), 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
; 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.
: Tac. Hist. 4.83
; Arnob. 5.25; Clemens Alex.
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
one of whom likewise belonged to the family of the
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.
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
φράζειν πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα
: the two
processes must have been practically identical, the king archon acting as
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
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.
§ 33), or for anyone to put the
suppliant bough (ἱκετηρία,
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.