office archons title power citizens
ARCHON ((lpxwe), the title of the highest magistrates in Athens. The last king of Athens, Codrus, having given up his life for the advantage of the state, it is said that the people, out of gratitude for his noble act, passed a resolution that in future none of their rulers should boar the ancient and venerated title of king (Pao-Aci5s). The holder of supreme power in the state received from that time the name of archon or ruler. This is the popular account of the change, but it is not improbable that, on the death of Codrus, disputes arose with regard to the succession, and that the nobles took advantage of the opportunity to gain an addition to their own power. For the archon appears to have been in all respects equal to the king, and his office was hereditary, but he was made responsible. for his acts to the Eupatridx or nobles. Thirteen descendants of Codrus successively held the office. In 752 B. C., during the archonship of Alcinon, the time of office was reduced to ten years, though the office itself remained hereditary. Seven decennial archons are enumerated, extending from 752 to 684. But during this time, about the year 714, a very important change had been introduced into the. arch onship. The office at that date ceased to be hereditary ; the exclusive right of the Medontidm was abolished, and the whole body of nobles became eligible for the magistracy. In 684 a further change was effected ; the office was made annual, and the supreme power was distributed among nine officials, each of whom received the title of archon. This arrangement of the magistracy continued till the time. of Solon, who introduced the classification of the citizens according to property and not to birth, and threw the office open to all who possessed an income of the first class, apparently calculated as five hundred measures of corn, wine, and oil (Plutarch, Aristides, 1). The most extensive and important change was introduced by Aristides, who after the battle of Platma threw open the highest magistracy to all citizens, whether of the propertied class or not. The ;node of election to the archonship, after the office was taken from the family of Codrus, was by the suffrage (xaporovia) of the nobles ; and this continued to be the ease even after the reform effected by Solon, for it is expressly stated that though he altered the qualification he made no change in the manner of election. The great reform in this respect was probably due to Clisthenes, who in 508 introduced the election by lot, and who further, by his distribution of the people into tribes and appointment of generals, seriously impaired the power of the archous. To secure that the office and honours were not conferred on unworthy persons, the newly elected archons were subjected. to a double scrutiny, before the senate and in the agora, in which they were required to show that they were true Athenian citizens, whose ancestors had been citizens for three generations, and to swear that they would obey the laws and revere the religion of their country.
Of the nine archons to whom in conjunction were entrusted the duties of the supreme magistracy, the first was called specially " The Archon " (O pxwv) ; there was also attached to his name the epithet eponynrus (17rj.)vottos), because the year in which he held office was named after him, just as at Rome it was named after the tWo consuls. At first this archon had the general administration of state affairs, but gradually the expansion of democratic power reduced his authority, and at the period of which we have accurate information his duties were not very extensive. He had the superintendence of the festivals of the greater Dionysia and of the Thargelia, the arrangement of the tragic choruses, and the conduct of certain sacrifices. As a special department of civil administration, he had under his care all orphans, particularly heiresses, all widows, and others who were left without protection, provided they were citizens of Athens ; and had, in short, the charge of all matters in which questions of inheritance were involved. When his power, was still further reduced, there remained to him the privilege of bringing disputed cases of succession into the proper courts, and of casting lots for the dicasts who were to try the cause. The second archon had the title of king (f3acrLAE.ts); to him had been handed over the name, as well as the sacred duties of priesthood which formerly belonged to the supreme ruler. He was the rex sacr012111a, and to his province pertained all that concerned the religion and public worship of the state. In conjunction with his wife, who was called fi'ac•lArcrcra (or queen), he offered up certain state sacrifices; and he had specially intrusted to him the superintendence of the mysteries, the festival of the Lenora, the torch races, and the gymnic contests. He acted as public prosecutor in matters of religion ; and, in cases of murder or offence against the gods, he brought the indictment into the Areopagus, and voted with its members. In later times he acted as president of the court in all cases concerning the rights and duties of priests. The third archon bore the title of polemarch (roX4tapxos), which indicates that originally he was the supreme commander of the Athenian forces. As late as the battle of Marathon we find the polemarch Callimachus marching along with the ten generals, and taking the command of the right wing. But after this we no longer hear of the polemarch as actively engaged in leading the army. Doubtless the introduction of the ten generals by Clisthenes tended to limit the military functions of this archon. His duties in later times seem to have been the superintendence and protection of the personal and family rights of the resident aliens and foreigners. To these he stood in the same relation as the archon eponymus stood to citizens. Ile had also the arrangement of the funeral games in honour of those who had fallen in battle, and the offering up of the annual sacrifice to Artemis in commemoration of the battle of Marathon. Each of the three superior archons was allowed to select two assessors or assistants (7r4E8pot), who were sanctioned after examination by the senate. The remaining six archons were called thesmothetve (8arp.o6&cn), a name which is sometimes applied to the whole body of archons. The six formed a college of justice, whose jurisdiction seems at first to have extended to all cases not directly under the cognisance of other magistrates. They received information against parties for various offences, brought the cases to trial in the proper court, appointed the juries, and gave public notice of the days of sitting. They revised every year the body of laws to see that no discrepancies were allowed to creep in, and they were required to enter all new laws. They also drew up and ratified the treaties with foreign states. Their assessors were called symbuli (0a5/430-eX0L). After the introduction of popular courts by Solon, the archons seem to have lost their special juridical powers ; they then acted simply as presidents of the courts and sometimes as a grand jury. During their year of office the archons were exempt from all state burdens, and at its close they were required to give an account of the manner in which they had discharged their duties; if found blameless, they became members of the Areopagus.
The name archon is frequently applied by Greek authors to magistrates in general; it was also used as a title under the Greek empire, and the Jews sometimes applied it to members of their Sanhedrin]. It was even given metaphorically by the Gnostice to their mystic aeons.