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Greek magistracy


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Magistracies (archai) in Greek states were the successors of the kingships, which rarely survived into the Classical period. The powers of a hereditary king came to be divided between a plurality of magistrates, normally appointed for one year and often not eligible for reappointment. In addition to general offices of state, more specialized offices were sometimes created, e.g. to control a treasury or to supervise public works or the market. A small state could manage with few magistrates, but in a large one there might be many, and many duties might be given to boards rather than single individuals: Athens in the 5th cent. bc developed an esp. extensive range of offices—700 internal and 700 external, acc. to the text of Athenaion politeia, though the second 700 is probably corrupt.

Magistrates tended to be more powerful, and to be appointed from a more restricted circle, in oligarchies than in democracies. Appointment by lot (see sortition) rather than by election, to civilian posts which were not thought to require special ability, was esp. associated with democracy, but both that and a ban on reappointment to the same office can be found in oligarchies too. Athens and some other democratic states provided small salaries for magistrates (see democracy, athenian, 2). One office might be regarded as the principal office in a state, but in general there was no hierarchy of offices and no cursus honorum (see careers, greek). The citizens might control their magistrates through such procedures as dokimasia (vetting their qualifications before they entered office) and euthynai (examining their conduct after they left office), as well as by making them liable to prosecution for misconduct.

For an important further group of offices in the Greek city see liturgy.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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