« AnteriorContinuar »
At the first institution of the former council, it consisted only of four hundred senators, one hundred of which were appointed out of each tribe, for the tribes in Solon's time were only four in number, and they were elected by lots, in drawing of which, they made use of beans. The manner of their election was this: on certain day, before the beginning of the month Hecatombæon, the president of every tribe gave in the names of all the persons within his district, that were capable of this dignity, and had a mind to stand candidates for it: these were engraven on tablets of brass, and cast into a vessel, set there for that purpose, into another vessel were cast the same number of beans, a hundred of which were white and all the rest were black. Then the names of the candidates and the beans were drawn out, one by one, and those whose names were drawn out, together with the white beans, were received into the senate.
About eighty-six years after Solon's regulation of the commonwealth, the number of tribes being increased by Clisthenes from four to ten; the senate also received an addition of one hundred, which, being added to the former made it consist of five hundred, from which time it' took the name of the council of five hundred; afterwards two new tribes were added to the former, in honour of Antigonus and his son Demetrius, from whom they received their names; and then the number of the senators was augmented by the accession of another hundred; for, in both these last alterations, it was ordered, that out of every tribe, fifty should be elected into the senate. As to the manner of eleetion, it continued the same, excepting only, that instead of a hundred white beans drawn by each tribe, they had now only fifty, according to the number of the senators.
After the election of senators, they proceeded in the next place to appoint officers to preside in the senate, and these they called Prytane. The manner of their election was this: the names of the tribes being thrown into one vessel with nine black beans, and a white bean cast into another; the tribe whose fortune it was to be drawn out together with the white bean presided first, and the rest in the order in which they were drawn out of the vessel, for every tribe presided in turn, and there-fore, according to the number of tribes, the Athenian year was divided into ten parts, each of which consisted of thirty-five days, only the first four parts contained thirty-six, thereby making the year consist of 354 days, of which, according to their computation, the lunar year consists. Afterwards when the tribes were increased to twelve, every one of them presided a full month in the senate. The time that every company of Prytanes continued in office they were exempted from all other public duties. To avoid confusion every Prytanæa was divided into five weeks of days, by which the fifty Prytanes were ranked into five Decuria, each Decuria being to govern their week, during which time they were called Proedri; out of these, one, whom they elected by lots, presided over the rest each of the seven days, so that of the ten Proedri three were precluded from presiding.
The president of the Proedri was termed Epistata. To his custody was committed the public seal, and the keys of the citadel, and the public exchequer. This therefore being an office of great trust and power, no man was permitted by the laws to continue in it above one day, nor to be elected to it a second time. There are said to have been nine Proedri distinct from the former, and chosen by the Epistata at every convention of the senate, out of all the tribes, except that of which the Prytanes were members; both of these were different from the Epistates and the Proedri in the popular assemblies.
There is one thing more, remarkable in the election of senators, that besides those who were immediately admitted into the senate, they chose substitutes, who, in case any of the senators were deposed for mal-administration, or died before the expiration of the term of their office was expired, should, without any farther trouble, supply their places.
-: The authority of the Prytanes consisted chiefly in assembling the senate, which for the most part was done once every day, festivals excepted, and oftener if occasion required it; and that they might be ready to give audience to all such as had any thing to propose, that concerned the commonwealth, they constantly resorted to a common-hall near the senate-house, called the Prytaneum, in which they offered sacrifice, and had their diet together. Every time the senate was assembled they offered sacrifices to Jupiter Boulæus, and to Minerva Boulæa, i. e. the counsellors, who had a chapel near the senate-house. If any man offered any thing that deserved consideration, they engraved it upon tablets, that all the senators might be previously acquainted with the subjects to be discussed at the next meeting, in which, after the Prytanes or the Epistata had propounded the matter, every man had liberty to express his opinion, and give his reasons either for or against it. This they did standing, for it is every where observable in ancient authors, that no persons of what rank soever presumed to speak sitting, and therefore whenever a poetical hero makes an oration, he is always first said to rise. When alt had done speaking, the matter designed to be passed into a decree was drawn up in writing by one of the Prytanes, or other senators, and repeated openly in the house, after which, leave being given by the Epistata or Prytanes, the senators proceeded to vote, which they did in private, by casting beans into a vessel placed there for the purpose,
The beans were of two sorts, black and white, and if the number of the former was found to be greatest the proposal was rejected; if of the latter it was passed into a decree, which was afterward to be proposed to an assembly of the people, that it might receive from them a farther ratification, without which it could not pass into a law; nor have any force or obligatory power after the end of that year, which was the time that the senators, and almost all other magistrates laid down their commissions.
The power of this council was very great, almost the whole care of the state resting upon it; for the common
people being, by Solon's constitutions, invested with supreme power, and intrusted with the management of all affairs, as well publie as private, it was the peculiar charge of the senate to keep them within due bounds, and to take cognizance of every thing before it was referred to them; and to be careful that nothing should be proposed to them but what they, upon mature deliberation, had found to be conducive to the public good. And besides the care of the assembly, there were a great many things that fell under their cognizance, such as the accounts of the magistrates at the expiration of their offices, and the care of the poor that were maintained at the expence of the state. It was their business to appoint gaolers for the public prisons, and to examine and punish personis accused of such crimes as did not come within the reach of any positive law-to take care of the fleet, and to look to the building of new ships of war, with other matters of great importance.
And since these were places of great trust, no man could be admitted to them till he had undergone a rigid examination, in which the whole course of his life was strictly inquired into and found to be altogether respectable, otherwise he was rejected. And to lay the greater obligations upon them, they were required to take a solemn oath, the substance whereof was this; “ That they would, in all their councils, endeavour to promote the public good, and not advise any thing contrary to the laws; that they would sit as judges in what court soever they were elected by lots; (for several of the courts of justice were supplied with judges out of the senate) that they would never keep an Athenian in bonds, that could give three sureties of the same quality, except such as had bought or collected, or been engaged as a surety for the public revenue and did not pay the commonwealth, and such as were guilty of treasonable practices against the government;" but this, as Demosthenes interprets it, must be understood of criminals before their condemnation; for to put them in fetters after sentence was passed upon them was no breach of the law. But the highest punishment that the senate was allowed to inflict upon criminals, was a fine of five hundred drachms. When this was thought not enough they transferred the criminal to the Thesmothetæ, by whom he was arraigned in the usual manner.
After the expulsion of the thirty tyrants, they took an oath to observe the act of oblivion, whereby all the disorders committed during their tyranny were remitted. After the expiration of their trust, the senators gave an account of their management; and therefore to prevent their being exposed to the rage and vengeance of the multitude, they severely pomished whatever offences were committed by any of their own members.
If any of the senators was convicted of breaking his oath, committing any injustice, or of behaving otherwise than became his order, the rest of his brethren expelled him, and substituted one of the subsidianas in his room: on the contrary, such as had behaved themselves with justice and propriety, were rewarded with a sum of money out of the public exchequer. Every senator received a dracbm a day for his maintenance; and if any men of war had been built during their being in office, the people, in their public assembly, decreed them the honour of wearing a crown; if not, the law prohibited them from suing for this privilege, as having been wanting to the commonwealth, whose safety and interest depended so much on the strength and number of their ships.
The Senate and Court of Areopagus.
This court took its name from the place where it was held, being a hill not far distant from the citadel, called Areopagus, which means the hill of Mars. The derivation of the name very uncertain. When the court was first instituted is also unknown; some make it as ancient as Cecrops, the first founder of the city, others think it was begun in the reign of Cranaus, and lastly,