The Public Payment of Magistrates in Fourth-Century Athens

Pritchard, David M. (2014) The Public Payment of Magistrates in Fourth-Century Athens. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, 54 1: 1-16.

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Author Pritchard, David M.
Title The Public Payment of Magistrates in Fourth-Century Athens
Journal name Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 2159-3159
Publication date 2014
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 54
Issue 1
Start page 1
End page 16
Total pages 16
Place of publication Durham, NC, United States
Publisher Duke University
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Abstract M. H. Hansen has long argued that the Athenian democracy did not give magistrates misthos (‘pay’) in the fourth century BC. This article questions his argument and makes the opposite case that fourth-century Athenians paid their officials with public funds as their forebears had certainly done from the late 430s. Hansen bases his argument on the silence of our ancient sources. In 411/10 the oligarchic regime of the Four Hundred made Athenian magistrates, excepting the 9 archons, amisthoi or unsalaried ([Arist.] Ath. Pol. 29.5; cf. Thuc. 8.65.3, 67.3). If, after they were ousted, this form of remuneration was restored, it was once more taken away by the oligarchic regime of 405/4. For Hansen there is simply no evidence that the democracy in the following year, that is, immediately after its second restoration, or at any point in the fourth century started to pay all of its magistrates again. In his account of the Athenian constitution of the 320s Aristotle’s pupil noted the remuneration of only a fraction of the 329 arkhontes (‘magistrates’) which he got around to describing. They were the 9 archons, 5 overseas magistrates and 10 others who managed the new training program for ephebes (42.3; 62.2). On misthos, at least, Hansen thinks that this Constitution of the Athenians is not ‘ridiculously incomplete’ and is corroborated by the silence of the century’s inscriptions on misthophoria (‘receipt of pay’) for magistrates. Thus this treatise’s short list of salaried officials suggests that the Athenians never reversed what the oligarchs had done. For Hansen the democracy which they restored was more conservative than the fifth-century one. He concludes: ‘Considerable concessions were made to the oligarchic criticism of radical democracy and the principle ‘no misthos for archai’ may well have been one of those concessions.’ In almost all cases fourth-century magistrates may have no longer received misthos but Hansen argues that many of them still found other forms of compensation. Certainly the state gave some of its religious officials a share of sacrificed animals, produce from a sanctuary’s lands or free meals in the lead up to a festival. Hansen argues that magistrates also relied on their own initiative to get compensation: some demanded cash-gifts from those requiring their help, while others held onto public funds and used them privately for years. Generals too, he argues, pocketed large gifts from foreigners and most of the booty which they captured. Hansen holds that a magistrate’s taking of such benefits was common and was generally accepted by the dēmos (‘people’). But if his requests or acts went beyond ‘the accepted limits’, he could be prosecuted for taking bribes or misappropriating funds. In three of his treatises Isocrates discussed the money which Athenians apparently earned as magistrates (7.24-7; 12.145; 15.145-52). Hansen asserts that in two of these treatises Isocrates only had in mind these benefits which arkhontes secured independently, while in the third the reference is instead to pay for another form of political participation. The initial reception of Hansen’s argument about the lack of pay for postwar magistrates was actually mixed. P. J. Rhodes rejected it immediately. V. Gabrielsen published a critique of it as a book. Admittedly some did quickly back up Hansen but just as many did not. To this day ancient historians take different sides in this debate. Settling it one way or another is important for our understanding of the development of Athenian democracy. Hansen and others argue that the democracy which was restored for a second time in 404/3 curtailed the power of the dēmos. But E. M. Harris and J. Ober make the opposite case: the fourth-century democracy increased their power to change nomoi (‘laws’) and the jurisdiction of their law-courts. Certainly fifth-century Athenians were seriously committed to the poor’s participation in the law-courts and in politics. From the 450s they introduced different forms of public remuneration to make it easier for non-elite citizens to do so. In view of them the claim of Pericles that poverty was no barrier to political participation appears to be fully justified (Thuc. 2.37.1). Therefore the failure of fourth-century Athenians to restore misthos for magistrates would be a lessening of this commitment. It would indeed support the argument that the restored democracy was more conservative than its fifth-century predecessor. I believe there to be three reasons why Hansen’s argument must be called into question. The first reason is that the dēmos simply did not tolerate the misuse of an archonship for personal gain. This makes unlikely the common accepting of bribes and stealing of funds which Hansen proposes. The second reason is that poor Athenians served as magistrates. Citizens of this social class had to earn a living. Since many of the arkhai (‘magistracies’) which they filled were full time, they could not have done so unless they received compensation for lost earnings. This could come only as misthos from the state. The third reason is evidence. Hansen’s treatment of the treatise of Aristotle’s pupil is inconsistent. On public pay for magistrates he argues that it is not seriously incomplete. But, when it comes to their number, he argues just the opposite. Indeed Hansen himself puts beyond doubt that Athens of the 330s had twice as many magistrates than the 329 which Aristotle’s pupil mentioned. Much more serious is that we do in fact have evidence for the state’s payment of fourth-century officials and lack evidence for what we should see if Hansen were right. Thus we have no reason to doubt that misthos for magistrates was re-introduced at the same time as it was for councillors and jurors: immediately after the democracy’s second restoration in 404/3.
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Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: UQ Cultural History Project
Official 2015 Collection
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
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Created: Sat, 21 Dec 2013, 10:45:00 EST by Dr David Pritchard on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry