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The Athenians of that day were not watched over by many preceptors1 during their boyhood only to be allowed to do what they liked when they attained to manhood;2 on the contrary, they were subjected to greater supervision in the very prime of their vigor than when they were boys. For our forefathers placed such strong emphasis upon sobriety that they put the supervision of decorum in charge of the Council of the Areopagus—a body which was composed exclusively of men who were of noble birth3 and had exemplified in their lives exceptional virtue and sobriety, and which, therefore, naturally excelled all the other councils of Hellas.

1 See Plato (Plat. Prot. 325c ff.) for a picture of the education of Athenian boys.

2 In early times, the Council, according to Aristotle (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3), not only had the duty of guarding the laws, but was the main factor in the government of the city, and punished at its discretion “all who misbehaved themselves.” It even selected the magistrates for the several offices (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 8). Under Solon the Council kept its most important powers: it superintended the laws and guarded the constitution, exercised a censorship over the citizens “in the most important matters,” and corrected offenders, having plenary authority to inflict punishment (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 8). Under Cleisthenes its powers declined, but because of its wise and patriotic initiative in the Persian Wars it became again the supreme influence of the state (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 23), and remained so until, under the leadership of Ephialtes, its important powers of supervision and censorship were taken from it and distributed to the Senate of the Five Hundred, the General Assembly, and the Heliastic juries (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 25).

3 The Council was made up of ex-archons, who, after successfully passing an examination at the end of their terms of office to determine their fitness, became members of the Areopagus for life. The archons were at first “selected under qualifications of birth and of wealth.” See Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3. After the “reforms” of Ephialtes, the property qualification was dropped, the only requirement being that of genuine citizenship. See Plut. Arist.

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hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Raphael Kühner, Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, KG 1.pos=2.1
    • Raphael Kühner, Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, KG 3.5.2
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter V
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (6):
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 23
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 25
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 3
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 8
    • Plato, Protagoras, 325c
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 1
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (4):
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