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From Abolition to Renewal: The Ephebeia after Lycurgus

John Lennard Friend

The aim of this paper is to examine the history of the Athenian ephebeia for the last quarter of the fourth century B.C. It argues, contrary to the prevailing view (e.g. Pélékidis 1962; Reinmuth 1971), that the formal ephebic institution as described in Chapter 42 of the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia ceased to function during the oligarchy of Phocion (322/1-319/8 B.C.) and the regime of Demetrius of Phalerum (317/6-307/6 B.C.). This is strongly suggested by the corpus of ephebic inscriptions, honorary decrees erected in commemoration of those ephebes who had completed their service in the ephebeia. In contrast to Lycurgan Athens, where twenty-eight inscriptions can be securely dated to 334/3-323/2 B.C., no further example is attested until the archonship of Coroibus (IG II2 478: 306/5 B.C.).

It is likely that the ephebeia was discontinued at some point in 322/1 B.C. (Mitchel 1964; Marcellus 1996), perhaps before the Macedonians under Menyllus had occupied Munychia hill on 20 September 322 B.C. (Plut. Phoc. 28.1), because the pro-Macedonian oligarchy regarded it as a threat to the newly-installed regime. This is understandable if we consider that the Lycurgan ephebeia was a military organization with educational characteristics. Under the supervision of the sophronistes, the objective of this paideia was to cultivate the ephebes’ devotion to the democracy and the defense of the fatherland (Mitchel 1970). The oligarchs, anticipating the ephebes’ potentially hostile reaction to the subversion of the constitution, could not dismiss the possibility that a force containing hundreds of armed and trained ephebes would make an attempt to expel the Macedonian garrison by force and to restore the democracy (cf. Xen. Hell. 2.4.10ff). Although Demetrius of Phalerum may have admired certain aspects of the ephebic program, given his moral legislation, he was probably dissuaded from reinstating the institution on account of the ephebes’ prior hostility towards Macedon.

It is only after the re-establishment of a new democratic government in 307/6 B.C. that explicit evidence for the ephebeia again appears in the epigraphic record (IG II2 478). Habron, the comptroller of Athens and son of Lycurgus (Merker 1986), may have played an instrumental role in this decision to restore the ephebeia, just as his father appears to have done so in the creation of the institution in 335/4 B.C. (Harp. s.v. Ἐπικράτης = Lyc. Fr. 5.3 Conomis). Even so, the ephebeia’s revival could not have taken place without widespread and enthusiastic support from the demos, especially from those older citizens like Habron (Reinmuth no.12, lines 8, 72: 324/3 B.C.) who had undertaken their ephebic service during the Lycurgan period. Indeed, this first hand experience of Habron and his compatriots was probably decisive in convincing the younger generation that a renewed ephebeia would strengthen the democracy by providing patriotic citizens prepared to resist any further Macedonian encroachment on the city’s sovereignty.

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Paideia and Polis: The Ephebate and Citizen Training

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