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date: 19 April 2019

Summary and Keywords

From the end of the Archaic era to the end of the Hellenistic period, all officials of Greek cities were required to render their accounts (euthynai) through procedures, which varied according to political regimes and times. Most of the time a board of controlling officials examined the accounts. This examination would take place at the end of the officials’ terms of office, but sometimes a partial examination took place during the terms. The controlling magistrates could initiate prosecutions against officials. In democracies, ordinary citizens could also sue magistrates in court.

The procedure for holding officials accountable is called euthynai (correction) in the ancient sources. Many literary texts and epigraphic sources show the importance of the practice, particularly during the Classical and the Hellenistic periods. It was one of the most important features of civic institutions. From the End of the Archaic Period onwards, the Greek cities took a series of measures to prevent abuses of power by officials: accountability was only one of these measures. In fact, in Greek political thought, tyrannical power is characterised as aneuthynos (e.g., Herodotus 3.80.3), which broadly means “not subject to legal proceedings” or “uncontrolled.”

Officials had to render their accounts (mostly logon apodidonai or tas euthynas didonai in Greek), at the end of their time in office as well as while in office. In most poleis, a separate body of magistrates was tasked with examining these accounts. At these moments, a set of procedures (which varied from city to city) enabled ordinary citizens to bring charges against officials before the courts.

Keywords: officials, accountability, ancient Greek democracy, public finances, law, justice

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