1902 Encyclopedia > Areopagus


AREOPAGUS (_____), a small barren hill to the west and within bowshot of the Acropolis of Athens, for an attack upon which it would form a natural base. It was so used (480 B.C.) by the Persians (Herodotus, viii. 52). For the same purpose it had been occupied also in the legendary age by the Amazons, when in the time of Theseus they menaced Athens, and from the circumstance of their having then sacrificed to Ares, the hill, accord-ing to iEschylus (Eumenides, 685, ff.), derived its name. Assuming the occupation by the Amazons to have been typical of what frequently happened during the hostilities of early times, it is easy to understand how the hill came to be associate!1, with the war god (Kohler, in the Hermes, 1872, p. 105). To the popular mind the Areopagus was always the " hill of Mars." But the popular mind required a more definite account of the origin of the name, and to supply this, there took shape the legend of Ares having been here called before a court of the twelve gods to answer for the murder of Halirrhotius (Pausanias, i. 285). This explains at once the origin of the name of the hill and of the court which held its sittings there. .ZEschylus, how-ever, gives in the Eumenides a different origin to the court, declaring it to have been first appointed by Athene to try Orestes for the murder of his mother Clytaemnestra. In later times both legends were dismissed, and the explanation of the name referred to the nature of the cases—cases o! murder—tried before the court (Suidas, s. v., *Ap«os xayos-iirii TO. <j>oviKa SiKa^er o Se "Apijs eirl rwv tpovtov). The four legendary cases of murder tried before this court were those in which Ares, Cephalus, Daedalus, and Orestes appeared as the accused. But the selection of this hill as the site of a criminal court, in the first instance, is to be sought for in the sacred relation in which it stood to the worship of the Erinnyes, or Eumenides, and not in its con-nection with Mars, for whom it had no sanctity, and between whose worship and that of the Erinnyes K. O. Miiller (Eumenides, p. 178) has not succeeded in proving any community. On the top of the hill towards the east is an artificial plateau accessible from the south by steps cut in the rock. In several places are still to be traced the rock-hewn seats on which the court sat in the open air, so that the judges and the accusers might not be under the same roof with a polluted criminal. The sittings were held by day, not by night, unless the authority of Lucian be accepted (Hermot., 46; Be Domo, 78). Raised upon two unhewn stones (apyol Xudoi) the accuser and the accused made their pleadings, the stone used by the former being called \L6os avaSctas, " stone of implacability," not of "impudentia" as translated by Cicero (Be Leg., ii. 11), or "impudence," as given by Dyer (Athens, p. 451); the other was called Ai#os tS/Spews, or " stone of crime."

Within the boundary of the court stood also an altar to Athene Areia, believed to have been dedicated by Orestes, and blocks of marble (afoves), on which were inscribed the laws defining the powers of the judges. On another part of the hill stood one of the most revered of Athenian sanctuaries, that of the Erinnyes, containing statues of these three goddesses, but not in the hideous aspect in which they were usually conceived, and also statues of those other deities connected with the lower world, Pluto, Hermes, and Ge. Within the boundary of this temple was the tomb of OEdipus, and very close to the boundary, if not within it, was the herob'n or sanctuary of Hesychus, the founder of the priestly line in whose hands were the rites of the Erinnyes. Near the temple was the KvXwveiov, a memorial of the pollution of the spot caused by the treach-erous slaughter of those who, having failed in the con-spiracy of Cylon, had taken refuge there as suppliants (Herod., v. 71; Thucyd., i. 126). Towards the north-east foot of the hill was a temple of Ares containing statues of that god, of Enyo, Aphrodite, and Athene, while outside were statues of Hercules, Apollo, Pindar, and a poet named Caladas. On the north-east side there is a chasm in the rocks with a spring of dark water, which may have been associated with the worship of the Erinnyes.

The court and council of the Areopagus (?; BovXrj rj «f 'Apeiov irayov or -q ayu> BovXq), with a legendary history which distinctly pointed to it as an institution of primitive origin and intrusted with functions of the first importance, was yet in regard to the period of its history before Solon (594 B.C.) so little known that most people in later times had come to believe it to have been created by him (Plutarch, Solon, 19). As proof that the court had not existed before the time of Solon, it was urged that in the legislation of Draco (620 B.C.) there is no mention of the Areopagus, he having referred all such cases as in later times came within the powers of that court to a class of judges called the Ephetse. But there is no reason why " Ephetse " may not have been previous to Draco the title applied to the judges of the court of Areopagus, instead of " Areopagites," just as it was the title borne even after Solon by the judges of the other four Athenian courts which tried cases of bloodshed, unless we accept the statement of Pollux (viii. 18) that the appointment of the Ephetae to all these courts, including the Areopagus, was the work of Draco. For then, these courts having admittedly been in existence before his time, there is no help but to assume that the judges had previously borne other titles, and that in the case of the Areopagus the title used could only have been Areopagites. But it is quite within fair criticism to throw aside this statement of Pollux, as has been done by the most recent writer on this subject (Philippi, Rheinisches Museum, 1874, p. 12), and to assume, with K. O. Muller, that the Ephetse had acted from time immemorial as judges in all the five courts. There would remain for the fame of Draco the organisation of the courts, and possibly the limitation of the number of Ephetae to 51. We must then conceive Solon as having found the Ephetae acting as judges in the Areopagus and in the other four courts. He set himself to alter the constitution of the Areopagus by adding to the Ephetse already in office there the nine Athenian archons on their retiring from public duties, and provided that they had rendered a satisfactory account of their administration. It is probable that from this new source alone a sufficient number of judges was supplied, and that, therefore, the original Ephetae were allowed to die out, though in that case the number of Areopagites could scarcely have been a fixed one (given at 51 by the scholiast to the Eumenides, v. 743), considering the liability of an archon to be rejected. The new judges retained their office for life subject to dismissal only by their own body. For the most part they were advanced in years, and necessarily always men of integrity and experience, qualifications which were demanded in the highest degree from a court which, instead of administering strictly defined laws, had to base its verdicts on a careful investigation of the life and circumstances of parties arraigned before it. Its decisions were quoted as models of justice. Its com-petency was limited to cases of wilful murder (<£óVos ÍKOVUIOS or ÍK vpovoías), bodily injury with intent to kill (rpaS/xa IK wpovotas), incendiarism (jrvpnaia), and poisoning ((páppíaKa, lav TIS áiroKTÚvy Sows). Other degrees of homi-cide were referred, according to their nature, to the other four Athenian courts, viz., accidental homicide (<£oVos ¿«ovo-ios) to the Palladium, justifiable homicide (<p6vo% Simios) to the Delphinium; at the Prytaneum was heard the formal indictment of inanimate objects, such as wood or stone, which by falling had caused the loss of life; while before the court of Phreathys at the Piraeus appeared those who having been banished for accidental homicide had during their banishment committed wilful murder. There were, however, cases of a complicated nature in regard to which the records are far from explicit as to the courts to which they were referred. Of this kind was a case in which the actual perpetrator (x«pi ipya.a-ap.tvos) was found to have been only a tool in the hands of a third person. It was with the latter that the prosecution had principally to deal, and against him was issued a charge of BovXevcris, or premeditation of murder. Obviously, such a person was equally guilty whether his victim died or not (Harpocration, s.v. /JoiAeuVecos), and therefore equally within the jurisdiction of one and the same court. Still it has been usual to follow Schomann (Griech. AltertMimer, i. p. 449) in drawing this distinction, that when death ensued the case went before the Areopagus, and before the Palladium when the victim survived. But this distinction has been made for the sake of admitting both authorities to be correct, when, on the one hand, Isaeus and Aristotle (as quoted by Harpocration) refer BovXeva-is to the Palladium, while Dinarchus (see Harpocration) on the other hand refers it to the Areopagus. It would be better to dismiss the authority of Dinarchus altogether, the more so since in a speech of Antiphon, admittedly in a case of BovXevo-is (Choreutae), a form of address is employed, <3 ai/Spes(once, <3avSpes SiKacrrai), which would not have been proper for the Areopagus, where the form was <3 BovXr/ (Philippi, Ber Areopag, p. 32). The punishments inflicted by the Areopagus were—(1.) For wilful murder, death, the execution of which was witnessed by the accuser. It is probable that confiscation of the criminal's property was included in the sentence, but this point is obscure. His property was certainly confiscated when it happened that he escaped before sentence was pronounced. (2.) For injury with intent (rpavpxi ÍK wpovotas) the sentence was confiscation of property and banishment, but not for life. If the victim of either of these crimes was a JU-ÉTOIKOS, or alien, the punishment, it has been supposed, was less severe, but of this there is no real evidence. The proceedings, in cases that came before the Areopagus, began, as did all Sirai <poviKai, with a charge (ypa<pr¡) made before the archon king sitting in his chambers in the agora. It was his business to take down the charge and to make such a preliminary inquiry into the facts as would guide him in sending the case for trial. For this purpose he appointed three separate occasions in three successive months, but whether he was contented to search into the facts alleged by the accuser, or whether he examined also the accused, is a point on which there is no evidence. It is only known in general terms that the inquiry was conducted with great care, and, it is not improbable, in presence of members of the Areopagus, who would thus obtain a mastery of the evidence before the trial took place.

The accuser was required to prove his relationship to the murdered person as giving him the right to prosecute; he had to take an oath in pledge of his sincerity, and to denounce the accused. A denunciation (irpoppiqa-is) having been publicly made, the accused was regarded as polluted, and durst enter neither temple nor market-place on peril of his life. Some have thought that the practice was to make a formal denunciation three times, first at the grave of the deceased, next in the market-place, and then before the archon as just stated (Schomann, Antiquitates Jur. Pub., p. 289), but it is probable that only the last men-tioned, if the others were actually made, was regarded as legal. In the fourth month, after determining that the case was to go before the Areopagus, the archon king in his capacity of president of the court laid the case before it. The court sat on the last three days of every month (Pollux, viii. 18). Of the first part of the proceedings (w/DoSixao-iai) the principal feature was the administration of an oath to the parties and the witnesses; the ceremony consisting in the sacrifice of a wild boar, an ox, or a ram, before which those who took the oath called on the Erinnyes to destroy them and their family if they failed to speak the truth. When the evidence had been gone through (dvaKpio-is) there followed the SLK-TJ proper, consisting of the speeches. Each party was allowed to speak twice, once, it is said, on each of the first two days, the third day being reserved for judgment. They were charged'to avoid everything irrelevant to the issue. After the first speech, the accused might choose voluntary exile unless the charge against him were that of the murder of a parent. In exile, beyond the boundaries of the Athenian state, he was entitled to the full protection of law, and if himself murdered could be avenged as if he had then been a true Athenian citizen. Should the trial go its full length, he could only be convicted by a majority of the judges. If the votes were equal he was acquitted, and when acquitted he offered a sacrifice to the Erinnyes and the other deities of the lower world. When it happened that the person entitled to prosecute had missed the regular occasions of making his charge, it was still competent for him to take the summary proceedings of an dira-ycoyi) cpovov, that is, to lay his case before the Eleven who presided over the prisons, and have the case tried by a Heliastic court. But this could not well be done unless the accused had been caught in the act, or failed to give a reasonable account of himself. When the victim survived he himself was the proper prosecutor; but when in the contrary event the task devolved on his relatives, it was necessary for them to be within the prescribed degree of cousinship (avaj/ioTrjs), as may be seen from the formula in Pseudo-Demosthenes (Adv. Macartatum, p. 1069, § 57), which again has been strikingly confirmed by the decree (Kohler, Hermes, iL p. 27), discovered at Athens in 1843, and setting forth part of the laws of Draco in regard to murder. This decree, inscribed on marble and in a very fragmentary condition, bears date 409-8 B.C. A slave having in the eyes of the law no relatives, could not prosecute the murderer of one of his class, but he could appear against the murderer of his master if empowered in writing to do so before the master's death. The master was the lawful accuser when a slave was mur-dered, and similarly only the legal patron could appear in the case of a freedman or other who had not the rights of citizenship. The theory of the prosecution being to obtain, as had been the custom from time immemorial, vengeance for the rektives of the deceased, and being therefore more of a religious than political character, it becomes a question whether, in the event of the relatives refusing to prosecute, or of there being no relatives, the state permitted a foul crime to pass unpunished. On this point there is no infor-mation.

Besides being a court of justice (SiKao-Tijptov), the Areo-pagus was also a council (BovXrj), empowered to interfere in matters affecting religion and morals, and, previously to the time of Pericles, in the administration of public affairs. With powers of this order honestly exercised, it is not sin-gular that Isocrates (Areopag., 39) in his picture of Athens in the happy times gone by, should point to the action of the Areopagus as one of three great sources of this happiness (cf. Plutarch, Solon, 22 ; ThemisL, 10; and Bb'ckh, Staatshaushaltung, i. p. 2081. Nor is it against the view of Isocrates that Pericles and his party should have been opposed to the Areopagites. The mere fact of their being strongly conservative, and of their having the power of opposing, if not with a veto, at least with enormous official influence, Ms new schemes of administration, would be sufficient excuse. And it appears certain that the scope of the measure proposed by his friend Ephialtes, and carried during the absence of Cimon the conservative leader, was only to withdraw from the Areopagus this power of interference. Its criminal jurisdiction remained as be-fore, though so much would hardly be gathered from the tone of iEschylus in the Eumenides, which appeared as a protest, it has usually been thought, at the time. 'E<fndX-TTjs p.ova KareXnre rfj i£ 'Ap«ou Trdyov BovXrj ra virep rov o-wpMro's, says Philochorus, while Demosthenes (Adv. Aris-tocrat, p. 644 § 66) states that no tyrant, oligarchy or democracy, had ever ventured to withdraw from that court its jurisdiction in high crimes. Only a passage in a speech of Lysias (Eratosth. 30) really favours the opposite view.

Among the many other functions which the Areopagites retained after the measure of Ephialtes were—(1.) those pertaining to religion. They appointed the ItpoiroioL for the temple of the Eumenides, and took care of the sacred olives (p.oplai), which existed partly in large plantations near the academy, and partly on private lands, such trees being the property of the goddess Athene, against whom it was a crime to injure one of them. The Areopagus could oppose the introduction of new deities or foreign rites, as in the case of St Paul, who had to appear before it (Acts xvii. 19, ff.); but it does not seem that it could, as has been assumed, prohibit such a step if once approved of by a public decree. It saw that no object of public sanctity was violated. (2.) In education and morals little positive is known of its action. It seems to have appointed the masters in the gymnasia, and brought to punishment vagabonds and spendthrifts under the law entitled vop.o% apyiW (3.) Its business was to see that public spaces were not occupied or built on by private persons, as in the case of Timarchus (jEschines, Adv. Timarch., § 80), who had put it to the public assembly whether the deserted Pnyx might not be built on. Many inscribed bases of statues in Athens, though mostly of a comparatively late date, bear witness that the consent of the Areopagus, if not indispensable, was very frequently obtained for the erection of statues. (4.) It protected the standards of weight and measure from falsification. (5.) It exercised an inquisitorial power, partly sua sponte (avrrj _TrpoeXop.evq), and partly by mandate from the public assembly (rov Srjpiov Trpoo-Td^avTos airry^. In the latter case it merely investi-gated the facts (tyrnqo-cv Troiuo-Qai), and laid them before a Heliastic court. Work of this kind, depending as it did on the public assembly, necessarily varied greatly at different times. Prom about 350 to 320 B.C. it seems to have been of a very grave character. (6.) The Areopagus re-viewed the conduct of magistrates and the administration of the laws, a function which was relegated, probably by the measure of Ephialtes, to the Nomophylaces, who, though they do not become conspicuous till the time of Demetrius of Phaleron (317-307 B.C.), had yet existed doubtless long before.

If now it is true that the Areopagites as a criminal court were created and organised by Solon to supersede the Ephetse in the trial of certain crimes, what is to be said of their origin as a state council (BovXy) 1 Obviously most of their duties as a council were such as must have grown up gradually upon an institution of very high anti- quity, such an institution, for example, as the Homeric /JouAr/ yepoVrav. Yet there is no direct evidence of the existence of the Areopagus as a council before the time of Solon. It has therefore been suggested that the Areopagitic council appointed by Solon took upon itself the duties of a differently constituted council, which also may have held its sittings on the hill of the Areopagus. This superseded council it was first thought by K. 0. Miiller consisted of Ephetse, who, according to the most recent derivation of the name («ri and ¤TTIS = ?T7)S, F*TTJS), were the heads of clans. The opinion of Miiller has been adopted by Philippi (JDer Areopag, p. 208). With less probability Wecklein (Bericht. d. Munch. Akad., 1873, p. 38,/:) had suggested the Naucrari. From the time of Solon, except for the change introduced by Ephialtes, the powers of the Areo- pagus seem to have remained much the same down to the Roman period, its position in point of respect and influence apparently increasing the longer it continued, though clearly it is too much to say as Cicero does (Be Nat. Beor. ii. 29, 74) Atheniensium rempublicam consilio regi Areopagi. But its constitution had been changed by Plutarch's time, possibly long before. It was then presided over by an eVto-TaVr/s with a Krjpv£ by his side, and was no longer composed of the retiring archons. The principle of election is not known. (A. S. M.)

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