chapter  III
24 Pages


The public action against illegality, the graphe paranomon, had been in former days the principal defence of the democratic constitution. A double experience had shown tha t the partisans of oligarchy could only seize power by overthrowing this obstacle. Their decisive defeat placed the institution

above at tack. But at the time when it became unassailable, under the archonship of Euclides himself,1 a general revision of the laws made it less necessary. Thenceforward it suffered abuse in the struggle of parties. In place of assuring by direful threats supreme protection to the constitution, it became merely a common-place weapon in the hands of the antagonists who met on the Pnyx; soon it became blunted and bent. It was still capable of inflicting death, 2 while it could also be used to inflict an ordinary fine of twenty-five drachmas. 3 Here is a very characteristic instance: a party leader, Aristophon of Azenia, had to defend himself against the accusation of illegality seventy-five times. The result was tha t the graphe paranomon, without preventing the Ecclesia from legislating at random, was an obstacle to wise innovations as well as to foolish, a shackle on tha t liberty of speech of which the citizens were so proud. 4

Another process, it seems, might have been able to supplement the graphe paranomon: viz. the eisangelia, but it too underwent the same degradation. 6 In the fifth century it was intended to repress crimes not provided for by the laws and dangerous to the safety of the State, treason and high treason, including at tempts to overthrow democratic government by words or deeds. Laws being lacking the tribunals could not take direct cognizance of these: it was for the Assembly of the people and the Council to take necessary measures for public safety. It involved such severe penalties tha t the accused did not wait for judgment before exiling themselves. 6 The people clung to this institution, which it at t r ibuted to Solon, 7 and which gave a terrible efficacy to its power of supreme justice. It was abolished at the same time as the action against illegality by the Four Hundred, 8 and probably by the Thirty. Not only was it restored under the archonship of Euclides, 9 but a law was then promulgated (the VO/JLOS elo-ayyeXTitcos) which, without formally defining it, enumerated the cases in which it was applicable according to

precedents. 1 This apparent limitation was to no purpose. By a series of assimilations the Athenians came to treat as a t tempts against the republic crimes, delinquencies or simple contraventions which bore no relation to the acts legally susceptible to process by eisangelia. Hyperides protested against such abuses and quoted examples which he rightly held up to ridicule: Lycophron was accused by eisangelia for having persuaded a woman to be unfaithful to her husband; Agasicles for having been enrolled in a deme not his own; Diognis and Antidorus for having hired out some flute players at more than the legal ra te ; Euxenippus for having made a false statement as to a dream he had in a temple. 2 Here again a par t of the framework of the city was deranged by political hatreds.