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EXEGE´TES (ἐξηγητής), an expounder, interpreter, is used both in an ordinary and an official sense. A local guide or cicerone is so styled (Strab. xvii. p.806; Paus. 1.41.2); Aeschines, ridiculing Demosthenes for his conduct on the Embassy, calls him the ἐξηγητὴς of the absurd stories with which he regaled his colleagues (Aeschin. F. L. § 40). More usually, however, the word was applied to any interpreter of laws, whether sacred or secular, but especially the former (Etym. M., s. v.); thus the whole order of Eupatrids; were in the old times νόμων διδάσκαλοι, ὁσίων καὶ ἱερῶν ἐξηγηταί (Plut. Thes. 25). Among the Eupatrids, again, the Eumolpidae (q. v.) were ἐξηγηταὶ of a special class of sacred laws, those, namely, relating to the Eleusinian mysteries; these laws were unwritten, and of immemorial antiquity ([Lys.] c. Andoc. § 10). But with regard to the written and civil laws of Athens in democratic times, the notion of several grammarians that there was a class of ἐξηγηταὶ or expounders of them, answering to the Roman jurisconsults, is untenable, and indeed no longer held; the silence of the orators is sufficient proof that no such persons existed (Ruhnken, on Timaeus, Lex. Plat. s. v.). Respecting the ἐξηγητὴς of the laws of Lycurgus, at Sparta, who in all probability never existed, see Müller, Dor. 3.11, 2. In Athenian courts both the dicasts and the presiding judges acted [p. 1.766]without the guidance of trained lawyers, and required the laws which they administered to be intelligible to plain men. At the same time, the conservatism of ancient religion involved a frequent appeal to experts in purely ceremonial matters. Thus, the guilt of a homicide and the punishment of it were to be determined by the law-courts; but if the homicide were proved accidental or justifiable, the ceremonial expiation, the reconciliation with the relatives of the deceased, and the disposal of the corpse remained as the province of ἐξηγηταί: and various other points connected with funerals were referred to them ([Dem.] c. Everg. et Mnes. p. 1160.68; Isae. Or. 8 [Ciron.], § 39: in these two passages the persons interested in the burial consult ἐξηγηταὶ as to “the right thing to be done” ; they are cases of conscience, as is also the somewhat different case in Plat. Euthyphr. 4 D). Hence Plato in his ideal laws introduces ἐξηγηταὶ of funerals, whom Cicero quoting the passage calls religionum interpretes (Plat. Legg. 12.958 D; Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 7, § 67). Elsewhere Plato declares that the laws about all divine things shall be brought from Delphi, and administered by ἐξηγηταί (Leggy. 6.759 C), who are to be men of venerable age and high character, appointed for life after a strict δοκιμασία (ib. E): he further entrusts them with the regulation of marriage rites (6.775 A). How far these provisions coincided with the real law of Athens we are not in a position to say.

In an official sense, the EXEGETAE were a board of three persons, to whom application might be made in matters relating to sacred law; they were all to be Eupatrids, and one of them necessarily a member of the family of the Eumolpidae. The mode of their appointment is not known; and the question whether they took cognisance of all appeals from private persons like those mentioned above, or only of public matters, is open to some doubt. They attended in the assembly of the people, and interpreted the διοσημίαι or signs from heaven [ECCLESIA p. 701 b]; they had thus the power of stopping the business in hand, corresponding to the obnuntiatio of the Roman augurs. But we may be sure that the democratic Athenians would not allow an absolute or irresponsible veto to these or any other officials; their action, like that of an Epistates who refused to put the question to the vote, was no doubt liable to impeachment: in practice it is probable that only a smart shower or other unmistakeable phenomenon was allowed to break up the meeting; so that their duty would be purely a formal one. The gloss of Timaeus, identical with the second of the two in Suidas, runs as follows: Ἐξηγηταὶ τρεῖς γίνονται Ρυθόχρηστοι, οἷς μέλει καθαίρειν τοὺς ἄγει τινὶ ἐνισχηθέντας: καὶ οἱ ἐξηγούμενοι τὰ πάτ ρια. These grammarians certainly understood the phrase τὰ πάτρια in too wide a sense: we may further doubt, with Schömann, whether the Delphic oracle was really consulted. (Pollux, 8.124 and 188; Suid., Etym. M., Lex. Rhet. s. v.; Ruhnken on Timaeus; O. Müller on Aesch. Eumen. p. 162 ff.; Schömann, Antiq. 1.429, E. T.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.360.)

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