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government/administration (Greek)


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Greek states involved their citizens, as far as possible, in carrying out decisions as well as in making decisions, and did little to develop a professional bureaucracy. The need for regular administrators was reduced by such practices as tax‐farming, the system of liturgies, and reliance on individuals to prosecute offenders not only for private wrongs but also for wrongs against the state.

Democratic Athens, with its large number of citizens, its extensive overseas interests, and money with which to pay stipends, developed an esp. large number of administrative posts. The work of administration, where it could not be devolved, was divided into numerous separate, small jobs, and most of those were entrusted to boards of ten men, one from each tribe, appointed by lot for one year and not eligible for reappointment to the same board: it was assumed that the work required loyalty rather than ability. The council of 500, itself appointed by lot for a year, acted as overseer of the various boards. (See boule.) Thus when a partnership of citizens made a successful bid for the collection of a particular tax in a particular year, the contract would be made by the poletai (‘sellers’) in the presence of the council. If they paid the money on time, they would pay it to the apodektai (‘receivers’) in the presence of the council, and if they defaulted, the council would use the praktores (‘exactors’) to pursue them. See generally democracy, athenian.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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