, from αἶσα
hence “a person who gives every one his just
portion” ) originally signified merely a judge in the heroic
games, but afterwards indicated an individual who was occasionally invested
voluntarily by his fellow-citizens with unlimited power in a Greek state.
His power, according to Aristotle, partook in some degree of the nature both
of kingly and tyrannical authority; since he was appointed legally and ruled
over willing subjects, but at the same time was not bound by any laws in his
public administration. (Aristot. Pol.
; Hesych. sub voce
) Hence Theophrastus calls the
office τυραννὶς αἱρετή,
) compares it with the
dictatorship at Rome. It was not hereditary; but it was sometimes held for
life, and at other times only till some object was accomplished, such as the
reconciling of the various factions in the state, and the like. We have only
one express instance in which a person received the title of Aesymnetes,
namely, that of Pittacus, in Mytilene, who was appointed to this dignity
because the state had been long torn asunder by the various factions, and
who succeeded in restoring peace and order by his wise regulations and laws.
(Dionys. A. R. 5.73
; Strab. xiii. p.617
; Plut. Sol. 4
; D. L. 1.75
pp. 46, 48.) There were, however, no doubt many
other persons who ruled under this title for a while in the various states
of Greece, and those legislators bore a strong resemblance to the
aesymnetes, whom their fellow-citizens appointed with supreme power to enact
laws, as Dracon, Solon, Zaleucus, and Charondas. In some states, such as
Cyme and Chalcedon, it was the title borne by the regular magistrates.
(Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthum.
i. pp. 423, 441, 2nd ed.;
Tittmann, Griech. Staatsv.
p. 76, &c.;
Schömann, Antiq. Jur. Publ. Graec.
p. 88; Hermann,