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EPO´NYMUS (ἐπώνυμος), having or giving a name, was the surname of the first of the nine archons at Athens, because his name, like that of the consuls at Rome, was used in public records to mark the year [ARCHON]. The expression ἐπώνυμοι τῶν ἡλικιῶν, whose number is stated by Suidas, the Etymologicum Magn., and other grammarians, to have been forty, likewise applies to the chief archons of Athens. Every Athenian had to serve in the army from his 20th to his 60th year, i. e. during the archonship of forty archons. Now, as an army generally consisted of men from the age of 20 to that of 60, the forty archons under whom they had been enlisted were called ἐπώνυμοι τῶν ἡλικιῶν, in order to distinguish them from the επώνυμοι τῶν φυλῶν. (Compare Demosth. ap. Harpoc. s. v. Ἐπώνυμοι, and Bekker, Anecdota, p. 245.) At Sparta the first of the five ephors gave his name to the year, and was therefore called ἔφορος ἐπώνυμος (Paus. 3.11.2).

It was a very prevalent tendency among the ancients in general to refer the origin of their institutions to some ancient or fabulous hero (ἀρχηγέτης. Orac. ap. Dem. c. Macart. p. 1072.66), from whom, in most cases, the institution was also believed to have derived its name, so that the hero became its ἀρχηγέτης ἐπώνυμος. Thus each of the Attic demi had its own eponymus or patron. In later times new institutions were often named after ancient heroes, on account of some fabulous or legendary connexion which was thought to exist between them and the new institutions, and the heroes thus became, as it were, their patrons or tutelary deities. A striking instance of this custom are the names of the ten Attic tribes instituted by Cleisthenes, all of which were named after some national hero ([Demosth.] Epitaph. p. 1397, &c.; Paus. 1.5). These ten heroes who were at Athens, generally called the ἐπώνυμοι, or ἐπώνυμοι τῶν φυλῶν, were honoured with statues, which stood in the Kerameikos, near the Tholos (Paus. 1.5.1; Suidas and Etym. M. s. v. Ἐπώνυμοι). If an Athenian citizen wished to make proposals for a new law, he exhibited them for public inspection in front of one of these statues of the ἐπώνυμοι, whence the expressions ἐκθεῖναι πρόσθεν τῶν ἐπωνύμων, or πρὸς τοὺς ἐπωνύμους. (Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 39; Wolf, Proleg. ad Demosth. Leptin. p. 133. Comp. Schömann, Antiq. i. pp. 320, 367, 369, 370, 412, 454, E. T.) [L.S]

(Appendix). Under this head we have to notice a new explanation of the difficult phrase ἐπώνυμοι τῶν ἡλικιῶν. In 100.53 we read εἰσὶ γὰρ ἐπώνυμοι δέκα μὲν οἱ τῶν φυλῶν, δύο δὲ καὶ τετταράκοντα οἱ τῶν ἡλικιῶν: and that formerly the names of the ἔφηβοι were written εἰς λελευκωμένα γραμματεῖα, and in the time of the writer εἰς στήλην χαλκῆν καὶ ἵσταται στήλη πρὸ τοῦ βουλε[υτ]ηρίου παρὰ τοὺς ἐπωνύμους. Mr. Kenyon observes: “It seems that for the purposes of military service a cycle of forty-two years was arranged, to each of which a name was given, probably chosen, like those of the eponymi of the ten tribes, from the heroes of Athenian legendary history. Thus when a youth was enrolled in the lists of the tribes and became liable for military service, his name was entered on a roll, with the name of the year according to the archon and the name of [p. 1.1069]the eponymous hero from whom his military service was to be dated.” (The meaning of ἐπώνυμος τῷ προτέρῳ [ἔτει] δε διαιτηκὼς is not explained.) “For all official purposes, such as the indication of what years were to be called out for service on any particular occasion, these names were employed:” χρῶνται δὲ τοῖς ἐπωνύμοις καὶ πρὸς τὰς στρατείας, καὶ ὅταν ἡλικίαν ἐκπέμπωσι προγράφουσιν ἀπὸ τίνος ἄρχοντος καὶ ἐπων[ύμου μ]έχρι τινῶν δεῖ στρατεύεσθαι. [App. s. v. DIAETETAE] As a matter of fact the orators use a shorter expression: ψηφισαμένων δ᾽ ὑμῶν . . . καὶ τοὺς μέχρὶ τριάκοντ̓ ἔτη γεγονότας ἐξιέναι, Aeschin. F. L. § 133: ἐψηφίσασθε . . . καὶ τοὺς μέχρι πέντε καὶ τετταράκοντα ἐτῶν αὐτοὺς ἐμβαίνειν, Dem. Olynth. iii. p. 29.4: cf. Lycurg. c. Leocr. § 39.

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.11.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.5.1
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