name of certain judges at Athens, invested with jurisdiction in cases of
homicide. They were fifty-one in number (hence sometimes called simply
οἱ πεντήκοντα καὶ εἷς,
Lex ap. Dem.
p. 1069.57), selected from noble families
), and more
than fifty years of age (Pollux, 8.125).
Their early history and the origin of their name are involved in much
obscurity. The latter is usually derived from ἐφίημι,
either (1) in the sense “judges of
) now generally
rejected; or (2) as letting slip the avenger of blood upon his victim
(οἳ ἐφιᾶσι τῷ ἀνδροφόνῳ τὸν
: O. Müller, Diss. on Eumenid.
§ 65); or (3) as “directors” of the trial
1.553, E. T.; Lipsius, Att.
p. 18). This last is the simplest, and decidedly
preferable; cf. ἐφετμή,
“command.” Two other conjectures may be noticed: (a) from root
“to sit” (Forchhammer in Philol.
the improbability of this is pointed out by Schömann, l.c.,
and Gilbert, p. 121 n.: (b
) from ἔται,
cives optimo jure,
as if οἱ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἔταις ὄντες
(Lange, [p. 1.741]Die Epheten u. d. Areopag,
p. 13 f.). This is
approved by Gilbert; but Lipsius (l.c.
p. 19 n.)
very justly doubts the Attic usage of ἔτης
in this sense; and besides, why should judges of homicide be in any special
sense ἐπὶ τοῖς ἔταις̣
of the Ephetae is ascribed to Draco (Poll. l.c.
and this view was upheld until quite lately, as by Grote (pt. ii. ch. 10,
2.286) and Schömann in his latest work (Antiq.
1.324, E. T.). According to Schömann, the appointment of a tribunal
distinct from the Areiopagus, for the trial of cases of bloodshed, was a
concession to the popular discontent; but as the new judges were still
chosen from the Eupatrids only, the discontent was not allayed. The best
recent criticism (Lange, Philippi, Gilbert) regards the Ephetae, no less
than the Areiopagus, as among the primitive institutions of Attica; and
Lange suggests that the nine archons and the fifty-one Ephetae may together
have formed an aristocratic state-council of sixty members, divisible by
four, the number of the old-Ionic tribes; and that this may have been, in
fact, the pre-Solonian Areiopagus, charged, among its other duties, with
trials for murder. This is highly ingenious, and is the only attempt yet
made to explain the number of fifty-one Ephetae. The early existence of a
senate or council at Athens, analogous to the Gerusia at Sparta and
possessing jurisdiction in cases of homicide, had been already inferred
Thirlwall, 2.41). But there
is still a difficulty. It seems to be admitted that Draco enlarged the
powers of the Ephetae, and made them, whether pre-existing or not, the sole
tribunal in cases of homicide: on the other hand, that legislator is not
regarded as the author of sweeping constitutional changes; and if he
separated the Ephetae from the Areiopagus, he must have denuded the latter
body of more than five-sixths of its members, unless he also re-organised
the Areiopagus to an extent which is nowhere attested. We may agree with
Plutarch (Plut. Sol. 19
) that both Areiopagus
and Ephetae existed before Solon, and probably also before Draco; but the
reconstruction of the early constitution of Athens is so purely conjectural,
that we must content ourselves with the cautious statement of Grote (l.c.
), “Whether the Ephetae and the
Areiopagites were the same persons, wholly or partially, our information
is not sufficient to discover.” The number fifty-one may perhaps
be accounted for by the preference for odd numbers, in order to prevent an
equality of votes, shown in later times by the juries of 201, 501,
&c. dicasts [DICASTES
p. 628 a
]. For a fuller discussion of these
questions we refer to Gilbert, Staatsalterth.
Lange, Die Epheten und der Areopag vor Solon;
Der Areopag und die Epheten.
The thirty years between Draco and Solon (about B.C. 624-594) mark the limits
of the plenary authority of the Ephetae. To this period must be referred the
statement of Pollux (l.c.
) that they sat in the five
courts in which bloodshed was tried, i. e. in the Areiopagus and the four
courts named below. The φονικοὶ νόμοι,
indeed, of Draco were retained by Solon, and still subsisted in the time of
Demosthenes (c. Aristocr.
p. 636.51; c. Euerg. et
p. 1161.71); but the φονικαὶ
including trials for crimes allied to murder, such as
malicious wounding, arson, and poisoning (Dem. c. Aristocr.
p. 628.24; the “law” in § 22 is compiled from the
orator's own words), were restored by Solon's legislation to the Areiopagus,
now at all events a distinct body from the Ephetae. Henceforward they sat in
four courts only, and these of minor importance,--that by the Palladium
(τὸ ἐπὶ Παλλαδίῳ
), by the
Delphinium (τὸ ἐπὶ Δελφινὶῳ
), by the
Prytaneum (τὸ ἐπὶ Πρυτανείῳ
), and the
court at Phreatto or Zea (τὸ ἐν
). For the curious regulations of these courts, see DICASTERION
p. 626 b;
PHONOU DIKÉ, near the beginning. Such
ceremonial distinctions can only date from a very early period, and
themselves furnish an almost conclusive proof of the high antiquity of the
Ephetae. The four courts, it has been seen, dealt with bloodshed mainly from
the religious point of view, and not as a crime against society. When, as in
the lesser cases of homicide, the punishment was not death or perpetual
), the perpetrator had
still to undergo a temporary exile (the so-called ἀπενιαυτισμός,
not necessarily for one year only; EXSILIUM
). Such ceremonial
matters as the atonement for blood, the purification of the shedder of it,
and his reconciliation (αἰδεῖσθαι
the relatives of the slain, came under the sacred law of Athens, the
knowledge of which was confined to the old nobility, even after they had
lost their political power [EUPATRIDAE; EXEGETAE].
The Ephetae accordingly retained the right of decision in actions for
manslaughter, in which a temporary flight was followed by expiation, and
also in cases of justifiable homicide, whether from the similarity of the
latter (as regards the guilt of the perpetrator) to acts of accidental
homicide, or as requiring a like expiation. The actual laws of Athens are
here closely followed by Plato (Legg,
9.864 E-867 E; cf. 874
A further case is recorded by Demosthenes (c. Aristocr.
632.38); the banished manslayer, as long as he kept outside the country, was
entitled to the same protection as any other Athenian, and any one who slew
him out of revenge committed an offence against the sacred law. Here the
Ephetae are said διαγιγνώσκειν,
determine the question whether the sacred law had been violated or not; it
does not follow that they conducted the actual trial. Again, in the amnesty
carried on the motion of Patrocleides, after the government of the Four
Hundred had been put down, those are excepted who had been condemned by the
Areiopagus, the Ephetae, the Prytaneum, the Delphinium or the king archon
(ap. Andoc. de Myst.
§ 78). For acts of wilful
murder, on the other hand, the punishment was death or ἀειφυγία,
and therefore no expiation (κάθαρσις
) was connected with the administration of justice
in such cases; so that there could be no objection to its being tried by the
Areiopagus, or by a heliastic court, though its members did not of necessity
belong to the old aristocracy.
A trial for murder in the Palladium is recorded as having come off before an
ordinary jury of 700 (i. e. 701) dicasts (Isocr. c. Callim,
§ § 52, 54). We need not infer (with Gilbert, p. 360 n.)
that the Ephetae had lost the right [p. 1.742]
to sit in that
court; when not wanted by them it was doubtless utilised for other purposes
]. The comparatively unimportant and
antiquated duties of the Ephetae in democratic times sufficiently explain
the statement in Pollux (l.c.
) that their court
gradually lost all respect, and became at last an object of ridicule. This
holds good for the 4th century at least, probably earlier; and the attempt
of Forchhammer to explain it away, reading κατηγελάσθη
is not deserving of serious consideration (Gilbert,
). (Cf. Att. Process,
Lipsius, pp. 11-13, 17-22.)