together by the common worship of Apollo Patrons, as their divine father and guardian; for Apollo was the father of Ion, and the eponyms of all the four tribes were reputed sons of Ion.

Such was the primitive religious and social union of the population of Attica in its gradually ascending scale, —as distinguished from the political union, probably of later introduction, represented at first by the trittyes and naukraries, and in after times by the ten Kleisthenean tribes, subdivided into trittyes and demes. The religious and family bond of aggregation is the earlier of the two: but the political bond, though beginning later, will be found to acquire constantly increasing influence throughout the greater part of this history. In the former, personal relation is the essential and predominant characteristic,— local relation being subordinate: in the latter, property and residence become the chief considerations, and the personal element counts only as measured by these accompaniments. All these phratric and gentile associations, the larger as well as the smaller, were founded upon the same principles and tendencies of the Grecian mind, — a coalescence of the idea of worship with that of ancestry, or of communion in certain special religious rites with communion of blood, real or supposed. The god, or hero, to whom the assembled members offered their sacrifices, was conceived as the primitive ancestor, to whom they owed their origin; often through a long list of intermediate names, as in the case of the Milesian Hekataeus, so often before adverted to. Each family had its own sacred rites and funereal commemoration of ancestors, celebrated by the master of the house, to which none but members of the family were admissible : the extinction of a family, carrying with it the suspension of these religious rites, was held by the Greeks to be a misfortune, not merely from the loss of the citizens composing it, but also because the family gods and the manes of deceased citizens were thus deprived of their honors, and might visit the country with displeasure. The larger associations, called gens, phratry, tribe, were formed by an extension of the same principle,—of the family considered as a religious brotherhood, worshipping some common god or hero with an appropriate surname, and recognizing him as their joint ancestor; and the festivals Theoenia and Apaturia— the first Attic, the second common to all the Ionic race, — annually brought together the members of these phratries and gentes for worship, festivity, and maintenance of special sympathies; thus strengthening the larger ties without effacing the smaller.

Such were the manifestations of Grecian sociality, as we read them in the early constitution, not merely of Attica, but of other Grecian states besides. To Aristotle and Dikaearchus, it was an interesting inquiry to trace back all political society into certain assumed elementary atoms, and to show by what motives and means the original families, each having its separate mealbin and fireplace, had been brought together into larger aggregates. But the historian must accept as an ultimate fact the earliest state of things which his witnesses make known to him; and in the case now before us, the gentile and phratric unions are matters into the beginning of which we cannot pretend to penetrate.

Pollux —probably from Aristotle’s last work on the Constitutions of Greece — informs us, distinctly, that the members of the same gens at Athens were not commonly related by blood, and even without any express testimony we might have concluded such to be fact: to what extent the gens, at the unknown epoch of its first formation, was based upon actual relationship, we have no means of determining, either with regard to the Athenian or the Roman gentes, which were in all main points analogous. Gentilism is a tie by itself; distinct from the family ties, but presupposing their existence and extending them by an artificial analogy, partly founded on religious belief and partly on positive compact, so as to comprehend strangers in blood. All the members of one gens, or even of one phratry, believed themselves to be sprung, not, indeed, from the same grandfather or great­grandfather, but from the same divine or heroic ancestor: all the contemporary members of the phratry of Hekataeus had a common god for their ancestor in the sixteenth degree; and this fundamental belief, into which the Greek mind passed with so much facility, was adopted and converted by positive compact into the gentile and phratric principle of union. It is because such a transfusion, not recognized by Christianity, is at variance with modern habits of thought, and because we do not readily understand how such a legal and religious fiction can have sunk deep into the Greek feelings, that the phratries and gentes appear to us mysterious : but they are in harmony with all the legendary genealogies which have been set forth in the preceding volume. Doubtless Niebuhr, in his valuable discussion of the ancient Roman gentes, is right in supposing that they were not real families, procreated from any common historical ancestor : but it is not the less true, though he seems to suppose otherwise, that the idea of the gens involved the belief in a common first father, divine or heroic, — a genealogy which we may properly call fabulous, but which was consecrated and accredited among the members of the gens itself, and served as one important bond of union between them. And though an analytical mind like Aristotle might discern the difference between the gens and the family, so as to distinguish the former as the offspring of some special compact, still, this is no fair test of the feelings usual among early Greeks; nor is it certain that Aristotle himself, son of the physician Nikomachus, who belonged to the gens of the Asklepiads, would have consented to disallow the procreative origin of all these religious families without any exception. The natural families of course changed from generation to generation, some extending themselves while others diminished or died out; but the gens received no alterations, except through the procreation, extinction, or subdivision of these component families; accordingly, the relations of the families with the gens were in perpetual course of fluctuation, and the gentile ancestorial genealogy, adapted as it doubtless was to the early condition of the gens, became in process of time partially obsolete and unsuitable. We hear of this genealogy but rarely, because it is only brought before the public in certain cases preeminent and venerable. But the humbler gentes had their common rites, and common superhuman ancestor and genealogy, as well as the more celebrated : the scheme and ideal basis was the same in all.

Analogies, borrowed from very different people and parts of the world, prove how readily these enlarged and factitious family unions assort with the ideas of an early stage of society. The Highland clan, the Irish sept, the ancient legally constituted families in Friesland and Dithmarsch, the phis, or phara, among the Albanians, are examples of a similar practice : and the adoption of prisoners by the North American Indians, as well as the universal prevalence and efficacy of the ceremony of adoption in the Grecian and Roman world, exhibit to us a solemn formality under certain circumstances, originating an union and affections similar to those of kindred. Of this same nature were the phratries and gentes at Athens, the curiae and gentes at Rome, but they were peculiarly modified by the religious imagination of the ancient world, which always traced back the past time to gods and heroes : and religion thus supplied both the common genealogy as their basis, and the privileged communion of special sacred rites as means of commemoration and perpetuity. The gentes, both at Athens and in other parts of Greece, bore a patronymic name, the stamp of their believed common paternity : we find the Asklepiadae in many parts of Greece, the Aleuadae in Thessaly, the Midylidae, Psalychidae, Blepsiadae, Euxenidae, at Aegina, the Branchidae at Miletus, the Nebridae at Kos, the Iamidae and Klytiadae at Olympia, the Akestoridae at Argos, — the Kinyradae in Cyprus, — the Penthilidae at Mitylene, the Talthybiadae at Sparta, not less than the Kodridae, Eumolpidae, Phytalidae, Lykomedae, Butadae, Euneidae, Hesychidae, Brytiadae, &c., in Attica. To each of these corresponded a mythical ancestor more or less known, and passing for the first father as well as the eponymous hero of the gens, — Kodrus, Eumolpus, Butes, Phytalus, Hesychus, &c.


The revolution of Cleisthenes in 509 BC abolished the old tribes for civil purposes, and created ten new tribes, leaving the phratries and gentes unaltered, but introducing the local distribution according to demes, or cantons, as the foundation of his new political tribes. A certain number of demes belonged to each of the ten Cleisthenean tribes (the demes in the same tribes were not usually contiguous, so that the tribe was not coincident with a definite circumscription), and the deme, in which every individual was then registered, continued to be that in which his descendants were also registered. But the gentes had no connection, as such, with these new tribes, and the members of the same gens might belong to demes. It deserves to be remarked, however, that to a certain extent, in the old arrangement of Attica, the division into gentes coincided with the division into demes; that is, it happened not unfrequently that the gennetes or members of the same gens lived in the same canton, so that the name of the gens and the name of the deme was the same : moreover, it seems that Cleisthenes recognized a certain number of new demes, to which he gave names derived from some important gens resident near the spot. It is thus that we are to explain the large number of the Cleisthenean demes which bear patronymic names.

There is one remarkable difference between the Roman and the Grecian gens, arising from the different practice in regard to naming. A Roman patrician bore habitually three names, —the gentile name, with one name following it to denote his family, and another preceding it peculiar to himself in that family. But in Athens, at least after the revolution of Cleisthenes, the gentile name was not employed : a man was described by his own single name, followed first by the name of his father, and next by that of the deme to which he belonged,— as Aeschine’s, son of Atrometus, a Kothókid. Such a difference in the habitual system of naming, tended to make the gentile tie more present to every one’s mind at Rome than in the Greek cities.

Before the pecuniary classification of the Atticans introduced by Solon, the phratries and gentes, and the trittyes and naukraries, were the only recognized bonds among them, and the only basis of legal rights and obligations, over and above the natural family. The gens constituted a close incorporation, both as to property and as to persons. Until the time of Solon, no man had any power of testamentary disposition : if he died without children, his gennetes succeeded to his property, and so they continued to do even after Solon, if he died intestate. An orphan girl might be claimed in marriage of right by any member of the gens, the nearest agnates being preferred if she was poor, and he did not choose to marry her himself, the law of Solon compelled him to provide her with a dowry proportional to his enrolled scale of property, and to give her out in marriage to another; and the magnitude of the dowry required to be given, — large, even as fixed by Solon, and afterwards doubled, — seems a proof that the lawgiver intended indirectly to enforce actual marriage. If a man was murdered, first his near relations, next his gennetes and phrators, were both allowed and required to prosecute the crime at law; his fellow demots, or inhabitants of the same deme, did not possess the like right of prosecuting. All that we hear of the most ancient Athenian laws is based upon the gentile and phratric divisions, which are treated throughout as extensions of the family. It is to be observed that this division is completely independent of any property qualification, — rich men as well as poor being comprehended in the same gens. Moreover, the different gentes were very unequal in dignity, arising chiefly from the religious ceremonies of which each possessed the hereditary and exclusive administration, and which, being in some cases considered as of preeminent sanctity in reference to the whole city, were therefore nationalized. Thus the Eumolpidae and Kerykes, who supplied the Hierophant, and superintended the mysteries of the Eleusinian Demeter, — and the Butadae, who furnished the priestess of Athene Polias as well as the priest of Poseidon Erechtheus in the acropolis, — seem to have been reverenced above all the other gentes. When the name Butadae was adopted in the Cleisthenean arrangement as the name of a deme, the holy gens so called adopted the distinctive denomination of Eteobutadae, or “The True Butadae”.

A great many of the ancient gentes of Attica are known to us by name; but there is only one phratry (the Achniadae) whose title has come down to us. These phratries and gentes probably never at any time included the whole population of the country, —and the proportion not included in them tended to become larger and larger, in the times anterior to Cleisthenes, as well as afterwards. They remained, under his constitution, and throughout the subsequent history, as religious quasi-families, or corporations, conferring rights and imposing liabilities which were enforced in the regular dikasteries, but not directly connected with the citizenship or with political functions : a man might be a citizen without being enrolled in any gens. The forty-eight naukraries ceased to exist, for any important purposes, under his constitution : the deme, instead of the naukrary, became the elementary political division, for military and financial objects, and the demarch became the working local president, in place of the chief of the naukrars. The deme, however, was not coincident with a naukrary, nor the demarch with the previous chief of the naukrary, though they were analogous and constituted for the like purpose. While the naukraries had been only forty-eight in number, the demes formed smaller subdivisions, and, in later times at least, amounted to a hundred and seventy-four.

But though this early quadruple division into tribes is tolerably intelligible in itself; there is much difficulty in reconciling it with that severally of government which we learn to have originally prevailed among the inhabitants of Attica. From Cecrops down to Theseus, says Thucydides, there were many different cities in Attica, each of them autonomous and self-governing, with its own prytaneium and its own archons; and it was only on occasions of some common danger that these distinct communities took counsel together under the authority of the Athenian kings, whose city at that time comprised merely the holy rock of Athene on the plain,— afterwards so conspicuous as the acropolis of the enlarged Athens,— together with a narrow area under it on the southern side. It was Theseus, he states, who effected that great revolution whereby the whole of Attica was consolidated into one government, all the local magistracies and councils being made to center in the prytaneium and senate of Athens: his combined sagacity and power enforced upon all the inhabitants of Attica the necessity of recognizing Athens as the one city in the country, and of occupying their own abodes simply as constituent portions of Athenian territory. This important move, which naturally produced a great extension of the central city, was commemorated throughout the historical times by the Athenians in the periodical festival called Synoekia, in honor of the goddess Athene.


Such is the account which Thucydide’s gives of the original severalty and subsequent consolidation of the different portions of Attica. Of the general fact there is no reason to doubt, though the operative cause assigned by the historian, the power and sagacity of Theseus, belongs to legend and not to history. Nor can we pretend to determine either the real steps by which such a change was brought about, or its date, or the number of portions which went to constitute the full-grown Athens,— farther enlarged at some early period, though we do not know when, by voluntary junction of the Boeotian, or semi-Boeotian, town Eleutherae, situated among the valleys of Kithaeron between Eleusis and Plataea. It was the standing habit of the population of Attica, even down to the Peloponnesian war, to reside in their several cantons, where their ancient festivals and temples yet continued as relics of a state of previous autonomy: their visits to the city were made only at special times, for purposes religious or political, and they yet looked upon the country residence as their real home. How deep-seated this cantonal feeling was among them, we may see by the fact that it survived the temporary exile forced upon them by the Persian invasion, and was resumed when the expulsion of that destroying host enabled them to rebuild their ruined dwellings in Attica.

How many of the demes recognized by Cleisthenes had originally separate governments, or in what local aggregates they stood combined, we cannot now make out; it will be recollected that the city of Athens itself contained several demes, and Piraeus also formed a deme apart. Some of the twelve divisions, which Philochorus ascribes to Cecrops, present probable marks of an ancient substantive existence,— Cecropia, or the region surrounding and including the city and acropolis; the tetrapolis, composed of Oenoe, Trikorythus, Probalinthus, and Marathon; Eleusis; Aphidnae and Dekeleia, both distinguished by their peculiar mythical connection with Sparta and the Dioskuri. But it is difficult to imagine that Phalerum, which is one of the separate divisions named by Philochorus, can over have enjoyed an autonomy apart from Athens. Moreover, we find among some of the domes which Philochorus does not notice, evidences of standing antipathies, and prohibitions of intermarriage, which might seem to indicate that these had once been separate little states. Though in most cases we can infer little from the legends and religious ceremonies which nearly every deme had peculiar to itself, yet those of Eleusis are so remarkable, as to establish the probable autonomy of that township down to a comparatively late period. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, recounting the visit, of that goddess to Eleusis after the abduction of her daughter, and the first establishment of the Eleusinian ceremonies, specifies the eponymous prince Eleusis, and the various chiefs of the place, — Keleos, Triptolemus, Diokles, and Eumolpus; it also notices the Rharian plain in the neighborhood of Eleusis, but not the least allusion is made to Athens or to any concern of the Athenians in the presence or worship of the goddess. There is reason to believe that at the time when this Hymn was composed, Eleusis was an independent town: what that time was we have no means of settling, though Voss puts it as low as the 30th Olympiad. And the proof hence derived is so much the more valuable, because the Hymn to Demeter presents a coloring strictly special and local; moreover, the story told by Solon to Croesus, respecting Tellus the Athenian, who perished in battle against the neighboring townsmen of Eleusis, assumes, in like manner, the independence of the latter in earlier times. Nor is it unimportant to notice that, even so low as 300 BC, the observant visitor Dikaearchus professes to detect a difference between the native Athenians and the Atticans, as well in physiognomy as in character and taste.

In the history set forth to us of the proceedings of Theseus, no mention is made of these four Ionic tribes; but another and a totally different distribution of the people into eupatridae, geomori, and demiurgi, which he is said to have first introduced, is brought to our notice; Dionysius of Halicarnassus gives only a double division, — eupatridae and dependent cultivators; corresponding to his idea of the patricians and clients in early Rome: As far as we can understand this triple distinction, it seems to be disparate and unconnected with the four tribes above mentioned. The eupatridae are the wealthy and powerful men, belonging to the most distinguished families in all the various gentes, and principally living in the city of Athens, after the consolidation of Attica: from them are distinguished the middling and lower people, roughly classified into husbandmen and artisans. To the eupatridae, is ascribed a religious as well as a political and social ascendency; they are represented as the source of all authority on matters both sacred and profane; they doubtless comprised those gentes, such as the Butadae, whose sacred ceremonies were looked upon with the greatest reverence by the people : and we may conceive Eumolpus, Keleos, Diokles, etc., as they are described in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, in the character of eupatridae of Eleusis. The humbler gentes, and the humbler members of each gens, would appear in this classification confounded with that portion of the people who belonged to no gens at all.


From these eupatridae exclusively, and doubtless by their selection, the nine annual archons — probably also the prytanes of the naukrari —were taken. That the senate of areopagus was formed of members of the same order, we may naturally presume : the nine archons all passed into it at the expiration of their year of office, subject only to the condition of having duly passed the test of accountability; and they remained members for life. These are the only political authorities of whom we hear in the earliest imperfectly known period of the Athenian government, after the discontinuance of the king, and the adoption of the annual change of archons. The senate of areopagus seems to represent the Homeric council of old men; and there were doubtless, on particular occasions, general assemblies of the people, with the same formal and passive character as the Homeric agora,— at least, we shall observe traces of such assent bliss anterior to the Solonian legislation. Some of the writers of antiquity ascribed the first establishment of the senate of areopagus to Solon, just as there were also some who considered Lycurgus as having first brought together the Spartan gerusia. But there can be little doubt that this is a mistake, and that the senate of areopagus is a primordial institution, of immemorial antiquity, though its constitution as well as its functions underwent many changes. It stood at first alone as a permanent and collegiate authority, originally by the side of the kings and afterwards by the side of the archons: it would then of course be known by the title of The Boulé, — The Senate, or council; its distinctive title, “Senate of Areopagus”, borrowed from the place where its sittings were held, would not be bestowed until the formation by Solon of the second senate, or council, from which there was need to discriminate it.

This seems to explain the reason why it was never mentioned in the ordinances of Drako, whose silence supplied one argument in favor of the opinion that it did not exist in his time, and that it was first constituted by Solon. We hear of the senate of areopagus chiefly as a judicial tribunal, because it acted in this character constantly throughout Athenian history, and because the orators have most frequent occasion to allude to its decisions on matters of trial. But its functions were originally of the widest senatorial character, directive generally as well as judicial. And although the gradual increase of democracy at Athens, as will be hereafter explained, both abridged its powers and contributed still farther comparatively to lower it, by enlarging the direct working of the people in assembly and judicature, as well as that of the senate of Five Hundred, which was a permanent adjunct and adminicle of the public assembly, — yet it seems to have been, even down to the time of Pericles, the most important body in the state. And after it had been cast into the background by the political reforms of that great man, we still find it on particular occasions stepping forward to reassert its ancient powers, and to assume for the moment that undefined interference which it had enjoyed without dispute in antiquity. The attachment of the Athenians to their ancient institutions gave to the senate of areopagus a constant and powerful hold on their minds, and this feeling was rather strengthened than weakened when it ceased to be an object of popular jealousy, — when it could no longer be employed as an auxiliary of oligarchical pretensions.

Of the nine archons, whose number continued unaltered from 638 BC to the end of the free democracy, three bore special titles, — the archon eponymus, from whose name the designation of the year was derived, and who was spoken of as The Archon; the archon basileus (king), or more frequently, the basileus; and the polemarch. The remaining six passed by the general title of Thesmothetae. Of the first three, each possessed exclusive judicial competence in regard to certain special matters : the thesmothetae were in this respect all on a par, acting sometimes as a board, sometimes individually. The archon eponymus determined all disputes relative to the family, the gentile, and the phratric relations : he was the legal protector of orphans and widows. The archon basileus, or king archon, enjoyed competence in complaints respecting offences against the religious sentiment and respecting homicide. The polemarch, speaking of times anterior to Cleisthenes, was the leader of the military force and judge in disputes between citizens and non-citizens. Moreover, each of these three archons had particular religious festivals assigned to him, which it was his duty to superintend and conduct. The six thesmothetae seem to have been judges in disputes and complaints, generally, against citizens, saving the special matters reserved for the cognizance of the first two archons. According to the proper sense of the word thesmothetae, all the nine archons were entitled to be so called, though the first three had especial designations of their own : the word thesmoi, analogous to the themistes of Homer, includes in its meaning both general laws and particular sentences, —the two ideas not being yet discriminated, and the general law being conceived only in its application to some particular case. Drako was the first thesmothet who was called upon to set down his thesmoi in writing, and thus to invest them essentially with a character of more or less generality.

In the later and better-known times of Athenian law, we find these archons deprived in great measure of their powers of judging and deciding, and restricted to the task of first hearing the parties and collecting the evidence, next, of introducing the matter for trial into the appropriate dikastery, over which they presided. Originally, there was no separation of powers : the archons both judged and administered, sharing among themselves those privileges which had once been united in the hands of the king, and probably accountable at the end of their year of office to the senate of areopagus. It is probable also, that the functions of that senate, and those of the prytanes of the naukrars, were of the same double and confused nature. All of these functionaries belonged to the eupatrids, and all of them doubtless acted more or less in the narrow interest of their order : moreover, there was ample room for favoritism, in the way of connivance as well as antipathy, on the part of the archons. That such was decidedly the case, and that discontent began to be serious, we may infer from the duty imposed on the thesmothet Drako, BC 624, to put in writing the thesmoi, or ordinances, so that they might be “shown publicly”, and known beforehand. He did not meddle with the political constitution, and in his ordinances Aristotle finds little worthy of remark except the extreme severity of the punishments awarded: petty thefts, or even proved idleness of life, being visited with death or disfranchisement.


But we are not to construe this remark as demonstrating any special inhumanity in the character of Drako, who was not invested with the large power which Solon afterwards enjoyed, and cannot be imagined to have imposed upon the community severe laws of his own invention. Himself of course an eupatrid, he set forth in writing such ordinances as the eupatrid archons had before been accustomed to enforce without writing, in the particular cases which came before them; and the general spirit of penal legislation had become so much milder, during the two centuries which followed, that these old ordinances appeared to Aristotle intolerably rigorous. Probably neither Drako, nor the Lokrian Zaleukus, who somewhat preceded him in date, were more rigorous than the sentiment of the age : indeed, the few fragments of the Drakonian tables which have reached us, far from exhibiting indiscriminate cruelty, introduce, for the first time, into the Athenian law, mitigating distinctions in respect to homicide; founded on the variety of concomitant circumstances. He is said to have constituted the judges called Ephetae, fifty-one elders belonging to some respected gens or possessing an exalted position, who held their sittings for trial of homicide in three different spots, according to the difference of the cases submitted to them. If the accused party, admitting the fact, denied any culpable intention and pleaded accident, the case was tried at the place called the palladium; when found guilty of accidental homicide, he was condemned to a temporary exile, unless he could appease the relatives of the deceased, but his property was left untouched. If, again, admitting the fact, he defended himself by some valid ground of justification, such as self-defence, or flagrant adultery with his wife on the part of the deceased, the trial took place on ground consecrated to Apollo and Artemis, called the Delphinium. A particular spot called the Phreattys, close to the seashore, was also named for the trial of a person, who, while under sentence of exile for an unintentional homicide, might be charged with a second homicide, committed of course without the limits of the territory : being considered as impure from the effects of the former sentence, he was not permitted to set foot on the soil, but stood his trial on a boat hauled close in shore. At the prytaneium, or government-house itself, sittings were held by the four phylo-basileis, or tribe-kings, to try any inanimate object (a piece of wood or stone, etc.) which had caused death to any one, without the proved intervention of a human hand : the wood or stone, when the fact was verified, was formally cast beyond the border. All these distinctions of course imply the preliminary investigation of the case, called anakrisis, by the king-archon, in order that it might be known what was the issue, and where the sittings of the ephetae were to be held.

So intimately was the mode of dealing with homicide connected with the religious feelings of the Athenians, that these old regulations were never formally abrogated throughout the historical times, and were read engraved on their column by the contemporaries of Demosthenes. The areopagus continued in judicial operation, and the ephetae are spoken of as if they were so, even through the age of Demosthenes; though their functions were tacitly usurped or narrowed, and their dignity impaired, by the more popular dikasteries afterwards created. It is in this way that they have become known to us, while the other Drakonian institutions have perished : but there is much obscurity respecting them, particularly in regard to the relation between the ephetae and the areopagites. Indeed, so little was known on the subject, even by the historical inquirers of Athens, that most of them supposed the council of areopagus to have received its first origin from Solon : and even Aristotle, though he contradicts this view, expresses himself in no very positive language. That judges sat at the areopagus for the trial of homicide, previous to Drako, seems implied in the arrangements of that lawgiver respecting the ephetae, inasmuch as he makes no new provision for trying the direct issue of intentional homicide, which, according to all accounts, fell within the cognizance of the areopagus: but whether the ephetae and the areopagites were the same persons, wholly or partially, our information is not sufficient to discover. Before Drako, there existed no tribunal for trying homicide, except the senate, sitting at the areopagus, and we may conjecture that there was something connected with that spot, —legends, ceremonies, or religious feelings, — which compelled judges there sitting to condemn every man proved guilty of homicide, and forbade them to take account of extenuating or justifying circumstances. Drako appointed the ephetae to sit at different places; and these places are so pointedly marked, and were so unalterably maintained, that we may see in how peculiar a manner those special issues, of homicide under particular circumstances, which he assigned to each, were adapted, in Athenian belief, to the new sacred localities chosen, each having its own distinct ceremonial and procedure appointed by the gods themselves. That the religious feelings of the Greeks were associated in the most intimate manner with particular localities, has already been often remarked; and Drako proceeded agreeably to them in his arrangements for mitigating the indiscriminate condemnation of every man found guilty of homicide, which was unavoidable so long as the areopagus remained the only place of trial. The man who either confessed, or was proved to have shed the blood of another, could not be acquitted, or condemned to less than the full penalty (of death or perpetual exile, with confiscation of property) by the judges on the hill of Ares, whatever excuse he might have to offer: but the judges at the palladium and del phinium might hear him, and even admit his plea, without contracting the taint of irreligion. Drako did not directly meddle with, nor indeed ever mention, the judges sitting in areopagus.

In respect to homicide, then, the Drakonian ordinances were partly a reform of the narrowness, partly a mitigation of the rigor, of the old procedure; and these are all that come down to us, having been preserved unchanged from the religious respect of the Athenians for antiquity on this peculiar matter. The rest of his ordinances are said to have been repealed by Solon, on account of their intolerable severity. So they doubtless appeared, to the Athenians of a later day, who had come to measure offences by a different scale; and even to Solon, who had to calm the wrath of a suffering people in actual mutiny.

That under this eupatrid oligarchy and severe legislation the people of Attica were sufficiently miserable, we shall presently see, when I recount the proceedings of Solon : but the age of democracy had not yet begun, and the government received its first shock from the hands of an ambitious eupatrid who aspired to the despotism. Such was the phase, as has been remarked in the preceding chapter, through which, during the century now under consideration, a large proportion of the Grecian governments passed.


Kylon, an Athenian patrician, who superadded to a great family position the personal celebrity of a victory at Olympia, as runner in the double stadium, conceived the design of seizing the acropolis and constituting himself despot. Whether any special event had occurred at home to stimulate this project, we do not know: but he obtained both encouragement and valuable aid from his father-in-law Theagenes of Megara, who, by means of his popularity with the people, had already subverted the Megarian oligarchy, and become despot of his native city. Previous to so hazardous an attempt, however, Kylon consulted the Delphian oracle, and was advised by the god in reply, to take the opportunity of “the greatest festival of Zeus” for seizing the acropolis. Such expressions, in the natural interpretation put upon them by every Greek, designated the Olympic games in Peloponnesus, — to Kylon, moreover himself an Olympic victor, that interpretation came recommended by an apparent peculiar propriety. But Thucydides, not indifferent to the credit of the oracle, reminds his readers that no question was asked nor any express direction given, where the intended “greatest festival of Zeus” was to be sought,—whether in Attica or elsewhere, —and that the, public festival of the Diasia, celebrated periodically and solemnly in the neighborhood of Athens, was also denominated the “greatest festival of Zeus Meilichius”. Probably no such exegetical scruples presented themselves to any one, until after the miserable failure of the conspiracy; least of all to Kylon himself, who, at the recurrence of the next ensuing Olympic games, put himself at the head of a force, partly furnished by Theagenes, partly composed of his friends at home, and took sudden possession of the sacred rock of Athens. But the attempt excited general indignation among the Athenian people, who crowded in from the country to assist the archons and the prytanes of the naukrari in putting it down. Kylon and his companions were blockaded in the acropolis, where they soon found themselves in straits for want of water and provisions; and though many of the Athenians went back to their homes, a sufficient besieging force was left to reduce the conspirators to the last extremity. After Kylon himself had escaped by stealth, and several of his companions had died of hunger, the remainder, renouncing all hope of defence, sat down as suppliants at the altar. The archon Megakles, on regaining the citadel, found these suppliants on the point of expiring with hunger on the sacred ground, and to prevent such a pollution, engaged them to quit the spot by a promise of sparing their lives. No sooner, however, had they been removed into profane ground, than the promise was violated and they were put to death: some even, who, seeing the fate with which they were menaced, contrived to throw themselves upon the altar of the venerable goddesses, or eumenides, near the areopagus, received their death-wounds in spite of that inviolable protection.

Though the conspiracy was thus put down, and the government upheld, these deplorable incidents left behind them a long train of calamity, profound religious remorse mingled with exasperated political antipathies. There still remained, if not a considerable Kyionian party, at least a large body of persons who resented the way in which the Kylonians had been put to death, and who became in consequence bitter enemies of Megakles the archon, and of the great family of the Alkmaeonidae, to which he belonged. Not only Megakles himself and his personal assistants were denounced as smitten with a curse, but the taint was supposed to be transmitted to his descendants, and we shall hereafter find the wound reopened, not only in the second and third generation, but also two centuries after the original event. When we see that the impression left by the proceeding was so very serious, even after the length of time which had elapsed, we may well believe that it was sufficient, immediately afterwards, to poison altogether the tranquility of the state. The Alkmaeonids and their partisans long defied their opponents, resisting any public trial, — and the dissensions continued without hope of termination, until Solon, then enjoying a lofty reputation for sagacity and patriotism, as well as for bravery, persuaded them to submit to judicial cognizance, — at a moment so far distant from the event, that several of the actors were dead. They were accordingly tried before a special judicature of three hundred eupatrids, Myron, of the demo Phlyeis, being their accuser. In defending themselves against the charge that they had sinned against the reverence due to the gods and the consecrated right of asylum, they alleged that the Kylonian suppliants, when persuaded to quit the holy ground, had tied a cord round the statue of the goddess and clung to it for protection in their march; but on approaching the altar of the eumenides, the cord accidentally broke, and this critical event, so the accused persons argued, proved that the goddess had herself withdrawn from them her protecting band and abandoned them to their fate. Their argument, remarkable as an illustration of the feelings of the time, was not, however, accepted as an excuse: they were found guilty, and while such of them as were alive retired into banishment, those who had already died were disinterred and cast beyond the borders. Yet their exile, continuing as it did only for a time, was not held sufficient to expiate the impiety for which they had been condemned. The Alkmaeonids, one of the most powerful families in Attica, long continued to be looked upon as a tainted race, and in cases of public calamity were liable, to be singled out as having by their sacrilege drawn down the judgment of the gods upon their Countrymen.

Nor was the banishment of the guilty parties adequate in other respects to restore tranquility. Not only did pestilential disorders prevail, but the religious susceptibilities and apprehensions of the Athenian community also remained deplorably excited: they were oppressed with sorrow and despondency, saw phantoms and heard supernatural menaces, and felt the curse of the gods upon them without abatement. In particular, it appears that the minds of the women—whose religious impulses were recognized generally by the ancient legislators as requiring watchful control — were thus disturbed and frantic. The sacrifices offered at Athens did not succeed in dissipating the epidemic, nor could the prophets at home, though they recognized that special purifications were required, discover what were the new ceremonies capable of appeasing the divine wrath. The Delphian oracle directed them to invite a higher spiritual influence from abroad, and this produced the memorable visit of the Cretan prophet and sage Epimenides to Athens.


The century between 620 and 500 BC appears to have been remarkable for the first diffusion and potent influence of distinct religious brotherhoods, mystic rites, and expiatory ceremonies, none of which, as I have remarked in a former chapter, find any recognition in the Homeric epic. To this age belong Thaletas, Aristeas, Abaris, Pythagoras, Onomakritus, and the earliest provable agency of the Orphic sect. Of the class of men here noticed, Epimenides, a native of Phaestus or Knossos in Crete, was one of the most celebrated,— and the old legendary connection between Athens and Crete, which shows itself in the tales of Theseus and Minos, is here again manifested in the recourse which the Athenians had to this island to supply their spiritual need. Epimenides seems to have been connected with the worship of the Cretan Zeus, in whose favor he stood so high as to receive the denomination of the new Kurete—the Kurete having been the primitive ministers and organizers of that wor­ship. He was said to be the son of the nymph Balte; to be supplied by the nymphs with constant food, since he was never seen to eat; to have fallen asleep in his youth in a cave, and to have continued in this state without interruption for fifty-seven years; though some asserted that he remained all this time a wanderer in the mountains, collecting and studying medicinal botany in the vocation of an Iatromantis, or leech and prophet combined. Such narratives mark the idea entertained by antiquity of Epimenides, the Purifier, who was now called in to heal both the epidemic and the mental affliction prevalent among the Athenian people, in the same manner as his countryman and contemporary Thaletas had been, a few years before, invited to Sparta to appease a pestilence by the effect of his music and religious hymns. The favor of Epimenides with the gods, his knowledge of propitiatory ceremonies, and his power of working upon the religious feeling, was completely successful in restoring both health and mental tranquility at Athens. He is said to have turned out some black and white sheep on the areopagus, directing attendants to follow and watch them, and to erect new altars to the appropriate local deities on the spots where the animals lay down. He founded new chapels and established various lustral ceremonies; and more especially, he regulated the worship paid by the women, in such a manner as to calm the violent impulses which had before agitated them. We know hardly anything of the details of his proceeding, but the general fact of his visit, and the salutary effects produced in removing the religious despondency which oppressed the Athenians, are well attested: consoling assurances and new ritual precepts, from the lips of a person supposed to stand high in the favor of Zeus, were the remedy which this unhappy disorder required. Moreover, Epimenides had the prudence to associate himself with Solon, and while he thus doubtless obtained much valuable advice, he assisted indirectly in exalting the reputation of Solon himself, whose career of constitutional reform was now fast approaching. He remained long enough at Athens to restore completely a more comfortable tone of religious feeling, and then departed, carrying with him universal gratitude and admiration, but refusing all other reward, except a branch from the sacred olive-tree in the acropolis. His life is said to have been prolonged to the unusual period of one hundred and fifty-four years, according to a statement which was current during the time of his younger contemporary Xenophanes of Kolophon; and the Cretans even ventured to affirm that he lived three hundred years. They extolled him not merely as a sage and a spiritual purifier, but also as a poet,—very long compositions on religious and mythical subjects being ascribed to him; according to some accounts, they even worshipped him as a god. Both Plato and Cicero considered Epimenides in the same light in which he was regarded by his contemporaries, as a prophet divinely inspired, and foretelling the future under fits of temporary ecstasy : but according to Aristotle, Epimenides himself professed to have received from the gods no higher gift than that of divining the unknown phenomena of the past.

The religious mission of Epimenides to Athens, and its efficacious as well as healing influence on the public mind, deserve notice as characteristics of the age in which they occurred. If we transport ourselves two centuries forward, to the Peloponnesian war, when rational influences and positive habits of thought had acquired a durable hold upon the superior minds, and when practical discussions on political and judicial matters were familiar to every Athenian citizen, no such uncontrollable religious misery could well have subdued the entire public; and if it had, no living man could have drawn to himself such universal veneration as to be capable of effecting a cure. Plato, admitting the real healing influence of rites and ceremonies, fully believed in Epimenides as an inspired prophet during the past; but towards those who preferred claims to supernatural power in his own day, he was not so easy of faith. He, as well as Euripides and Theophrastus, treated with indifference, and even with contempt, the orpheotelestae of the later times, who advertised themselves as possessing the same patent knowledge of ceremonial rites, and the same means of guiding the will of the gods, as Epimenides had wielded before them. These orpheotelestae unquestionably numbered a considerable tribe of believers, and speculated with great effect, as well as with profit to themselves, upon the timorous consciences of rich men : but they enjoyed no respect with the general public, or with those to whose authority the public habitually looked up. Degenerate as they were, however, they were the legitimate representatives of the prophet and purifier from Knossos, to whose presence the Athenians had been so much indebted two centuries before: and their altered position was owing less to any falling off in themselves, than to an improvement in the mass upon whom they sought to operate. Had Epimenides himself come to Athens in those days, his visit would probably have been as much inoperative to all public purposes as a repetition of the stratagem of Phye, clothed and equipped as the goddess Athene, which had succeeded so completely in the days of Peisistratus,— a stratagem which even Herodotus treats as incredibly absurd, although, a century before his time, both the city of Athens and the demes of Attica had obeyed, as a divine mandate, the orders of this magnificent and stately woman, to restore Peisistratus.