previous next


NOMOPHY´LACES (νομοφύλακες) were certain magistrates or official persons of high authority, whose duty it was to see that nothing unconstitutional was proposed, and to punish those who acted unconstitutionally (Xen. Oec. 9, 14; Cic. de Leg. 3.2. 0, 46): they had also to provide for the safe custody of written laws and records (C. I. G. 3794). Generally speaking, they were intended to uphold the established order of things against hasty innovators (cf. Plat. Leg. vi. p. 755 A). We find them at Abdera, Mylasa, Chalcedon, Corcyra (see the inscr. cited by Gilbert, Staatsalt. ii. p. 337): but the office sometimes has a different title, νομοδεῖκται at Andania (Dittenberg, 388, 11.4) and θεσμοφύλακες at Elis (Thuc. 5.47). At Sparta there were five νομοφύλακες and a γραμματοφύλαξ4 or keeper of records, who in some inscriptions is ranked with his superiors, so that the number appears to be six. (See Gilbert, i. p. 27.)

At Athens this supervision had originally belonged to the Areiopagus, and, when Ephialtes deprived that body of its power [AREIOPAGUS Vol. I. p. 177], it seemed necessary to have some “guardians of the law” who should be a check upon too rapid legislation, by protesting against propositions which were detrimental to the state or subversive of the constitution. (Lex. Cantab. s. v.; Phot. s.v. Schömann, Antiq. p. 342; Grote, Hist. 5.503, ch. xlvi.; E. Curtius, Hist. ii. p. 385.) These were a board of seven Nomophylaces, chosen annually by lot, who sat beside the Proedri in the senate and in the assembly. They were abolished in the archonship of Eucleides, when the Areiopagus regained some of its supervising powers, but were instituted again by Demetrius of Phalerum. Some writers hold this to have been the first institution of nomophylaces at Athens (see Gilbert, Staatsalt. i. p. 153). It may be observed that the importance of the board was really small, since the control which belonged to them was in practice superseded by the GRAPHE PARANOMON; and this may account for our hearing nothing of their activity.

[C.R.K] [G.E.M]

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: