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E´PHORI (Ἔφοροι). Magistrates called Ephori or “overseers” were an ancient Lacedaemonian institution; we find them also in some Lacedaemonian colonies, as in Thera, colonised in early times (C. I. G. No. 2448 = Cauer, Del. Inscr. Gr.2 No. 148: A ἐπὶ ἐφόρων τῶν σὺν Φοιβοτέλει, D ἐπὶ ἐφόρων τῶν σὺν Ἱμέργῳ: see also Boeckh, Kleine Schriften, vi. p. 42), and in the Theraean colony Cyrene (Heracl. Pont. Polit. 4 = Müller, Fragm. Hist. Gr. ii. p. 212), in Heracleia (C. I. G. 5774, 5775 = Cauer, 40, 41), and, by inference, in its metropolis Tarentum: see also Plb. 4.4, 2; 31, 2, for Messene. This shows that the ephoralty had early become a firmly-established magistracy in Sparta, whence it passed into the colonies, but scarcely proves, as O. Müller (Dorians, ii. p. 116 f.) supposes, that it was a peculiarly ancient Dorian institution. The ephoralty at Sparta is classed by Herodotus (1.65) among the institutions of Lycurgus (cf. Xen. de Rep. Lac. 8, 3; [Plat.] Epist. 8, p. 354 B; D. L. 1.68. Plut. Ages. 5, ascribes it to the Λακωνικὸς νομοθέτης, etc.). Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 8.9, 1 S. = 5.11, 1 Bk.; cf. Plut. Lyc. 7; Plat. Legg. iii. p. 692 A; Cic. de Rep. 2.59, de Legg. 3.16) refers the institution of the ephoralty to king Theopompus, who is said to have founded this office with a view to limiting the authority of the king, and to have justified the innovation by remarking that “he handed down the royal power to his descendants more durable, because he had diminished it;” and the Alexandrine chronographi date its institution from 757-6 B.C., probably because the official lists of ephors began with that year (Busolt, Griech. Gesch. i. p. 146, n. 6). These two accounts are not necessarily inconsistent with one another; the ephors may have existed before king Theopompus, but it was in his reign that the lists of ephors were first begun, and probably at the same time some change in their position was effected. It is certain that the ephoralty was not founded with a view of limiting the power of the kings: as late as the second Messenian war the management of the state was entirely in the hands of the kings and the γέροντες (Tyrtaeus, fr. 4 Bergk), and it was many generations after the great Messenian war, as king Cleomenes III. states (Plut. Cleomen. 10), that the ephor Asteropus raised and expanded the power of the ephors (τὸν πρῶτον ἐπισφοδρύναντα τὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ ἀνατεινάμενον), whilst according to D. L. 1.68 Chilon brought about this change. Their number, five, appears to have been always the same (Xen. Ages. 1.36; Roehl, Inscr. gr. antiq. praeter Atticas in Att. Rep. No. 91, ἐβασίλευον Ἆγις, Παυσάνιας. ἔφοροι ἦσαν Θυιωνίδας, Ἀριστογενίδας, Ἀρχίστας, Σολόγας, Φεδίλας. Timaeus, Lex. Platon. s.v., speaks of five μείζους and five ἐλάττους ἔφοροι: and the Etym. M. = Bekk. Anecd. 257, 28, gives nine as their number). Originally, as Cleomenes is represented as saying, the ephors were appointed by the kings (τοὺς βασιλεῖς . . . αἱρεῖσθαί τινας ἐκ τῶν φίλων, cf. Plut. Apophth. Lacon. p. 217 C); at a later period they were elected from the people (ε᾽κ τοῦ δήμου παντός, Arist. Polit. 2.6 (9 Bk.), 14, cf. 2.3 (6 Bk.), 10; 6.7, 5 = 4.9 b Bk.) without any qualification of age or property, and without undergoing any scrutiny (οἱ τυχόντες), so that the δῆμος enjoyed through them a participation in the highest magistracy of the state. The mode of election Aristotle calls very childish (Polit. 2.6 (9 Bk.), 16), and Plato (Legg. iii. p. 692 A) describes their office as ἐγγὺς τῆς κληρωτῆς δυνάμεως: cf. also the expression in Plut. Agis 8, διαπραξάμενος Ἆγις ἔφρον γενέσθαι τὸν Λύανδρον. They entered upon office at the autumnal equinox (Thuc. 5.19, 36), the beginning of the Lacedaemonian year, and the first in rank (προεστὼς τῶν ἐφόρων, Plut. Lyc. 30) gave his name to the year, which was called after him in all civil transactions (Thuc. 2.2, 5.25; Röhl, 83, 84, 86, 88, 91). They held their meetings in a public building called ἀρχεῖον, in which they also ate together (Paus. 3.11, 2; Plut. Cleom. 8, Agis 16; ἐφορεῖον, Xen. Ages. 1, 36): majority of votes decided (Xen. Hell. 2.3, 34). On the expiration of their term of office they had to render an account, probably to their successors (Arist. Rhet. 3.18.6; Plut. Agis 12).

From want of information scholars have had recourse to various hypotheses as to the original functions and power of the ephors. Thus O. Müller (Dorians, ii. p. 119 ff.) supposes that their original duty was the superintendence over sales and over the market (cf. Curtius, Griech. Gesch.5 i. p. 187); A. Schäfer (de Ephor. Laced. p. 7) and Oncken (Staatslehre d. Arist. i. p. 276) see in them the rulers (spartanische Landvögte) of the five towns of the perioeci after the deposition of the local kings; and Grote (ii. p. 351) a board of specially popular origin in contradistinction to the kings and the senate, etc. Cleomenes III. is represented as saying that the ephors were originally nominated by the kings to act for them in a judicial capacity (πρὸς τὸ κρίνειν) during their absence from Sparta in the first Messenian war (Plut. Cleom. 10; cf. Apophth. Lacon. Anaxilas, p. 217 C), probably one for each of the five divisions of the town of Sparta, viz. the πόλις itself and the four κῶμαι around it (Philol. Mus. ii. p. 50 f.). We learn from Herodotus (8.57) that the judicial authority of the kings was limited to certain special cases, adoptions, etc.; and Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 3.1, 7) distinctly says that the ephors decided in civil suits (τὰς τῶν συμβολαίων δικάξει τῶν ἐφόρων ἄλλος ἄλλας) and generally in actions of great importance (κρισέων μεγάλων εἰσὶ κύριοι, 2.6 (9 Bk.), 16). However, it is very unlikely that civil jurisdiction was the starting-point of their power. The very name ἔφοροι points to their having had originally a controlling authority; the edict which they issued on entering upon their office, ordering the citizens to clip their [p. 1.744]moustaches and to obey the laws (Aristotle in Plut. Cleom. 9; Plut. de Ser. Num. Vind. p. 550 B; yet see Becker-Göll, Charikles, iii. p. 296), is evidently of early date, as is also the custom of openly declaring war on the Helots (Aristotle in Plut. Lyc. 28). Such censorial power in the simpler conditions of society carried with it the right of inflicting punishment: owing to this, and especially to the discord of the kings, the ephors encroached upon the royal authority and gained ultimately complete control over the kings. Towards the end of the 6th century the kings, as long as they acted in unity, had exclusively the active management and direction of foreign affairs, subject however to trial and punishment by the ephors in case of misbehaviour (Hdt. 6.82). Thus Cleomenes I. transacted business with foreign ambassadors: with Maeandrius of Samos (Hdt. 3.148), with the Scythian ambassadors (Hdt. 6.84), with Aristagoras of Miletus (Hdt. 5.49-51, 97); the ephors were only called upon to act as magistrates of police in sending Macandrius out of the country (Hdt. 3.148). “The kings could levy war against any state they chose, and no Spartan could impede them on pain of committing sacrilege” (Hdt. 6.56; cf. 5.14, 48 f.). The meaning of this passage cannot be that the kings had only the right of determining the general course and character of each campaign, the right of declaring war resting exclusively with the popular assembly, as has been asserted. The assembly undoubtedly possessed this privilege (Hdt. 5.63, 91, etc.), but so did the kings. Cleomenes obeyed the summons of Isagoras and went to Athens with a small force (Hdt. 5.70); and when driven back, he invaded Attica again with an army which he had drawn together from all parts of the Peloponnese, “without informing anyone of his object” (74); and Demaratus would certainly not have ventured to leave Cleomenes with a portion of the army, thereby forcing Cleomenes to return also, if the popular assembly had declared war (Hdt. 6.64). But as soon as there was a rupture between the kings, the ephors acquired, by a law, as Dum (Entstehung v. Entwickl. d. spart. Ephorts, p. 62) supposes, supreme power in the state. To this points Lysander's remark (Plut. Agis 12), that the power of the ephors was only grounded on the dissensions of the kings, the ephors adding their suffrage to whichever they judged to have given the better advice. Hence, the ephors, acting on behalf of the state (ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως), received from the kings every month an oath by which the latter bound themselves to rule according to the laws; and in return for this, the state engaged, through the ephors, to maintain unshaken the authority of the kings, if they adhered to their oath (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 15, 7). These laws no doubt insisted on agreement between the kings; since, however, discord was the rule (Hdt. 6.52; cf. Xen. Hell. 5.3, 20), the ephors encroached more and more on the royal authority, until finally the kings came entirely under their control. Dum (p. 107) distinguishes roughly three periods in the development of the power of the ephoralty,--the first extending to the death of Cleomenes I. (c. 488 B.C.), when the ephors had power only in time of dissensions between the kings; the second to c. 362 B.C., during which their power became more firmly established, they taking to themselves by degrees the prerogatives of the kings; and the third to the abolition of their office by Cleomenes III., c. 226 B.C., the period of unlimited rule on the part of the ephors, when they had raised themselves to a position above the council and the popular assembly.

What Plutarch (Plut. Ages. 4) says of the time of Agesilaus holds good of this second period, viz. that the ephors and the gerontes enjoyed the greatest power (τῶν ἐφόρων ἦν τότε καὶ τῶν γερόντων τὸ μέγιστον ἐν τῇ πολιτείᾳ κράτος). The ephors acquired the right, originally vested in the kings (cf. Hdt. 6.57), of convening and presiding over the council (Hdt. 5.40), and thereby gained a share in the privilege of initiating laws (Plut. Agis 11), since the council had to discuss and vote on all proposed laws, before they were submitted to the popular assembly; until, in the third period, they usurped the exclusive right of initiating laws (Plut. Lys. 17 ; Agis, 5; King Agis III. had his proposals for a new division of land and the cancelling of debts submitted to the council by the ephor Lysander: Plut. Agis 8). All capital crimes belonged to the jurisdiction of the council (Arist. Polit. 3.1, 7 ; cf. 6.7, 5 = 4.9b Bk., κύριοι θανάτου καὶ φυγῆς); as presidents the ephors acquired a share in this privilege likewise,--for such cases were laid before them in the first instance,--and they had the power of throwing the accused into prison, even if he were a king (e. g. Pausanias, Thuc. 1.131 ; cf. Plut. Agis 19). The authority of the ephors was further increased by their putting themselves in connexion with the popular assembly, convening its meetings (Plut. Agis 9), and laying measures before it (Thuc. 1.85): the presiding ephor put the question to the assembly (Thuc. 1.87). Acting as representatives of the public assembly--being, in fact, the executive of the state--they transacted business with foreign ambassadors (Hdt. 9.8 ; Xen. Hell. 3.1, 1; 5.2, 11), or, if they thought fit, forbade them to enter the Lacedaemonian territory (Xen. Hell. 2.2, 13): they sent ambassadors abroad (Thuc. 6.88 ; Xen. Hell. 3.2, 23), conducted negotiations with foreign states (Thuc. 5.36), and the first ephor subscribed treaties of peace or alliance (Thuc. 5.19, 24). It is true the names of the kings stood first and continued to do so, until their dignity was finally abolished, but it was a prerogative devoid of all significance. The ephors kept their seats when the kings passed (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 15, 6); nay, Agesilaus is said to have shown them his respect by rising (Plut. Ages. 4). The kings continued also to discharge priestly functions for the state (Hdt. 6.56, 57; Xen. Hell. 3.3, 4), and to consult the oracles either in person (Xen. Hell. 3.3; 4.7, etc.) or through special messengers [PYTHII] ; but the ephors encroached upon this prerogative too. They consulted the dreamoracle of Pasiphae (Plut. Agis 9; Cleomen. 7); and once in eight years they chose a clear and moonless night to observe the heavens, and, if a shooting star was observed falling in a certain direction, it was believed to be a sign that the gods were displeased with the kings, who were accordingly suspended from their functions until an oracle allowed of their restoration (Plut. Agis 11). The kings never lost the prerogative of leading the Spartan army (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 15, 2 ; Arist. Polit. 3.9 (14 Bk.), 2); but they [p. 1.745]were deprived of the power of declaring war, the popular assembly claiming this as their exclusive right, and declaring war even against the advice of the king (Thuc. 1.80): the ephors, as representatives of the popular assembly, called out the troops (Xen. Hell. 3.2. 23; 5, 6, etc.) and fixed the strength of the army (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 11, 2)--unless the popular assembly had settled that point (Xen. Hell. 5.2, 20)--and the time of starting (Xen. Hell. 5.4, 47); and in the third period the ephors seem to have taken the initiative (Plut., Cleom. 6; Agis, 13, 14. The account in Plut. Lys. 28, παρώξυνε τοὺς ἐφόρους καὶ συνέπεισε πεμφθῆναι φρουράν, is contradicted by Xen. Hell. 3.5, 5, 6), and to have decided which king should lead the army (Plut. Agis. 4). In the exercise of their general controlling power--and the vague nature of this office facilitated greatly encroachments and usurpations--they had the right to institute scrutinies (εὔθυναι) into the conduct of all the magistrates, which, as Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 2.6 (9 Bk.), 18) observes, was a very great gift to the ephoralty. Nor were they obliged to wait till a magistrate had completed his term of office, since, even before its termination, they might exercise the privilege of deposition (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 8, 4). Even the kings themselves could be brought before their tribunal, though they were not obliged to answer a summons to appear there, till it had been repeated three times (Plut. Cleomen. 10). In extreme cases the ephors were also competent to lay an accusation against the kings as well as the other magistrates, and bring them to a capital trial before the council (Xen. Hell. 5.4, 24; Plut. Lys. 19), or they could fine them, as e. g. king Agesilaus (Plut. Ages. 5); in the third period they condemned men to death without trial, e. g. Agis III. (Plut. Agis 19, 20: cf. Plut. Apophth. p. 216 D; and as regards the perioeci, Isocr. Panath. § 181) and Thectamenes (Plut. Apophth. p. 221 F). Their censorial authority seems to have been unlimited. Two ephors accompanied the king when he took the field (ὁρῶντες δὲ ὅτι ποιεῖ ἕκαστος πάντας σωφρονίζουσιν, Xen. de Republ. Lac. 13, 5; Hdt. 9.76; Xen. Hell. 2.4, 36). The ephors sent instructions to the commanders abroad, and were in direct communication with them (Thuc. 8.11; Xen. Hell. 3.1, 1, 7; 2, 6, 12; σκυτάλαι, Plut. Lys. 12; Thuc. 1.131; Schol. Aristoph. Birds 1283, etc.). The booty was no longer divided amongst the victors (Hdt. 9.81), the king receiving a fixed share, but sent to Sparta to the ephors (Plut. Lys. 16), who had charge of the treasury (Plut. Agis 16). They inspected the youths every tenth day to see whether they led a healthy life (Aelian, Ael. VH 14.7; Athen. 12.550 c ff.), and superintended the choric performances (Xen. Hell. 6.4, 16) and the gymnastic games (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 8, 4). It was the ephors who chastised disobedient boys brought before them by the paedonomus (Xen. de Republ. Lac. 4, 6); who punished the suitor of Lysander's daughter, who, on finding that Lysander had left no money, had deserted her (Aelian, Ael. VH 6.4); who cut two of the nine strings from the instruments of musicians (Plut. Agis. 10; Instit. Lacon. p. 238 C); who brought a charge against king Leonidas for having married a foreign woman (Plut. Agis 11; Plat. Alcib. i. p. 121 C), etc.

The ephoralty was abolished by Cleomenes; but although re-established soon afterwards, it did not recover its former authority, the first πατρονόμος being benceforth the ἐπώνυμος of the state (C. I. G. i. p. 605 ff.). According to Koenig (τὰ τέλη et οἱ ἐν τέλει, p. 12) by τὰ τέλη (Thuc. 4.15, 1), or τὰ τέλη των Λακεδαιμονίων (Thuc. 1.58, etc.), or τὰ ὄικοι τ έλη (Xen. Hell. 3.2, 6, etc.), the ephors were meant, whilst οἱ ἐν τέλει had a wider sense.

[R.W] [H.H]

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    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 6.4
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