The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



conquered'Messenian territory to the augmentation of the number of portions of land possessed by the Spartans — an augmentation which implies an in­crease in the number of Spartan citizens. But the ephors, as we shall see hereafter, were the repre­sentatives of the whole nation, and therefore, if in the reign of Theopompus the franchise at Sparta was extended to a new class of citizens who never­theless were not placed on an equality with the old ones (uTro^uefoj/es), the ephors would thencefor­ward stand in a-new position with respect to the kings, and the councillors (ol yepovres} who were elected from the higher class. Moreover, it is not improbable that, during the absence of the kings, the ephors usurped, or had conferred upon them, powers which did not originally belong to them; so that, from both these causes, their authority may have been so far altered as to lead to the opinion that the creation of the office, and not merely an extension of its powers, took place during the reign of Theopompus. Again, as Thirl-wall observes, " if the extension of the ephoralty .was connected with the admission of an inferior class of citizens to the franchise, the comparison which Cicero (De Leg. iii. 7, De Rep. ii. 33) draws between the ephoralty and the Roman tribunate would be more applicable than he him­self suspected, and would throw a light on the seeming contradiction of the ephors being all-powerful, though the class which they more espe­cially represented enjoyed only a limited fran­chise." (Hist, of Greece, vol. i. p. 356.) But after all, the various accounts which we have been consi­dering merely show how different were the opi­nions, and how little historical the statements, about the origin of the ephoralty. (Miiller, Dorians, iii. c. 7 ; and see Clinton, F. H. vol. i. Appendix 6.)

We therefore proceed to investigate the func­tions and authority of the ephors in historical times, after first observing that their office, considered as a counterpoise to the kings and council, and in that respect peculiar to Sparta alone of the Dorian states, would have been altogether inconsistent with the constitution of Lycurgus, and that their gradual usurpations and encroachments were facilitated by the vague and indefinite nature of their duties. Their number, five, appears to have been always the same, and was probably connected with the five divisions of the town of Sparta, namely, the four /co^cti, Limnae, Mesoa, Pitana, Cynosura, and the Tl6\is or city properly so called, around which the Kw/aai lay. (PMloloy. Museum, vol. ii. p. 52.) They were elected from and by the people (e£ airdvrwv), without any qualification of age or property, and without undergoing any scrutiny (ol rvxdvres) ; so that, as Aristotle remarks (Polit. ii. 7), the S%ios enjoyed through them a participa­tion in the highest magistracy of the state. The precise mode of their election is not known, but Aristotle (I.e.} speaks of it as being very puerile ; and Plato (Leg. iii. p. 692) describes their office as €7709 t'/}s KA.7]p«T7)s Suj/ctjuecos, words which may apply to a want of a directing and discrimin­ating principle in the electors, without of necessity implying an election by lot. They entered upon office at the autumnal solstice, and the first in rank of the five gave his name to the year, which was called after him in all civil transactions. (Miiller, Dor. iii. 7. § 7.) Their meetings were held in the public building called «px6^"'i which in some re-


spects resembled the Prytaneium at Athens, as being the place where foreigners and ambassadors were entertained, and where, moreover, the ephors took their meals together. (Pausan. iii. 11. §2.) The ephors also possessed judicial authority, on which subject Aristotle (Polit. iii. 1) remarks that they decided in civil suits (Sticai T&y av^So-ctuuz/), and generally in actions of great im­portance (Kpicrtwv (j,eya,Xwv Kvpioi, Polit. ii. 6) : whereas the council presided over capital crimes (SiKca (povucai). In this arrangement we see an exemplification of a practice common to many of the ancient Greek states, according to which a criminal jurisdiction was given to courts of aris­tocratic composition, while civil actions were de­cided by popular tribunals. [Compare ephetae and arejopagus.] But with this civil jurisdiction was united a censorial authority, such as was pos­sessed by the ephors at Cyrene : for example, the ephors punished a man for having brought money into the state (Plut. Lyscm. 1.9), and others for in­dolence. (Schol. ad Thucyd. i. 84.) We are told also, that they inspected the clothing and the bed­ding of the young men. (Athen. xii. p. 550.) Moreover, something' like a superintendence over the laws and their execution is implied in the lan­guage of the edict, which they published on entering upon their office, ordering the citizens " to shave, the upper lip (/j-varratca)., i. e. to be submissive, and to obey the laws.1' Now the symbolical and archaic character of this expression seems to prove that the ephors exercised .such a general superintendence from very early times, and there can be no doubt u that in the hands of able men, it would alone prove an instrument of unlimited power." (Thirl -wall, Hist of Greece, voL i. p. 355.)

Their jurisdiction and power were still farther increased by the privilege of instituting scrutinies (evOvvai) into the conduct of all the magistrates, on which Aristotle (Polit. ii. 6. § 17) observes that it was a very great gift to the ephoraltj' (rovro fe ry ttyopeia ik.zjcl Xiav rb SoJpof). 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 Re. Lac. viii. 4.) Even the kings them­selves could be brought before their tribunal (as Clcomenes was for bribery,. SwpoSo/ct'ct, Herod, vi. 82), though they were not obliged to a summons to appear there, till it had been repeated three times. (Plut, Cieom. 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 great court of'justice. (Xen. I. c. ; Herod, vi. 85.) If they sat as judges themselves, they were only able, according to Miiller, to impose a fine, and compel immediate payment ; but they were not in any case, great as was their judicial authority, bound by a written code of laws. (Aristot. Polit.

ii. 6.)

In later times the power of the ephors was greatly increased ; and this increase appears to have been principally owing to the fact, that they put themselves in connection with the assembly of the people, convened its meetings, laid measures before it, and were constituted its agents and re­presentatives. When this connection arose is matter of conjecture,; some refer the origin of it to Asteropus, one of the first ephors to whom the ex­tension of the powers of the ephoralty is ascribed,


About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of