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date: 09 December 2022



  • D. M. MacDowell


Polemarchos (πολέμαρχος), one of the nine *archontes appointed annually in Athens. The name indicates that the polemarchos' original function was to command the army; presumably the office was created to take over this function from the king. Eventually military command was transferred to the *stratēgoi, but the date and stages of the transfer are not clear. At *Marathon in 490 bce the strategoi debated and voted on strategy but Callimachus (1) the polemarchos had a casting vote (Hdt. 6. 109), and he was the ‘leader’ (ἡγεμών, Arist. Ath. pol. 22. 2); it is disputed whether that means he was the real or merely the titular commander-in-chief. Certainly the polemarchos no longer had military authority after 487/6, when archontes were appointed by lot (see sortition) and it could not be expected that every polemarchos would make a competent commander.Thereafter the polemarchos' main functions were legal. In the 4th cent. he had charge of trials of *metics' family, inheritance, and status cases, and of the allocation to tribe-judges (members of the Forty) of other private actions involving metics; and it is likely that at an earlier period his responsibilities for cases involving aliens were more extensive.


  • Greek Law

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