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date: 12 July 2020

officials, Greek, accountability of

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

Universal Character of Accountability

Chronology

The first examples of the control exercised by poleis over their officials come from the second half of the 6th century bce and the beginning of the 5th. Inscriptions attest its existence in Eretria, Thasos, Gortyn, and a few other poleis.1 The lack of sources makes it difficult to determine if this control was generally adopted during the Archaic period or if these inscriptions reveal the earliest stages of these procedures of accountability—which in any case are quite obscure. But accountability seems to have been widespread from the Classical period onward: Herodotus, Plato, and especially Aristotle (Pol., 1308b31-34, 1298a3-7, 1317b25-28, 1322b7-12) considered it a fundamental practice. Moreover, the literary and epigraphic sources attest its importance in Athens from the 5th century and in other poleis from the 4th century onward.2 In the Hellenistic period, although the epigraphic sources come from widely dispersed communities and are sometimes fragmentary, one can affirm the universal character of accountability, in democracies as well as in oligarchies. The situation is unclear for the Roman imperial period:3 on the one hand there is evidence for accountability in some cities and associations; on the other hand, the procedure seems to have changed, becoming less democratic, and there are also examples of the failure or disappearance of such controls from the 1st century bce onward. Nevertheless, the control exercised by the Roman authorities changed the institutional and ideological framework of these practices.

Officials Subject to Accountability

According to Aeschines (3, 14-15 and 17-20), a large number of officials in classical Athens and those who held temporary posts had to render their accounts: the epistatai of public works, the Areopagus Council, the Council of the 500, the trierarchs (see trierarchy), and the priests. Other sources confirm these statement. Ambassadors and all the epimeletai, even those with a limited jurisdiction, were also subject to this requirement. In the other cities, the situation seems to be identical: one need only mention the accountability for financial officials, like treasurers or agoranomoi, but also for a larger set of magistrates, like strategoi (in Erythrai), polemarchoi (in Boeotia), gymnasiarchs, secretaries, a large number of prominent officials (ephoroi in Sparta, kosmoi in Creta, timouchoi in Abdera), religious officials (but it seems very rare for priests) and various commissions. The Athenian deme officials had also to submit their accounts to (deme) officials (e.g., at Hagnous, RO 63). Some private associations in Athens and in other cities (Kallatis, Halicarnassus, possibly Rhodos) appear to have implemented procedures to make their own officials accountable.4

Procedures

Time

In many poleis, the magistrates were required to present their accounts for examination several times during their term of office, according to the divisions of the year. This practice is well documented in Athens, where a board of logistai drawn from the council examined the accounts of magistrates ten times a year, that is, once each prytany (Arist. Ath. Pol. 48.3). In other cities, such as Teos and Delos, this examination occurred monthly. In Beroia (Macedonia), this control occurred three times a year (SEG 43, 381, B 91-93), and in some other cities, such as Gambreion or Delphi, it was required periodically or on an ad-hoc basis during the year.5

But the examination of accounts at the end of a term of office is much better documented and seems to have been widespread in the Greek poleis, especially between the 4th and the 1st centuries bce. In Athens and certainly in the other cities, no magistrate could avoid it, not even the strategoi. Accounts were to be presented by the Athenian officials within a month after they left office. In poleis such as Beroia or Priene, one can assume this was a general situation. In Athens and other cities, the awarding of public honours for a magistrate’s general conduct in office before his euthynai was forbidden by law, even though a magistrate might receive honours for a single distinguished action during his term of office.6

Aspects of Procedure

The examination of the accounts was generally conducted by a separate board of magistrates. In 5th-century Athens, it may have been the euthynoi, perhaps in collaboration with the logistai (whose role remains unclear for 403 bce), and in the centuries after the logistai. In other cities, the officials responsible for examining accounts had various titles: logistai in Delos, Eretria, and Rhodes; euthynoi at Teos, Miletus, and Magnesia on the Maeander; exetastai in Beroia, Demetrias, Samos, and Cyme; apologoi at Thasos; katoptai in Boeotia; titai at Gortyn; apologoi in Thasos; and so on. Outside Athens, where these boards were chosen by lot, we have practically no information concerning the method of appointment. In less democratic poleis, such as Corcyra, the council likely played a central role in this process. At the end of the Hellenistic period, in some cities such as Eretria, Messene, and perhaps Athens, the council aquired an even larger role in ensuring accountability. But ordinary citizens could also be involved: in Beroia, accounts were posted publicly and all citizens could participate in the procedure (SEG 43, 381, B 88-93).

The first step of the procedure was for the officials to submit their accounts for examination. The accounts were placed in the archives. Sometimes in the case of important financial operations, the records were inscribed on stone stelai. The role that these inscribed records played in the legal procedures is not always clear. There were profound differences between the account of a single epimeletes, who had to pay for the making of a stele, and that of a hieropoioi of independent Delos, who had to manage very important funds and collections of sacred objects. In the latter case, the accounts seem to have been more and more sophisticated during the Hellenistic period.7 As for other important financial officials, the likelihood of thorough control by their fellow citizens or even by specialized boards is certainly debateable. But the lack of evidence prevents scholars from arriving at any answer.

After the accounts were examined, the official had to hand over the funds or the objects in his keeping. This moment is to be distinguished from the accountability in itself; it is called paradosis—a well-known procedure in Athens, independent Delos, Boeotia, and some other cities.8 An official was still liable to prosecution even after this point.

In Athens, in the 4th century and in the Hellenistic period, the officials were presented by the logistai (assisted by ten synegoroi) to the people’s court. The logistai delivered their verdict and the court immediately voted on the guilt or innocence of the magistrate under examination (Arist. Ath. Pol. 54.2; Dem. 18, 117; 19, 211). Penalties were fixed by law. This part of the examination was concerned only with finances. Following the examination of accounts, a magistrate’s other actions could be subject to prosecution. Each citizen could bring a suit to this effect before the college of euthynoi within a period of thirty days of the examination of accounts (Arist. Ath. Pol. 48.4–5). In Beroia, legal proceedings could also be initiated following the examination of accounts but the time limit was two years instead of only one month (SEG 43, 381, B 107–9). A similar procedure was established in two Thessalian poleis. Other cities simplified this “double” procedure. In Teos, for example, accusations against magistrates could be brought forward during the rendering of accounts (SIG 578).8 This procedure was thus not only a method of preventing embezzlement and discouraging officials from failing to perform their duties, but it also provided an occasion to initiate legal proceedings against magistrates following their period of office.

Judicial Aspects: Role of the Ordinary Citizen, Personal and Collegial Liability

Although it is very difficult to drawn general conclusions from fragmentary evidence, different cities and different periods, the private citizen (idiotes) seems always to have played a central role in the procedures of accountability. In fact, the euthynai were fundamentally judicial not political procedures, which is why the courts were frequently involved and why the assembly played a minor role aside from receiving preliminary reports submitted by officials. The courts were not actually involved in the euthynai, except in Athens. Depending on the particular city’s custom, their role was to hear prosecutions initiated against magistrates after their terms of office, after the periodic rendering of accounts during the year, or even at any moment in the year. The procedures differed according to the poleis and sometimes the circumstances: the boards of the controllers could initiate the procedure on their own initiative or after the accusation of a volunteer prosecutor—and the controllers could themselves be prosecuted for failing to carry out their duties. But this volunteer prosecutor could sometimes initiate the procedure before the courts. In fact, the role of the volunteer prosecutor (ho boulomenos), although universal, as the entrenchment clauses of many laws and decrees show, is rarely clear. This procedure was nevertheless important to prevent intra-elite solidarity and, from the 5th century onward, became a central piece of the democratic institutions.9

The fines levied on “guilty” officials could be heavy: for example, 1,000 drachmai in Beroia, once 10,000 in late Hellenistic Boeotia, and 1,000 staters in Thasos in the middle of the 4th century bce. Sometimes the controllers themselves, like the exetastai in Beroia, could extract the fines. Some cities had special boards of magistrates, the praktores, who were assigned the task of collecting the fines. But the collection of fines (praxis) could also be given to different boards of magistrates, perhaps with the aim of dividing the responsibility for examining officials from the task of imposing fines, and also with the aim of limiting the unpopularity and the pressure exercised on magistrates such as the praktores. In some cases, the enforcement could also be made by the volunteer prosecutor.10

Another problematic point is the personal liability of the magistrates belonging to a board. The texts are often elliptical and seem to have implicated in many cases outside of Athens the collective liability of the boards. In a great number of cases the fines seems to have struck them collectively. But in another set of texts, the fines strike each member of the board explicitly. It has been suggested that the collective fines could have been prescribed particularly for crimes of omission,11 because the collective penalties may have been a way of encouraging one of the members of the board of officials to denounce his colleagues and thereby avoid punishment. A combination of these procedures existed in many cities, such as Thasos, notably at the end of the 3rd century bce.12

Bibliography

General

Fröhlich, Pierre. Les cités grecques et le contrôle des magistrats (IVe–Ier s. av. J.-C.). Geneva-Paris: Droz-EPHE, 2004.Find this resource:

Fröhlich, Pierre. “Governmental Checks and Balances.” In Blackwell Companion to Ancient Greek Government. Edited by H. Beck, 252–266. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.Find this resource:

Migeotte, Léopold. Les finances des cités grecques. Paris: Les Belles-Lettres, 2014.Find this resource:

Rubinstein, Lene. “Volunteer Prosecutors in the Greek World.” Dike 6 (2004): 87–113.Find this resource:

Rubinstein, Lene. “Praxis: The Enforcement of Penalties in the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Periods.” In Symposion 2009: Vorträge zur griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte. Edited by G. Thür, 193–215. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010.Find this resource:

Rubinstein, Lene. “Individual and Collective Liabilities of Boards of Officials in the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Period.” In Symposion 2011. Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte. Edited by B. Legras and G. Thür, 329–354. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012.Find this resource:

Rubinstein, Lene. “Reward and Deterrence in Classical and Hellenistic Enactments.” In D. F. Leão, G. Thür, eds. Symposion 2015. Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte. Edited by D. F. Leão and G. Thür, 419–449. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2016.Find this resource:

Athens

Adam-Magnisali, Sophia. Ἐλενχος και λογοδοσία των αρχών στην αθηναική δημοκρατία‎. Athens: Sakoulas, 2004.Find this resource:

Estathiou, Athanasios. “Euthyna Procedure in the 4th c. Athens and the Case on the False Embassy.” Dike 10 (2007): 113–135.Find this resource:

Fröhlich, Pierre. “Remarques sur la reddition de comptes des stratèges athéniens.” Dike 3 (2000): 81–111.Find this resource:

Hansen, Mogens H. The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Harris, Edward M. Democracy and the Rule of the Law in Classical Athens: Essays on Law, Society, and Politics. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Harris, Edward M. “Applying the Law about the Award of Crowns to Magistrates (Aeschin. 3.9–31; Dem. 18.113–117): Epigraphic Evidence for the Legal Arguments at the Trial of Ctesiphon.” ZPE 202 (2017): 105–117.Find this resource:

Harrison, Alick Robin W. The Law of Athens II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.Find this resource:

Magnoli, Lucia. “Il ruolo istituzionale dell’euthynos ad Atene e nei demi. Riflessioni su IG II 1183.” Minima Epigraphica et Papyrologica 7–8 (2004–2005): 199–209.Find this resource:

Piérart, Marcel. “Les εὔθυνοι‎ athéniens.” AC 40 (1971): 526–573.Find this resource:

Rhodes, Peter J. The Athenian Boule. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.Find this resource:

Rhodes, Peter J. A Commentary of the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981 and 1993.Find this resource:

Other Cities

Chankowski, Véronique. “Nouvelles recherches sur les comptes des hiéropes de Délos: des archives de l’intendance sacrée au ‘grand livre de comptabilité.’” CRAI 157.2 (2013): 917–953.Find this resource:

Fournier, Julien. “Les modalités de contrôle des magistrats de Thasos aux époques classique et hellénistique. Réponse à L. Rubinstein.” In Symposion 2011: Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte. Edited by B. Legras and G. Thür, 355–364. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012.Find this resource:

Fröhlich, Pierre. “La paradosis entre magistrats dans les cités grecques. Le dossier béotien.” In Philologos Dionysios. Mélanges offerts au professeur Denis Knoepfler. Edited by N. Badoud, 183–229. Geneva: Droz, 2011.Find this resource:

Gauthier, Philippe, and Miltiade B. Hatzopoulos. La loi gymnasiarchique de Béroia. Athens: KERA, 1993.Find this resource:

Vial, Claude. Délos indépendante (314–167 avant J.-C.): Étude d’une communauté civique et de ses institutions (BCH Suppl. 10). Athens-Paris: EFA-de Boccard, 1984.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Pierre Fröhlich, Les cités grecques et le contrôle des magistrats (IVe–Ier s. av. J.-C.) (2004): 444–446; and Edward M. Harris, Democracy and the Rule of the Law in Classical Athens: Essays on Law, Society, and Politics (2006): 14–25.

(2.) Fröhlich, Contrôle, 446–447; for Athens: Marcel Piérart, “Les εὔθυνοι‎ athéniens,” AC 40 (1971): 526–573; and Mogens H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 220–224.

(3.) Fröhlich, Contrôle, 453–525; and H.-L. Fernoux, Le demos et la cité. Communautés et assemblées populaires en Asie Mineure à l’époque impériale (2011), 381–387.

(4.) All the sources in Fröhlich, Contrôle; for the associations, see esp. 355 (Athens), 81 n.20 (Rhodos), 383 (Kallatis), 394 (Halicarnassus).

(5.) See, in general, Fröhlich, Contrôle, 264–276. For Athens, see also Peter J. Rhodes, The Athenian Boule (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 104–105, 111, and A Commentary of the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 560–561. For Delos, see also Claude Vial Délos indépendante (314–167 avant J.-C.): Étude d’une communauté civique et de ses institutions (BCH Suppl. 10) (Athens-Paris: EFA-de Boccard, 1984), 102.

(6.) Fröhlich, Contrôle, 406–408. For Beroia: SEG 43, 381, B 91–92; for Priene: I.Priene, 19, 43–48. For the rules about awarding honours, cf. Edward M. Harris, “Applying the Law about the Award of Crowns to Magistrates (Aeschin. 3.9–31; Dem. 18.113–117): Epigraphic Evidence for the Legal Arguments at the Trial of Ctesiphon,” ZPE 202 (2017): 105–117. Other possible examples outside Athens: Fröhlich, Contrôle, 369–373.

(7.) See, in general, L. Migeotte, Les finances des cités grecques, Paris, 2014 and also Véronique Chankowski, “Nouvelles recherches sur les comptes des hiéropes de Délos: des archives de l’intendance sacrée au ‘grand livre de comptabilité.’” CRAI (2013): 917–953.

(8.) In general, see Pierre Fröhlich, “Governmental Checks and Balances,” in Blackwell Companion to Ancient Greek Government, ed. H. Beck (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 262–263; and Délos: Vial, Délos, 105–106; and Boeotia: Pierre Fröhlich, “La paradosis entre magistrats dans les cités grecques. Le dossier béotien,” in Philologos Dionysios. Mélanges offerts au professeur Denis Knoepfler, ed. N. Badoud (Geneva: Droz, 2011), 183–229.

(9.) In general, for the courts and the voluntary prosecutor, see Fröhlich, Contrôle, 305–319, 424–436, and, with further nuances, Lene Rubinstein, “Volunteer Prosecutors in the Greek World,” Dike 6 (2004): 87–113. For a collection of examples, see Lene Rubinstein, “Reward and Deterrence in Classical and Hellenistic Enactments,” in Symposion 2015: Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte, eds. D. F. Leão and G. Thür (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2016), 419–449.

(10.) See Fröhlich, Contrôle, 289–291, and the important contribution of Lene Rubinstein, “Praxis: The Enforcement of Penalties in the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Periods,” in Symposion 2009: Vorträge zur griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte, ed. G. Thür (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010), 193–215 (esp. for the role of the official in the praxis). For Thasos, see SEG 57, 820, 42–46.4.

(11.) Crimes of omission involve officials who have not carried out any part of their task and distinguished from the crimes of commission like embezzlement and so on. See Lene Rubinstein, “Individual and Collective Liabilities of Boards of Officials in the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Period,” in Symposion 2011: Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte, eds. B. Legras and G. Thür (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 329–354.

(12.) Rubinstein, “Individual and Collective Liabilities,” and J. Fournier, “Les modalités de contrôle des magistrats de Thasos aux époques classique et hellénistique. Réponse à L. Rubinstein.” In Symposion 2011: Vorträge zur Griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte, eds. B. Legras and G. Thür (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 355–364.

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