previous next


EPHE´BUS (ἔφηβος), the name applied to Athenian youths between the ages of eighteen and twenty. The word ἥβη as Blümner points out, is used in two senses, physical ἥβη or puberty at the age of sixteen, and legal or civil ἥβη two years later (Hermann-Blümner, Privat-alterth. p. 322). The phrase ἐπὶ διετὲς ἡβῆσαι was consequently applied to the age of eighteen, at which the young Athenian attained his majority as regarded private legal relations. (For the margin allowed in cases of bodily immaturity, the nature of the examination (δοκιμασία), and the full discussion of the words ἐπὶ διετὲς ἡβῆσαι, see DOKIMASIA) He was now entered on the ληξιαρχικὸν γραμματεῖον or register of his deme (Lycurg. c. Leocr. § 76); the notion of Pollux (8.105) and Harpocration that this was not done till the completion of the twentieth year is sufficiently accounted for by their not knowing the true meaning of ἐπὶ διετὲς ἡβῆσαι, and is now universally rejected. He was likewise admitted, at least on sufferance, to the Ecclesia, where in later times the ἔφηβοι were charged with police duties [ECCLESIA p. 700 b]. The marriage of a youth of eighteen is mentioned as being nothing unusual (Dem. c. Boeot. de Dot. p. 1011.12); and in the well-known instance of Demosthenes himself, we see the orator at that age claiming his patrimony, bringing an action against his guardians and pleading his own cause: at this time he calls himself an ἔφηβος (c. Onet. i. p. 868.15).

Military training, likewise, began with the ἐφηβεία, which may be considered as a kind of apprenticeship in arms. The δοκιμασία seems to have taken place at the time of the elections (ἀρχαιρεσίαι, Isae. Or. 7 [Apollod.], § 28 ; Dem. c. Leoch. p. 1092.39), i. e. in the early part of the ninth prytany [ECCLESIA p. 702 b]. After this the ephebi were solemnly introduced before the people assembled in the theatre, and received publicly a shield and a lance (Aristot. ap. Harpocrat. s. v. δοκιμασία); while those whose fathers had fallen in the defence of their country, and who had consequently been brought up at the public expense, received a complete suit of armour (Aeschin. Ctes. § 154; Plat. Menex. 249 A). Thus equipped, they were led to the temple of Aglauros, and there took an oath by which they pledged themselves never to disgrace their arms or to desert their comrades; to fight to the last in defence of their country, its altars and hearths; to leave their country not in a worse but in a better state than they found it; to obey the magistrates and the laws; to resist all attempts to subvert the institutions of Attica, and finally to respect the religion of their forefathers. This oath is alluded to, Dem. F. L. p. 438.303 = 346; partly quoted, Lycurg. l.c.; more fully, but with slight variations, Stob. Flor. 43.48, Poll. 8.105. A curious touch of aggressive patriotism, omitted by these authors, is preserved in Plut. Alc. 15 and Cic. de Rep. 3.9: “that they would regard every country as Attic soil where wheat and barley, vines and olives could grow.” Modern criticism, however, doubts the genuineness of [p. 1.740]this oath so far as it rests only upon the testimony of grammarians (Cobet, Nov. Lect. p. 223 ; Schömann, Antiq. 1.359, E. T.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.296, n.).

As commonly stated, the ephebi served as περίπολοι, i. e. on patrol (Xen. de Vect. 4, § 47; Aristoph. Birds 1177) and garrison duty (Eupolis, fr. 357 M.), in Attica, during the whole two years of their ἐφηβεία (Plat. Legg. 6.760 C; Aeschin. F. L. § 167; Pollux, 8.106; Photius, s. v. περίπολος). Another view is that the first year was spent in military exercises, and only the second in the capacity of περίπολοι: a passage of Aristotle (ap. Harpocrat. s. v. περίπολος) refers the appearance in the theatre and the presentation of arms to the second year, after an examination in tactics (Dittenberger, de Epheb. Att. p. 12; Gilbert, l.c.). The two years of περιπολία, however, are supported by a greater weight, both of ancient authorities and modern critics (Schömann, p. 360; Philippi, in N. Rhein. Mus. 34.613). The military training of the ephebi was under the direction of the strategi, one of whom seems to have been specially charged with it (Dinarch. c. Philocl. § 15); other instructors were of course employed. The duty of superintending their morals and manners was entrusted to a board of σωφρονισταί, whom we find likewise in the gymnasium, and who were themselves controlled and perhaps chosen by the Areiopagus (Phot., Etym. M., s. v.; Bekk. Anecd. 301, 7; [Plat.] Axioch. 367 A). At the age of twenty they ceased to be ephebi, were under no special restraint, and were liable to foreign service.

The distinguishing costume of the ephebi was the χλαμύς, their head-dress the πέτασος (ἐλλραφῆναι καὶ λαβεῖν τὸ χλαμύδιον εἰς ἐφήβους γίγνεσθαι, Antidot. ap. Ath. 6.240 b; Pollux, 10.163, 164; Hermann-Blümner, Privat-alterth. p. 180).

(Besides Schömann, Gilbert, and Hermann-Blümner, the following monographs may be consulted: W. Dittenberger, de Ephébis Atticis, Götting. 1863; A. Dumont, Essai sur l'Ephebie Attique, Paris, 1876; Portelette, L'Ephébie en Grèce, in L'Instruction Publique for Dec. 1878; Grasberger, Erziehung und Unterricht, 3.1 ff. Compare also A. Schaefer, Dem. u. seine Zeit, iii. pt. 2, 19 ff.)

[L.S] [W.W]

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