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date: 10 December 2018

decision-making, Greek

A Greek state was the community of its citizens, and at any rate the most important decisions were made by an assembly of the citizens. democracies and oligarchies differed not over that principle but over its application: how many of the free adult males were full citizens, entitled to participate in the assembly; which decisions were reserved for the assembly and which could be made by ‘the authorities’ (the magistrates and/or a council). The widespread principle of probouleusis, ‘prior consideration’ by a council of business for the assembly, provided further scope for variation. In democratic Athens the council (see boulē) had to approve items for the assembly's agenda, and could, but did not have to, propose a motion; but in the assembly any citizen could speak, and could propose a motion or an amendment to a motion already proposed. In more oligarchic states proposals might be allowed only from the magistrates and/or the council, and the right to address the assembly might be limited to magistrates and members of the council.

Larger organizations often entrusted decisions to a representative council. The Delphic amphictiony was a body of Greek peoples and had a council in which the peoples were represented: that was the main decision-making body, though there were sometimes meetings of an assembly. Federal Boeotia (see Boeotian Confederacy) in the late 5th and early 4th cents. bce. had a council of 660 (sixty from each of eleven electoral units), within which one quarter played a probouleutic role; the revived federation of the 370s had an assembly. In leagues of allies the leading state might be a voting member of the council (as probably in the Delian League), or be outside the council, interacting with it (as in the Peloponnesian League and the Second Athenian Confederacy). The Aetolian and the Achaean Confederacy of the Hellenistic period had both councils and assemblies.


A. Andrewes, Probouleusis (1954).Find this resource:

J. A. O. Larsen, Representative Government in Greek and Roman History (1955).Find this resource:

P. J. Rhodes, The Athenian Boule (1972), ch. 2.Find this resource:

P. J. Rhodes with D. M. Lewis, The Decrees of the Greek States (1997).Find this resource:

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