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On this page: Cosmetes – Cosmi

COSMI.

comedies. (See Heindorf, ad HoraL Sat. i. 2. 98.) ' [L. S.]

COSMETES (koo>tjttjs), an officer in the Athenian Gymnasia in the time of the Romans, [gymnasium.]

COSMI (K6<r/j.oi)9 the chief magistrates of Crete. It is proposed under this head to give a brief account of the Cretan constitution.

The social and political institutions of Crete were so completely Dorian in character, and so similar to the Spartan, that it was a disputed point amongst the ancients whether the Spartan consti­tution had its origin therej or the Cretan was trans­ferred from Laconia to Crete. The historian Ephorus (up. Strdb. x. p. 482) expressly states that the Spartan institutions had their origin in Crete, but were perfected and completed in Sparta ; so that there is good reason for the assertion of Miiller (Dorians, iii. 1. § 8), " that the constitution founded on the principles of the Doric race, was there first moulded into a consistent shape, but even in a more simple and antiquated form than in Sparta at a subsequent period." Thus much, at any rate, we know for certain, that there were various Dorian cities in the island, the political arrangements of which so closely resembled each other, that one form of government was ascribed to all. (Thirlwall, Hist. Greece^ vol. i. p. 284.) In the earliest ages of which we have historical in­formation, this was an aristocracy consisting of three component bodies, the Cosmi, the Gerusia (yepov-<ria), and the Ecclesia (eKKA-ijaia). The cosmi were ten in number, and are by Aristotle (Pol. ii. 7), Ephorus (op. Strab. I. c.\ and Cicefb (de Rep. ii. 33) compared to the ephors of Sparta. Miiller, however (iii. 8. § 1) compares them with the Spartan kings, and supposes them to have succeeded to the functions of the kingly office ; which Aristotle (probably alluding to the age of Minos) tells us was at one time established in Crete. These cosmi were ten in number, and chosen not from the body of the people, but from certain yevt] or houses, which were probably of more pure Doric or Achaian descent than their neighbours. The first of them in rank was called Protocosmus, and gave his name to the year. They commanded in war, and also conducted the business of the state with the repre­sentatives and ambassadors of other cities. With respect to the domestic government of the state, they appear to have exercised a joint authority with the members of the gerusia, as they are said to have consulted with them on the most important matters. (Ephor. L c.) In the times subsequent to the age of Alexander, they also performed cer­tain duties which bore a resemblance to the intro­duction of the lawsuits into court,, by the Athenian magistrates. (Miiller', I. c.) Their period of office was a year ; but any of them during that time might resign, and was also liable tb deposition by his colleagues. In some cases, too, they might be indicted for neglect of their duties. On the whole, we may conclude that they formed the executive and chief power in most of the cities of Crete.

The Gerusia, or council of elders, called by the Cretans Boiile, consisted, according to Aristotle (P'oliL ii. 7)i of thirty members who had formerly been cosmi, and were in other respects approved of (to. aAAa Sofajaoi /cpW/xei/dt, Ephor. L c.). They retained their office for life, and are said to have decided in all matters that came before them, ac­cording to their own judgment,, and not agreeably

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to any fixed code of laws. They are also said to have been irresponsible, which, however, hardly implies that they were independent of the " un­written law " of custom and usage, or uninfluenced by any fixed principles. (Thirlwall, Hist. Greece, vol. i. p. l86») On important occasions, as we have before remarked^ they were £vfji€ovXoi, or council­lors of the cosmi.

The democratic element of the JHcclesia was al­most powerless in the constitution ; its privileges, too,, seem to have been merely a matter of form ; for^ as Aristotle observes, it exercised no function of government, except ratifying the decrees of the yepovres and the Kfoftoi. It is, indeed, not im­probable that it was only summoned to give its sanction to these decrees ; and though this may appear to imply the power of withholding assent, still the force of habit and custom would prevent such an alternative being attempted, or, perhaps, even thought of. (Thirlwall, vol. i. p. 286 ; Gott-ling, Excursus ad Aristot. ii. 7.)

From these observations^ it is clear that the Cretan constitution was formerly a Dorian aristo­cracy, which, in the age of Aristotle, had degene­rated to what he calls a Swaa-rei'a, i. e. a govern­ment vested in a few privileged families. These quarrelled one amongst the other, and raised fac­tions or parties, in which the demus joined, so that the constitution was frequently broken up, and a temporary monarchy, or rather anarchy, established on its ruins. The cosmi were, in fact, often de­posed by the most powerful citizens, when the latter wished to impede the course of justice against themselves (^ SovVai Si/cas), and an oLKoo-fj-ia, then ensued, without any legal magis­trates at the head of the state.

In the time of Polybius, the power of the aris­tocracy had been completely overthrown ; for he tells us that the election of the magistrates was annual, and determined by demoeratical principles. (Polyb. vi. 44.) In other respects also, he points out a difference between the institutions of Crete and those of Lyctirgus at Sparta, to which they had been compared by other writers.

Miiller observes that the cosmi were, so far as we know, the chief magistrates in all the cities of Crete, and that the constitution of these cities was in all essential points the same — a proof that their political institutions were determined by the prin­ciples of the governing, i. e. the Doric race.

The social relations of the Cretans seem to have been almost identical with those of the Spartans.

The inhabitants of the Dorian part of the island were divided into three classes, the freemen, the perioeci or wrTJKooi, and the slaves. The second class was as old as the time of Minos, and was undoubtedly composed of the descendants of the conquered population ; they lived in the rural dis­tricts, round the TroAeis of the conquerors ; and, though personally free, yet exercised none of the privileges or influence of citizens, either in the administration and enactment of the laws, or the use of heavy arms. They occupied certain lands, for which they paid a yearly tribute or rent, sup­posed, from a statement in Athenaeus (iv. p. 143), to have been an Aeginetic stater.*

* The expression of Dosiadas, r&v eKacrros, probably refers to the perioeci, 5ovAoi being used as a generic term for those who were not full and free citizens.

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