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EUMO´LPIDAE (Εὐμολπίδαι), the most distinguished and venerable among the priestly families in Attica, believed to be the descendants of the Thracian bard Eumolpus, the introducer of the Eleusinian mysteries into Attica (Diod. 1.29; Apollod. 3.15.4; Lycurg. c. Leocr. § 98; ELEUSINIA p. 716 a). The ἱεροφάντης was always a member of the family of the Eumolpidae, as Eumolpus himself was believed to have been the first hierophant. (Hesych. sub voce Εὐμολπίδαι: Tac. Hist. 4.83; Arnob. 5.25; Clemens Alex. Protrept. p. 16, &c.) For the duties and official dress of the hierophant, see ELEUSINIA 5, p. 720 b.

The hierophant was attended by four ἐπιμεληταὶ τῶν μυστηρίων, one of whom likewise belonged to the family of the Eumolpidae. [EPIMELETAE No. 4.] Other members of their family do not seem to have had any particular functions at the Eleusinia, though, together with the second great priestly family of the Kerykes, they were hereditary guardians of the mysteries. The latter family were variously described as descended from a younger son of Eumolpus, or from Hermes and Aglauros. The Eumolpidae and Kerykes had on certain occasions to offer up prayers for the welfare of the state ; for these duties, and for the sacred treasures entrusted to their care, they were individually and collectively responsible (Aeschin. c. Ctes. § 18).

The Eumolpidae (perhaps also the Kerykes, as Caillemer conjectures) had also certain judicial powers in cases of ἀσέβεια, but only, it would seem, where the mysteries were concerned. Two modes of prosecution for impiety are coupled together, δικάζεσθαι πρὸς Εὐμολπίδας and φράζειν πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα: the two processes must have been practically identical, the king archon acting as εἰσαγωγεὺς or ἡγεμὼν δικαστηρίου, and the Eumolpidae furnishing a jury (Dem. c. Androt. p. 601.27, with Wayte's note). The law according to which they pronounced their sentence, and of which they had the exclusive possession, was not written, but handed down by tradition; and the Eumolpidae alone had the right to interpret it (ἐξηγεῖσθαι), or where the law was silent, to act according to their own discretion ([Lys.] c. Andoc. § 10; EXEGETAE). We agree, however, with Caillemer, that the action of the Eumolpidae must have been confined to “spiritual censures,” such as exclusion from the mysteries, or reduction of a μύστης to the ranks of the uninitiated. In democratic Athens none but purely ceremonial functions were left to the old aristocracy. [EUPATRIDAE; EPHETAE.] When, therefore, we read that it was death for an ἄτιμος to enter the sacred precinct of Eleusis (Andoc. de Myst. § 33), or for anyone to put the suppliant bough (ἱκετηρία, § 110) in the wrong place or at the wrong time, we may be quite sure that the Eumolpidae, if they declared the “sacred law” on the subject, had no voice in the capital sentence. In some cases, when a person was convicted of gross violation of the public institutions of his country, the people, besides sending the offender into exile, added a clause in their verdict that a curse should be pronounced upon him by the Eumolpidae (Plut. Alc. 22; Corn. Nep. Alcib. 4, 5). But the Eumolpidae could pronounce such a curse only at the command of the people, and might afterwards be compelled by the people to revoke it and purify the person whom they had cursed before (Plut. Alc. 33; Corn. Nep. Alcib. 6, 5). Cf. Caillemer, ap. D. and S., s. v. Asebeias Graphé.

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hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.15.4
    • Plutarch, Alcibiades, 22
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.83
    • Cornelius Nepos, Alcibiades, 4
    • Cornelius Nepos, Alcibiades, 6.5
    • Plutarch, Alcibiades, 33
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.29
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