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EUPA´TRIDAE

EUPA´TRIDAE (εὐπατρίδαι), the wellborn, is the name by which from very early times the aristocracy of Attica was known. At the dawn of history, as in the prehistoric age for which the Homeric poems are our evidence, we find everywhere in Greece a privileged class, standing between the kings and the people, and, on the decline of monarchy, succeeding to the power which had formerly belonged to the kings. It is not necessary, therefore, to discuss their origin. In the earliest state of society we find them gathered in cities, and owning the lands which were cultivated for them by their dependents (cf. DEMUS 1st paragraph). The memory of this fact was preserved to the latest times (Εὐπατρίδαι οἱ αὐτὸ τὸ ἄστυ οἰκοῦντες, Etym. M. p. 395, 50); and the neighbourhood of the city formed the district of the Γελέοντες, the noblest of the four old-Ionic tribes [GELEONTES] The Attic Eupatrids included not only the so-called autochthonous nobility, but also those noble gentes which had immigrated: the two branches of the Neleidae, the Codridae, descendants of the last king, and the Alcmaeonidae, had come originally from Messenia (Schömann, Antiq. 1.316, 321, E. T.; Opusc. Acad. p. 235). This phenomenon repeats itself among the Roman patricians, e. g. the Claudii.

In the division of the inhabitants of Attica into three classes, traditionally ascribed to Theseus, the Eupatrids were the first ; like other aristocracies ancient and modern, they were entrenched behind a strong rampart of privilege; they were in the exclusive possession of all the civil and religious offices of the state, were the exponents of the law and the authorised interpreters (ἐξηγηταὶ) of things human and divine (Plut. Thes. 25 ; Pollux, 8.111). The close correspondence of all this with the early institutions of Rome is noticed by Dionysius, who however reckons only two divisions of the Athenians, εὐπατρίδαι and ἄγροικοι, corresponding to his idea of the patricians and clients (Dionys. A. R. 2.8). The exact relation of the three Theseian classes to the four old-Ionic tribes is still a matter of dispute, some scholars contending that the tribes and phratries were divisions of the Eupatrids alone (Philippi, Beiträge zu einer Gesch. d. Att. Bürgerrechts, p. 276 ff.). The better opinion, that the γεώμοροι (called also γεωργοὶ) and the δημιουργοὶ were also distributed among the tribes, rests on the precise testimony of Aristotle (ap. Schol. Plat Axioch., also in C. Müller, Fragm. Hist. 2.106), supported by various passages in the grammarians; and is defended by Gilbert on very cogent grounds. The φυλοβασιλεῖς were necessarily Eupatrids (Pollux, 8.111), a fact which would not have been mentioned if all members of the phylae had been such. And as regards the phratries, the reconciliation (αἰδεῖσθαι) of cases of unintentional homicide was to be effected, in the absence of near relations of the deceased, by ten phrateres chosen from the Eupatrids by the Ephetae (Law [θεσμὸς] of Draco, ap. Dem. c. Macart. p. 1069.57). This law is an exception to the usual character of “inserted documents” in the Orators, as its genuineness is proved by C. I. A. 1.61; and it clearly implies that there were other phrateres who were not Eupatrids (Gilbert, Staatssalterth. 1.112).

The entire history of Athens down to the time of Pericles is the history of the gradual curtailment of the privileges of the Eupatrids. The ordinances of Draco were a concession to popular discontent, and exhibited in writing for the first time the laws which the governing class had hitherto interpreted as they pleased (Grote, pt. ii. ch. 10, 2.283). The would-be despot Cylon, and the more successful Peisistratus, themselves both Eupatrids, illustrate the tendency then prevailing in Greece to overthrow oligarchy by accepting tyranny. The legislation of Solon made landed property, not birth, the qualification for political power. For an account of further changes see ARCHON p. 166; AREIOPACUS, p. 177; and for the legislation of Cleisthenes, DEMUS pp. 614, 615. But as Solon, like all ancient legislators, refrained from touching religion, certain priestly offices and ceremonial functions, involving no political authority, remained with the Eupatrids down to a very late period of Grecian history. (Schömann, Antiq. Jur. Publ. pp. 77 ff., 167 ff.; EPHETAE; EUMOLPIDAE; EXEGETAE.)

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    • Plutarch, Theseus, 25
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