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DEMUS (δῆμος: on the etymology see Liddell and Scott, ed. 7), a country district, Lat. pagus. In contrasting “town” ( πόλις) and “country” ( περιοικίς), the Dorians called the divisions of the latter κῶμαι, the Athenians δῆμοι (Aristot. Poet. 3.6). Hence in the earlier Greek poets we find αῆμος applied to the outlying country population who tilled the lands of the inhabitants of the πόλις ( Hom. Il. 3.50; Od. 6.3, 8.555, 11.14, 14.43; Hes. Op. 527).

The Demes ( δῆμοι), as the subdivisions of Attica were called, had existed from a remote period, though in smaller numbers than they subsequently attained. As in the rest of Greece, many of them had been originally independent cities, each with its own πρυτανεῖον and βουλή: but the revolution ascribed to Theseus had consolidated the whole of Attica under one government, all the local magistracies and councils being made to centre in the prytaneum and senate of Athens. Henceforward Athens was the one city in the land; the demes became constituent portions of Athenian territory (Thuc. 2.15). “Of the general fact there is no reason to doubt, though the operative cause assigned by the historian, the power and sagacity of Theseus, belongs to legend and not to history” (Grote, pt. ii. ch. 10, vol. ii. p. 277). Traces of this former independence survived to later times: Eleusis, alone among Attic demes, was allowed to retain the title of πόλις, and to coin its own money (Strab. ix. p.395; cf. Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.193; a coin of Eleusis in Dict. Geogr. s. v.). A standing feud between the demes of Pallene and Hagnus1 dated from the mythical wars, and they refused each other the right of intermarriage ( ἐπιγαμία) and the friendly greeting ( Ἀκούετε λεῴ) of the herald (Plut. Thes. 13). The ἐγκτητικὸν moreover, or tax on the occupation of land or houses in a different deme from that to which men belonged by birth, shows a curious survival of the ancient exclusive spirit of citizenship at a time when all were, in common, citizens of Athens alone. It is from the time of Cleisthenes that the historic importance of the demes commences. His legislation abolished the four old Ionic tribes for all but ceremonial purposes [ PHYLOBASILEIS], while the gentes and phratries which composed them continued to exist as family and religious associations, but without political privilege. The new political organisation consisted of ten tribes, and of demes, stated to have now amounted to one hundred. The ten new tribes were not, strictly speaking, territorial divisions of the country. The older writers, who regarded them in this light, found a difficulty in the fact that demes of the same tribe were situated at opposite extremities of Attica (Thirlwall, Hist. Gr. 2.74 and App. i. to same volume). In reality the already existing demes, probably with their numbers increased by subdivision,, became the political units or “primitive constituent element of the commonwealth” (Grote); and the tribes were mere groups of demes arbitrarily arranged, and in no case all adjacent to [p. 1.615]each other. The priority of the demes to the tribes is implied in the account of Herodotus, that Cleisthenes “distributed” the demes among the tribes by tens ( δέκα δὲ καὶ τοὺς δήμους κατένειμε ἐς τὰς φυλάς, Hdt. 5.69: on this, the right explanation of δέκα in this passage, cf. Stein ad loc.; Schömann, Antiq. 1.365 n., E. T. ; Grote, ch. 31, 3.115 n.). The distinction drawn by Dionysius (4.14) between the earlier Roman tribes and those of Servius, calling the former genealogical ( φυλαὶ γενικαί) and the latter local ( τοπικαί), applies also to the old-Ionic and the Cleisthenean tribes at Athens; but the ten Attic tribes were only so far local as being formed out of an aggregate of demes or parishes, not as themselves identified with a particular part of the country. The motives of this change are expressed by Aristotle as “the more complete fusion of all interests and the breaking up of old ties or associations” (ὅπως ἂν ὅτι μάλιστα ἀναμιχθῶσι πάντες ἀλλήλοις, αἱ δὲ συνήθειαι διαζευχθῶσιν αἱ πρότερον, Pol. vii. [vi.] 4.19). The local quarrels of the πάραλοι, διάκριοι, and πεδιαῖοι, so rife during the preceding century, now came to an end; the local predominance of the city, and the formation of a city interest distinct from that of the country, was obviated; which could hardly have failed to arise had the city by itself constituted either one deme or one tribe. Cleisthenes distributed the city (or found it already distributed, but this is less likely) into several demes, and these demes among several tribes; while Peiraeus and Phalerum, each constituting a separate deme, were also assigned to different tribes. On the object of this part of the Cleisthenean legislation see further in Grote (l.c. pp. 112-114).

The demes thus constituted bore some resemblance to an English parish, a still closer one to the German Gemeinden (especially in Switzerland), and the French Communes, having, like the latter, municipal organisation. (See these points further worked out in Haussoullier, Vie Munic. en Attique, pp. 207-210.) In extent, likewise, they must have varied within much the same limits as parishes in England: Attica with its 720 square miles being about equal in area to one of the smaller English counties, and the number of demes or parishes, which in both cases gradually increased, being about the same in each. The number of demes before the time of Cleisthenes is not known; but if those with patronymic names ( Βουτάδαι, Σκαμβωνίδαι, Χολλεῖδαι, &c.) were all founded by him, it may have been under seventy, as these last amount to upwards of thirty in our lists. Schömann in his Antiquities (1.365, E. T.) adheres to the opinion expressed in his earlier works, that Cleisthenes raised the number to exactly 100; and so Gilbert ( Staatsalterth. 1.192). K. F. Hermann, while agreeing that this is what Herodotus meant to say, doubts whether the fact were really so ( Staatsalterth. § 111). About B.C. 200 Polemon περιηγητὴς (ap. Strabo ix. p.396) reckoned 174; and some have thought that this had always been the number, and that Cleisthenes left many of them in a subject condition, to be enfranchised in later times (Niebuhr, Hist. Rom. 2.308, E. T.). It is now universally admitted that this number was reached by a process of subdivision, which indeed did not stop here : 182 names of demes, or eight more than the supposed limit, have now been recovered (Gilbert, p. 193 n.); and Szanto thinks that they may have ultimately amounted to 190 ( Untersuch. p. 34: Haussoullier demurs, but gives no reasons, p. 182). Several points connected with the legislation of Cleisthenes are confessedly obscure; but it seems certain that he introduced a uniform system (much as the French did, when at the Revolution they substituted departments for the old provinces), and that his hundred demes covered the whole soil of Attica, including the capital. If we bear in mind the ancient contrast between πόλις and δῆμος, it will seem much more probable that the city demes were now first constituted than that they existed previously, a point which Grote leaves undetermined. There is reason to think that these demes, with the Peiraeus and Phalerum, amounted to just ten, one being assigned to each tribe (compare Dict. Geogr. 1.325 a, with Grote, 3.114 n.); an arrangement which must have tended to equalise the number of citizens in each tribe. There was every reason why the tribes, which contributed equal numbers to the senate and the dicasteries, and perhaps to other offices as well [ARCHON p. 167 a], should be as nearly equal as possible; no reason why they should always have contained the same number of demes, or why the demes themselves should be of equal extent. The growth and movement of the population in the course of time accounts, quite naturally, for the increase in the number of the demes and the re-arrangement of their boundaries. We know that, in fact, the demes varied greatly in size: Acharnae was much the largest, supplying no less than 3000 hoplites in the time of the Peloponnesian war ( οἱ Ἀχαρνῆς μέγα μέρος ὔντες τῆς πόλεως, Thuc. 2.20); Halimus, the deme of Thucydides and of Euxitheus, the plaintiff in the speech against Eubulides, one of the smallest (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1316.57; Haussoullier, p. 182). The names of the demes were derived either from natural features (e. g. Ποταμὸς καθύπερθεν and ὑπένερθεν), from neighbouring places (e. g. Οἶον Δεκελεικόν, Οἶον Κεραμεικόν), from plants which grew there (e. g. Μαραθών, Π̔αμνοῦς, Μυρρινοῦς, Μυρρινοῦττα), from trades carried on in them (e. g. Κεραμεῖς), or from inhabitants (e. g. Ἑκάλη and the patronymics in--δαι generally: ἀπὸ τῶν τόπων, ἀπὸ τῶν παρακειμένων αὐτοῖς, ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς φυτῶν, ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς χειροτεχνῶν, ἀπὸ τῶν οἰκησάντων ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν, Etym. M. s. v. Ἑλεεῖς: cf. Schol. Aristoph. Pl. 586). Like the ten tribes, the first hundred demes all had eponymous heroes, known collectively as the ἑκατὸν ἥρωες (Herodian, περὶ μονηροῦς λέξεως, 17, 8; Schömann, Antiq. 1.367, E. T.); a fact which lends some plausibility to Leake's conjecture, οἰκισάντων for οἰκησάντων in the passage from the Etym. M. The demes with gentile or patronymic names are ascribed, as we have seen, either wholly or in part to Cleisthenes; and Schömann has pointed out that they were situated mainly in that part of the country which has been assigned to the old--Ionic tribe of the Γελέοντες, and where accordingly the greatest number of noble families and the most important of them lived ( l.c. p. 366 n.). The Butadae were one of the noblest and most exclusive of these families; [p. 1.616]and when their name became that of a deme, the distinction of the original stock was maintained by their calling themselves Eteobutadae or “genuine Butadae.” Thus Lycurgus the orator was τὸν δῆμον Βουτάδης, γένους τοῦ τῶν Ἐτεοβουταδῶν (Plut. Vitt. X. Oratt. p. 841 B). If Philaïdae were really the deme and not the gens of Pisistratus (Plut. Sol. 10), we have an example of a patronymically named deme in the old times. But this is most likely an oversight of Plutarch's; indeed it is doubtful whether, in those days, Athenians were usually described by the name of their deme at all; and in all probability the deme Philaïdae was carved by Cleisthenes out of the territory of Brauron, one of the ancient cities of Attica, though Schömann ( l.c.) thinks that the reverse was the case.

The municipal organisation of the demes was very complete, both from the civil and the religious point of view. They formed independent corporations, and had each their several magistrates, landed and other property, with a common treasury. They had likewise their respective assemblies convened by the demarch, in which was transacted the public business of the deme, such as the leasing of its estates, the annual elections of officers, the revision of the registers or lists of Demotae ( δημόται), and the admission of new members [DEMARCHI]. Other magistrates, besides the demarch, were ταμίαι or treasurers, ἀντιγραφεῖς, controllers or checking clerks, and ὁρισταί, whose office was religious as well as civil: they not only settled boundaries, mostly of sacred places, but saw that the rules of exclusion were enforced (e. g. in the Thesmophorion at Peiraeus, C. I. A. 2.573 b). Each deme appears to have kept what was called a πίναξ ἐκκλησιαστικός, or list of those demotae who were entitled to vote in the general assemblies of the whole people (Dem. c. Leochar. p. 1091.35). In financial matters they supplanted the old naucraries ( ναυκραρίαι) of the four tribes, each deme being required to furnish to the state a certain quota of money and contingent of troops, whenever necessary. Each had, moreover, its peculiar temples and religious worship (δημοτικὰ ἱερά, Paus. 1.31; Pollux, 8.108), with priests chosen annually by the demotae (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1313.46): and priests as well as magistrates had to submit to a δοκιμασία, in the same way as the public officers of the state. At Aexone we find for the religious establishment of this one deme four ἱεροποιοὶ εἰς τὸ τῆς Ἥβης ἱερὸν chosen by lot, two σωφρονισταὶ and a κῆρυξ, in this instance apparently to preserve order in a night-festival (παννυχίς), a ἱερεὺς τῶν Ἡρακλειδῶν, a ἱέρεια τῆς Ἥβης καὶ τῆς Ἀλκμήνης, and an ἄρχων attached to the service of the two goddesses ( C. I. A. 2.581). In Halimus a priest of Heracles, a favourite form of demotic worship in Attica, is chosen by lot from among the εὐγενέστατοι (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1313.46; 1318.62). In Athmonon we have a decree in honour of six μεράρχαι, who had shown liberality in providing sacrifices (apparently as a local λειτουργία) for the festival of the Amarysia ( C. I. A. 2.580). The scamping of public works was prevented by ἐπιτιμηταί, as in the theatre at Peiraeus ( C. I. A. 2.573; cf. Boeckh, Sthh. 3 1.260). Further details on the ἱερὰ δημοτικὰ will be found in the elaborate work of Haussoullier, pp. 136-173. The δικασταὶ κατὰ δήμους belonged to the public, not the demotic organisation [ TETTARACONTA, HOI].

Cleisthenes, like Solon before him, admitted many foreigners to the franchise, who according to his system were necessarily enrolled among the demes. The right explanation of the much-canvassed phrase in Aristotle (πολλοὺς ἐφυλέτευσε ξένους καὶ δούλους μετοίκους, Pol. 3.2 = p. 1275 b, 37) is that he made citizens both of free-born foreigners ( ξένοι) and slaves who by emancipation had already become μέτοικοι (Grote, ch. 31, 3.110 n.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.144). Since a son was registered in the deme of his natural or adoptive father, non-residence must soon have become common; but this would not cause any inconvenience, as the meetings of each deme were not held within its limits, but at Athens (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1302.10). The only difference it made was the payment of the ἐγκτητικὸν to the demotic treasury, which however was sometimes remitted by decree [ENCTESIS]. Those who in later times acquired the citizenship by vote of the Athenian people (the δημοποίητοι) were usually allowed to select at pleasure the deme, tribe, and phratry in which they would be enrolled; see the inscriptions quoted under CIVITAS pp. 443 b, 444 a.

Two of the most important functions of the general assemblies of the demes were the admission of new members and the revision of the names of members already admitted. The register of enrolment was called κοινὸν γραμματεῖον (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1317.60; Bekk. Anecd. 272, 27), or more usually ληξιαρχικὸν γραμματεῖον (Isae. Or. 7 [Apollod.], § 27; Dem. c. Leoch. p. 109<*>, § 35), because any person whose name was inscribed on it could enter upon an inheritance and enjoy a patrimony ( διὰ τὸ τῶν λήξεων ἄρχειν: λήξεις δ᾽ εἰσὶν ὁλ τε κλῆροι καὶ αἱ οὐσίαι, Harpocrat. s.v. Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.187); λαγχάνειν κλῆρον being thus equivalent to the Roman phrase adire hereditatem. These registers were kept by the demarchs, who, with the approbation of the members of the deme assembled in general meeting, inserted or erased names according to circumstances. Thus, when a youth was proposed for enrolment, it was competent for any demote to object to his admission on the ground of illegitimacy, or non-citizenship by the side of either parent. The demotae decided on the validity of these objections under the sanction of an oath, and the question was determined by a majority of votes (Dem. c. Eubul. p. 1318.61). The same process was observed when a citizen changed his deme in consequence of adoption (Isae. Or. 7 [Apollod.], § § 28, 29). Sometimes however a demarch was bribed to place, or assist in placing, on the register of a deme, persons who had no claim to citizenship (Dem. c. Leoch. p. 1091.37). To remedy this admission of spurious citizens ( παρέγγραπτοι) the διαψήφισις was instituted [ DIAPSEPHISIS]. Lastly, as inscriptions abundantly show, crowns and other honorary distinctions could be awarded by the demes in the same way as by the tribes. (Grote, ch. 10, 2.272 ff.; ch. 31, 3.108 ff.; K. F. Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 111, &c.; Schömann, Antiq. 1.336, 366 f., E. T. ; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.142 ff., 192 ff.; Szanto, Untersuchungen über das Attische Bürgerrecht, Vienna, [p. 1.617]Haussoullier, La Vie Municipale en Attique, &c., Paris, 1884: and for the geography of the demes, Leake, Demi of Attica, ed. 2, 1841; Ross, Die Demen von Attica, Halle, 1846; Dict. Geogr. 1.325-336.) [R.W] [W.W]

(Appendix). The ten Cleisthenean tribes, like the four old-Ionic, were divided each into three τριττύες: the number of demes must have been unevenly distributed among trittyes as well as tribes ( Ἀθ. πολ. 100.21). The same passage confirms what is stated as probable [DEMUS p. 616 a], that before the time of Cleisthenes, Athenians were not described by the name of their deme.

1 Or Agnus; the breathing is doubtful. Inscriptions, so useful in determining the true spelling of demotic names (e. g. Κολλυτεὺς, not Κολυττεὺς as in some MSS.), do not help us here.

hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Aristophanes, Plutus, 586
    • Aristotle, Poetics, 1448a
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.69
    • Homer, Iliad, 3.50
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.14
    • Homer, Odyssey, 14.43
    • Homer, Odyssey, 6.3
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.555
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.31
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.15
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.20
    • Plutarch, Solon, 10
    • Plutarch, Theseus, 13
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