previous next


ZETE´TAE (ζητηταί), commissioners of inquiry, were appointed at Athens on special occasions as extraordinary officers, not as a regular magistracy; and were of two kinds, sometimes confused by grammarians (Harpocrat., Poll. 8.115) and by modern writers. 1. Criminal investigators or inquisitors, to discover the authors of some crime against the state, and bring them to justice. The court of Areiopagus often discharged the office of inquisitors for the state, and were sometimes armed with special powers by the people in assembly [AREIOPAGUS Vol. I. p. 176b). During the panic consequent on the mutilation of the Hermae, the βουλὴ received absolute power to investigate (ἦν γὰρ αὐτοκράτωρ, Andoc. de Myst. § 15), but ζητηταὶ were also appointed (ib. § § 14, 36, 40, 65). This is perhaps the only occasion on which ζητηταὶ are mentioned in connexion with an inquiry other than financial. 2. Ζητηταὶ were more frequently appointed to search for confiscated property, the goods of condemned criminals and state debtors; to invite and receive information against any persons who concealed, or assisted in concealing them, and to deliver an inventory (ἀπογραφὴ) of all such goods to the proper authorities. The delinquent was then prosecuted, either before the σύνδικοι [SYNDICUS], or it might be before the ζητηταὶ themselves, if their commission extended to the holding of a ἡγεμονία δικαστηρίου. Any person, however, who had claims against the goods which were the subject of such information, might petition to have such claims settled while the confiscation was still in process and before the state had taken possession: this was called ἐνεπισκήψασθαι ([Dem.] c. Timoth. pp. 1197-8, § § 45, 46, 47; the subst. ἐνεπίσκημμα only in Harpocrat.). Such overhaulings of the treasury by the appointment of ζητηταὶ were especially frequent in times of chronic deficit, such as the Social War and the years immediately succeeding it (Dem. c. Timocr. p. 703.11); but there are earlier examples (Lys. ἀπολ. δωροδ. § 16). In the case of the alleged bribery by Harpalus we find a decree τὴν βουλὴν ζητεῖν (Dinarch. c. Dem. § § 4, 55). According to Schöll, the ζητηταὶ were only introduced for a short time after the expulsion of the Thirty, and then replaced by the συλλογεῖς: the more probable opinion, already maintained under SYLLOGEIS is that the συλλογεῖς were appointed only on that single occasion, the ζητηταὶ more frequently. They were technically an ἀρχή, though classed by Pollux (8.114, 115) among the ὑπηρέται or underlings [HYPERETES in Vol. I.]: as Boeckh remarks, it was an office which men of high rank were not ashamed to accept. Another name for commissioners of inquiry into confiscated property was μαστῆρες (Hyperid. ap. Harpocrat. s.v. Suid., Phot., s. vv. μαστῆρες and μάστειρες: Lex. Seguer. p. 279). The 17th and 19th speeches of Lysias, the διαδικασία and de Bonis Aristoph., throw considerable light on [p. 2.992]the way such inquiries were conducted at Athens. (Harpocrat. s. v. ζητητής: Boeckh, P. E. p. 158=Sthh.3 1.192; Fränkel, n. 247 on Boeckh; Att. Process, p. 126 Lips.; R. Schöll, Quaestiones fiscales juris Attici ex Lysiae orationibus illustratae, Berlin, 1873.)

[C.R.K] [W.W]

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