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ἄρχων). “Ruler.” The Athenian name for the supreme authority established on the abolition of royalty. On the death of the last king, Codrus, B.C. 1068, the headship of the state for life was bestowed on his son Medon and his descendants under the title of Archon. In B.C. 752 their term of office was reduced to ten years; in 714 their exclusive privilege was abolished, and the right to hold the office thrown open to all the nobility, while its duration was diminished to one year; finally in B.C. 683 the power was divided among nine Archons. By Solon's legislation his wealthiest class, the πεντακοσιομέδιμνοι, became eligible to the office; and by Aristides' arrangement after the Persian Wars, it was thrown open to the whole body of citizens, Clisthenes having previously, in the interests of the democracy, substituted the drawing of lots for election by vote. The political power of the office, having steadily decreased with time, sank to nothing when democracy was established; its holders had no longer even the right to deliberate and originate motions, their action being limited to certain priestly and judicial functions, relics of their once regal power.

The titles and duties of the several archons were as follows:


Their president, named emphatically Archon or Archon Eponymus (ἄρχων ἐπώνυμος) because the civil year was named after him. He had charge of the Great Dionysia, the Thargelia, the embassies to festivals (θεωρίαι), and the nomination of choregi; also the position of guardianin-chief, and the power to appoint guardians; the presidency in all suits about family rights (such as questions of divorce or inheritance), and in disputes among the choregi.


The Archon Basileus (ἄρχων βασιλεύς), called so because on him devolved certain sacred rites inseparably connected with the name of king. He had the care of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and was obliged therefore to be an initiated person; of the Lenaea and Anthesteria; of gymnastic contests, over which he appointed a superintendent; and of a number of antiquated sacrifices, some of which fell to the share of his wife, the βασίλισσα (queen); and lastly, the position of president in all suits touching religious law, including those trials for murder that came within the jurisdiction of the Ephetae (q.v.).


The Archon Polemarchos (ἄρχων πολέμαρχος, leader in war) was originally intrusted with the war department, and as late as the battle of Marathon had the right of voting with the ten generals, and the old royal privilege of commanding the right wing. After wards he only had charge of the state sacrifices offered to the gods of war and to the shade of Harmodius; the public funerals of those who fell in war, and the annual feasts in honour of them; and finally, jurisdiction in all questions concerning the personal and family rights of resident aliens (μέτοικοι) and strangers. All this rested on the old assumption that foreigner meant enemy. Each of these three superior archons had two assessors chosen by himself, but respousible.


The six Thesmothetae (θεσμοθέται, law-givers) administered justice in all cases not pertaining to the senior archons or some other authority, revised the laws once a year, and superintended the apportioning of public offices by lot. The several archons exercised their jurisdiction at different places in the city; that of the Polemarch alone lay outside the walls. Duties common to all nine were: the yearly appointment by lot of the Heliastae (q.v.), the choice of umpires in the Panathenaea, the holding of elections of the generals and other military officers, jurisdiction in the case of officials suspended or deposed by the people, and latterly even in suits which had previously been subject to the nautodicae. (See Nautodicae.) If they had discharged their office without blame they entered the Areopagus as members for life. (See Areopagus.) The office of archon lasted even under the Roman rule. See Lugebil, Zur Geschichte der Staatsverfassung von Athen (Leipzig, 1871); Meier, Index Archontum Eponymorum, etc.

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