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The authority of the Prytanes consisted chiefly in assembling the senate, which for the most part was done once every day, festivais 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 sepate 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 aucient 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 sail 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 sepators 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 senastors, 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 public 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 persons 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 respecte able, 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 punished 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 is 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, others brought it down as low as the time of Solon. This last opinion, though supported by no less credit than Plutarch and Cicero, is in express terms contradicted by Aristotle, and in one of Solon's laws cited by Plutarch himself, mention is made of judgments passed in this court before Solon reformed the state. What seems most probable is, that the senate of Areopagus was instituted a long time before Solon, but was continued, regulated, and augmented by him ; was by him made superior to the Ephetæ, a court instituted by Draco, and invested with greater power, and larger privileges than it had enjoyed before.
The rumber of persons that composed this venerable assembly is not agreed upon, some restraining it to nine, while others extend the number to thirty-one, and some to more. Maximus tells us it consisted of fifty-one, besides such of the nobility as were eminent for their virtues and riches; by this he seems to intimate the nine Archons, who were the constant seminary of this great assembly, for 'the Archons having discharged their several offices passed every year into it. Others affirm that not all the nine Arehons, but only the Thesmothetæ were admitted into the Areopagus, and this was the reason why their number was not always the same, but more or less, according as those persons happened to continue a longer or shorter time in the senate; therefore, when Socrates was condemned by this court, as the nature of his offence makes it evident he was, we find no less than two hundred four score and one giving their votes, besides those who voted for his absolution ; and in an ancient inscription upon a column in the citadel of Athens, erected to the memory of Rufus Festus, proconsul of Greece, the senate of Areopagus is said to have been three hundred.
All that bad undergone the office of an Archon were not taken in to this senate, but only such of them, as had behaved themselves well in the discharge of their trust; and not they neither, till they had given an account of their administration before the Logistæ, and obtained their approbation, after an enquiry into their behaviour, which was not a mere formality, and a thing of course, but extremely severe, rigorous, and particular. This being done, after the performance of certain sacrifices at Limnæ, a place in Athens, dedicated to Bacchus, they were admitted upon set days. Thus it was ordered by Solon's constitutions, which were nicely and punctually observed for many ages; but towards the declination of the Atbenian grandeur, together with many other useful and excellent ordinances, were either wholly laid aside and abrogated, or, which was all one, neglected and not observed. And then, not the Archons only, but others, as well those of loose lives and mean fortunes, as persons of high quality, and strict virtue, pay, and even foreigners were taken into this assembly, as appears by several instances produced by the learned Meursius, and particularly that of Rufus Festus, mentioned in the aforesaid inscription, as a member of it.
· Aristides tells us, this court was the most sacred and venerable tribunal in all Greece; and if we consider the justice of all their sentences, and judicial determinations, the unblameableness of their manners, their wise and prus dent behaviour, and their high quality and station in the conimonwealth, it will easily appear that this character was, not unreasonable or undeserved. To have been sitting in a tavern, or public house, was a sufficient reason to deny an, Archon's admission into it; and though their dignity was usually continued to them as long as they lived, yet if any of the senators was convicted of any immorality, he was without mercy or favour presently expelled. Nor was it enough that their lives were strictly innocent and unblameable, but something more was required of them, their countenances, words, actions, and all their behaviour must be composed, serious, and grave to a degree beyond what was expected from other (the most virtuous) men. To laugh in their assembly was an unpardonable piece of levity, and for any of them to write a comedy, was forbidden by a particular precept of the law.