The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Epibatae



and who is said to have lived many years after the time of Theopompus ; probably about b. c. 560. That it was not known in early times appears from the circumstance that the two ordinances of the oracle at Delphi, which regulated the assembly of the people, made no mention of tlte functions of the ephors. (Thiiiwall, vol. i. p. 356.) It is clear, however, that the power which such a connection gave, would, more than any thing else, enable them to encroach on the royal authority, and make themselves virtually supreme in the state. Ac­cordingly, we find that they transacted business with foreign ambassadors (Herod, ix. 8) ; dis­missed them from the state (Xen. Hell. ii. 13. § 19); decided upon the government of dependent cities (Xen. Hell. in. 4. § 2) ; subscribed in the presence of other persons to treaties of peace (Thucyd. v. 19), and in the time of war sent out troops when they thought necessary. (Herod, ix, 7.) In all these capacities the ephors acted as the representatives of the nation, and the agents of the public assembly, being in fact the executive of the state. Their au­thority in this respect is further illustrated by the fact, that after a declaration of war, " they entrusted the army to the king, or some other general, who received from them instructions how to act; sent back to them for fresh instructions, were restrained by them through the attendance of extraordinary plenipotentiaries, were recalled by means of the scytale. summoned before a judicial tribunal, aad their first duty after return was to visit the offiice of the ephors." (Miiller, Dor. vol. ii. p. 127.) Another striking proof of this representative cha­racter is given by Xenophon (J)e Rep. Lac. 15), who informs us, that the ephors. acting on behalf of the state (fore/) t^s Tr^Aews), received from the kings every month an oath, by which the latter bound themselves to rule according to law ; and that, in return for this, the state 'engaged, through the ephors, to maintain unshaken the authority of the kings, if they adhered to their oath.

It has been said that the ephors encroached upon the royal authority ; in course of time the kings became completely under their 'control. For ex­ample, they fined Agesilaus (Plut. Ages. 2, 5) on the vague churge of trying to make himself popular, and interfered even with the domestic arrangements of other kings ; moreover, as we are told by Thucydides (i. 131), they could even imprison the kings, as they did Pausanias. We know also that in the field the kings were followed by two ephors who belonged to the council of war ; the three who remained nt home received the booty in charge, and paid it into the treasury, which was under the superintendence of the whole College of Five. But the ephors had still another preroga­tive, based on a religious foundation, which enabled them to effect a temporary deposition of the kings. Once in eight years (8i* svav eWea), as we are told, they chose a calm and cloudless night to observe the heavens, and if there was any appeaiunce of a falling meteor, it was believed to be a sign that the gods were displeased with the kings, who were ac­cordingly suspended from their functions until an oracle allowed of their restoration. (Plut. Agis, 11.) The outward symbols of supreme authority also were assumed by the ephors ; and they alone kept their seats while the kings passed ; whereas it was not considered below the dignity of the kings to rise in honour of the ephors. (Xen. De 15.)


The position which, as we have shown, the' ephors occupied at Sparta, will explain and justify the statement of Miiller, " that the ephoralty was the moving element, the principle of change in the Spartan constitution, and in the end, the cause of its dissolution." In confirmation of this opinion we may cite the authority of Aristotle, who ob­serves, that from the excessive and absolute power (IcroTvpavvos) of the ephors, the kings were obliged to court them (STjjUtryo^etV), and eventually the government became a democracy instead of an aristocracy. Their relaxed and dissolute mode of life too (aj/€ifjL€V7j Sioura), he adds, was contrary to the spirit of the constitution ; and we may remark that it was one •of the ephors, Epitadeius, who first carried through the law permitting a free inherit­ance of property in contravention of the regulation of Lycurgus, by which an equal share in the com­mon territory was secured to all the citizens.

The change, indeed, to which Aristotle alludes, might have been described as a transition from an aristocracy to an oligarchy ; for we find that in later times, the ephors, instead of being dema­gogues, invariably supported oligarchical principles and privileges. The case of Cinadon, b.' c. 399, is an instance of this ; and the fact is apparently so inconsistent with their being representatives of the whole community, and as much so of the lower (vTTO[j.eioves) as of the higher (o/lioioi) class of citizens, that Wachsmutk supposes the S^os, from and by whom the ephors were chosen, to mean the whole body of privileged or patrician citizens only, the most eminent (/caAoi itayaQoi) of whom were elected to serve as yepovres. This supposition is not itself improbable, and would go far to explain a great difficulty ; but any analysis of the argu­ments that may be urged for and against it is pre­cluded by our limits. (See Thirlwall, vol. iv. p. 377.) We only add that the ephors became at last thoroughly identified with all opposition to the extension of popular privileges.

For this and other reasons, when Agis and Cleomenes undertook to restore the old constitu­ tion, it was necessary for them to overthrow the ephoralty, and accordingly Cleomenes murdered the ephors for the time being, and abolished the office (b, c. 225) i it was, however, restored under the Romans. [R. W.]

EPIBATAE (eVi^rat), soldiers or marines appointed to defend the vessels in the Athenian navy, were entirely distinct from the rowers, and also from the land soldiers, such as hoplitae, pel-tasts, and cavalry. (Xen. Hell. i. 2. § 7, v. 1. §11; Harpocrat. and Hesych. s. v.} It appears that the ordinary number of epibatae on board a trireme was ten. Dr. Arnold (ad Time. iii. 95) remarks that by comparing Thuc. iii. 95 with cc. 91, 94, we find three hundred epibatae as the comple­ment of thirty ships, and also, by comparing ii. 92 with c. 102, we find four hundred as the comple­ment of forty ships ; and the same proportion re­sults from a comparison of iv. 76 with c. 101. In Thucydides vi. 42,, we find seven hundred epibatae for a fleet of one hundred ships, sixty of which were equipped In the ordinary way and forty had troops on board. In consequence of the number of heavy-armed men e/c rov Kara\6yov on the expedition, the Athenians appear to have reduced the number of regular epibatae from ten to seven. The number of forty epibatae to a ship mentioned by Herodotus (vi. 15)5 Dr. Arnold justly remarks (I. c.), " be-

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