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AESYMNE´TES

AESYMNE´TES (αἰσυμνήτης, from αἶσα, a just portion, hence “a person who gives every one his just portion” ) originally signified merely a judge in the heroic games, but afterwards indicated an individual who was occasionally invested voluntarily by his fellow-citizens with unlimited power in a Greek state. His power, according to Aristotle, partook in some degree of the nature both of kingly and tyrannical authority; since he was appointed legally and ruled over willing subjects, but at the same time was not bound by any laws in his public administration. (Aristot. Pol. 3.9.5, 4.8.2; Hesych. sub voce) Hence Theophrastus calls the office τυραννὶς αἱρετή, and Dionysius (5.73) compares it with the dictatorship at Rome. It was not hereditary; but it was sometimes held for life, and at other times only till some object was accomplished, such as the reconciling of the various factions in the state, and the like. We have only one express instance in which a person received the title of Aesymnetes, namely, that of Pittacus, in Mytilene, who was appointed to this dignity because the state had been long torn asunder by the various factions, and who succeeded in restoring peace and order by his wise regulations and laws. (Dionys. A. R. 5.73; Strab. xiii. p.617; Plut. Sol. 4; D. L. 1.75; Plehn, Lesbiaca, pp. 46, 48.) There were, however, no doubt many other persons who ruled under this title for a while in the various states of Greece, and those legislators bore a strong resemblance to the aesymnetes, whom their fellow-citizens appointed with supreme power to enact laws, as Dracon, Solon, Zaleucus, and Charondas. In some states, such as Cyme and Chalcedon, it was the title borne by the regular magistrates. (Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthum. i. pp. 423, 441, 2nd ed.; Tittmann, Griech. Staatsv. p. 76, &c.; Schömann, Antiq. Jur. Publ. Graec. p. 88; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 63.)

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