The Development of the Athenian Ephebia
by Stacy Fox



      Over the course of the development of the Athenian Ephebeia, many changes and additions occurred in concurrence with the Hellenistic times.  Taking into consideration Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42, composed in the classical Hellenistic era, a decree honoring the ephebes and their instructors written in the early Hellenistic period, and the Inscriptiones Graecae recorded in the Hellenistic, before Sulla era, it is possible to trace the history and full development of the Athenian Ephebeia.  By looking closely at the duties the ephebes performed, their instructors and a comparison and contrast of the three documents mentioned above, this intricate development of the training of young Athenian men for citizenship would evolve into the most sophisticated form of the Athenian Ephebeia.
     Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. at Stagirus, a Greek colony in Thrace.  At the age of seventeen, his guardian Proxenus took him into Athens to complete his education at the Academy under Plato.  After attending Plato’s lectures for over twenty years, Aristotle expected to inherit control of the teachings in the Academy, but was instead turned down so he left Athens after Plato died.  He became the tutor for Alexander the Great and did not return to Athens until Alexander succeeded Philip to the kingship.  When back in Athens, Aristotle opened the Lyceum and for the next thirteen years he used his time to teach and write his philosophical treatises.  He felt that education should be totally public and makes this clear in his work Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42, which he composed in 336 B.C.
     In Aristotle’s, Constitution of the Athenians 42, he begins with explaining how a young Athenian man becomes a citizen and then proceeds to describe the many different instructors that lead them in their quest for citizenship in Athens.  Aristotle states that “young men born of Athenian parents” may begin their duties of citizenship “when they become 18 years of age” (Aristotle 42).  At this age they are “enrolled in their demes” and at the time of their enrollment, they “take an oath” which is divided up into two categories.  The first, asks the young men “whether he is of the proper age according to the laws” (Aristotle 42).  If the young man is not of the proper age then he must “return to the boys” and the demesman that entered him is fined (Aristotle 42).  The second oath that is given at the time of the demesmen’s enrollment, is “whether or not he is free” (Aristotle 42).  If for some reason, he is found to not really be free, “he appeals to a court and the demesmen choose five men from among themselves to judge him” (Aristotle 42).  Because there is always a chance that the young men the demesmen enroll are not proper in connection with the oaths, the demesmen who decide to enter young men for Athenian citizenship are given a “test of scrutiny” by the Council (Aristotle 42).  If by any chance, the young man was enrolled improperly, “the city sells him into slavery” (Aristotle 42).  These harsh consequences such show that the Athenian Council is serious about those young men that could become the future citizens of Athens.  Athens wants to be sure that it is receiving only the best men to become part of the state. 
      Once the Council has approved the young men as ephebes, “their fathers gather in tribal divisions and select under oath three men who are over 30 years of age” (Aristotle 42).  These three men are who the fathers are “considered to be the best and most suitable to supervise the ephebes” (Aristotle 42).  These three men are deemed the instructors of the ephebes over their years of training for their Athenian citizenship.  From the group of thirty, “the People vote for one man from each tribe as sophronistes” who will be the teachers of temperance for the ephebes (Aristotle 42).  Then, from the remaining Athenians, the People “elect a kosmete” who will be in overall charge of the ephebes for the whole year (Aristotle 42).  The kosmete and the sophronistes will help to instruct the ephebes to become good Athenian citizens.
     As the ephebes begin their training, they are given more instructors such as the paidotribai and the didaskaloi.  The paidotribai are two men who are gym instructors to the ephebes and teach them the basic general skills used in the gym.  On the other hand, the didaskaloi are two men “who instruct them in military drill, archery, throwing the javelin, and the use of the catapult” (Aristotle 42).  They also teach in the gym with the paidotribai, only they give instruction in more specialized training.  These four groups of instructors make up the teachers for the ephebes as they learn to become citizens of the Athenian State.
     During their first year of training, the ephebes take part in civic, religious and military activities.  Aristotle states that right after the ephebes and their instructors are chosen, “they [the instructors] collect the ephebes and make a tour of the sanctuaries of the gods” (Aristotle 42).  This constitutes as a religious activity where the ephebes are taken to pay tribute to their gods.  After they have visited the sanctuaries, they go to Piraeus and “some garrison Mounichia and some garrison Akte” (Aristotle 42).  Doing garrison duty is the military duty that the ephebes take part in during their first year of training for citizenship.  While on garrison duty, they are instructed by the paidotribai and the didaskaloi in military training, which furthers their education in military endeavors.  Also during their garrison duty, “they dine together by tribes” which is considered a civic activity (Aristotle 42).  These activities show that the ephebes and their instructors take part in religious, military and civic duties over the course of their first year of training for their citizenship.
     These same activities that the ephebes took part in during their first year, are revisited during their second year of training.  The first activity that Aristotle mentions is a civic one, where the ephebes “attend an assembly in the theater and stand in review before the people” (Aristotle 42).  The assembly constitutes as a civic activity because it is a gathering of the People for a general theme: the progress of the ephebes.  After the assembly, the ephebes “receive a spear and shield from the City and patrol the countryside and do garrison duty in the border forts” (Aristotle 42).  Since they have received their training in the specialized military activities during their first year, the ephebes continue their military knowledge by participating in more garrison duty.  Even though a specific religious duty is not named in the activities of the second year, it is clear that religion is still important.  One of the only reasons that an ephebe can be absent from the ephebeia, is if they have “a suit concerning hereditary priesthoods” (Aristotle 42).  By the ephebes performing civic, religious and military activities during their two years of training, Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42 is a perfect example of work describing the training of the ephebes during the Classical Hellenistic era. 
      Following Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42, is the Athenian Ephebeia itself, containing four documents that capture the activities of the early Hellenistic era and the Hellenistic era before Sulla.  Within these four documents, documents 2 and 3 are the best representations of activities performed during their era.  Document 2, was written in 214/213 B.C. during the early Hellenistic era which means that it contains civic, religious and military duties just as Aristotle’s work.  It is the “summary of a decree honoring ephebes and their instructors” and outlines formulas for praising the ephebes as well as their instructors, the kosmete, paidotribes, the catapult instructor and the drill master. (Doc.2 pg.3).  The civic duties that the decree highlights start with the “good order in the gymnasia” meaning “they have kept themselves obedient to the kosmete and the teachers who were set over them” (Doc.2 pg.3).  Also, “the ephebes have attended the assemblies in the places where the kosmete assigned them” (Doc.2 pg.3).  These statements honoring the ephebes are an example of civic duty because it talks about their time as a whole group in the gymnasia and the assemblies and the way that they acted.  Moving to the religious duties, the ephebes are commended when the People say that, “in the rites of the Mysteries they have performed services well and reverently” and that “they have sent processions and run the torch races in the other festivals” (Doc.2 pg.3).  The decree also states that the ephebes “have made sacrifices to the gods and spoken words of good omen” and “they have sent the procession to the statue of Democracy and run for the eponymous” (Doc.2 pg.3).  These praises show that religious duties of the ephebes during the early Hellenistic era were very important and necessary in their completion of training for their Athenian citizenship.  The last activities that the ephebes engage in according to the decree is military when it states that the ephebes “made a parade in armor for the Council” (Doc.2 pg.3).  This shows that the ephebes have been participating in their military activities over the course of their training.  In all, Document 2 is an excellent example of the civic, military and religious activities that the ephebes engaged in during the early Hellenistic period.
      The other document that is a great example of the activities of the ephebes is document 3, which was written in 122-121 B.C., during the Hellenistic era, before Sulla.  Document 3 is a decree honoring the ephebes, magistrate, and trainers called Inscriptiones Graecae.  It is a record kept by Epigenes, the secretary of the time, during the archonship of Nikodemos in Aigeis, the third prytany.  Instead of compiling only three activities like Aristotle and the early Hellenistic era, the Hellenistic period adds nautical, athletic and philosophy to the original list of civic, military, and religious activities.  As a matter of status and civic responsibility, the early Hellenistic era is considered to be the first truly educational period.
     First, it is appropriate to address the original activities civic, religious, and military that also take place in the Inscriptiones Graecae.  In terms of the civic duties that the ephebes dealt in, they “conducted parades,” went to “the festival of Ajax” and held “a principal assembly in the theater” (Doc.3 pg.1-4).  The festivals and parades that the ephebes participate in are civic because they are done as a community and with each other.  Besides civic duties, many religious activities are mentioned in the decree.  Within the second paragraph, Epigenes states that the ephebes “sacrificed at the common altar of the People” and “made a procession to Artemis Agrotera . . . encountered the sacred rites” (Doc.3 pg.1).  As early as Epigenes mentions religious duties, he shows that they were very important in the training of the ephebes.  Later in the decree, he says that the ephebes “delivered at the Dionysia a bull worthy of the god, which they sacrificed in the sacred procession” (Doc.3 pg.1).  Whenever the term “sacrifice” is used in the Inscriptiones Graecae, it refers to a religious activity that takes place.  The last original duty that appears in the Inscriptiones Graecae, is military activity.  Epigenes states that the ephebes “have gone out in arms to the borders of Attica and have become experienced in the country and its roads” (Doc.3 pg.5).  This shows that the ephebes are continuing their training of military duties even now in the Hellenistic period.  In another instance, Epigenes makes reference to an “old stone-throwing catapult” that the ephebes restored and then they “renewed the use and knowledge of the instrument” (Doc.3 pg.5).  The reviving of this old military weapon shows that the ephebes and their instructors were taking all strides to perfect and better their military arsenal and knowledge of military strategies.  Also, the ephebes have become “experienced in the borders and forts of Attica and to conduct practice in arms pertaining to warfare” (Doc.3 pg.6).  This military duty is significant because it is more than just training the ephebes for war but is a step in the transformation of the young men into an Athenian citizen.  These three activities show that the Hellenistic period, before Sulla, continued the practice of civic, religious, and military duties just like the early Hellenistic era before it.
     On the other hand, the Hellenistic era took the liberty to add nautical, athletic and philosophical activities to its educational agenda for the ephebes.  For instance, Epigenes mentions that “for the procession of the Great Gods, they have held a contest of ships” and they also “raced at the festival for Artemis to the harbor at Munychia” (Doc.3 pg.5).  The ephebes also raced at the “festival of Zeus the Savior” and “the festival of Ajax in a contest of ships” (Doc.3 pg.5).   The ship races show that in the Hellenistic period, the instructors felt it necessary to train the ephebes in nautical endeavors.  Besides the new nautical training, the ephebes added athletics to their curriculum.  When the ephebes “run the appropriate torch races” and “continued activity in the gymnasia” they are fulfilling their athletic training for Athenian citizenship (Doc.3 pg.4).  The last new activity that the ephebes added to their education is philosophy.  Epigenes notes in the Inscriptiones Graecae that the ephebes “have endured the school of Zenodotos in the Ptolemaion and in the Lyceum, and likewise for the other philosophers in the Lyceum and the Academy” (Doc.3 pg.4).  Here Epigenes is speaking of Aristotle’s school, the Lyceum and Plato’s school, the Academy.  The reference to these two famous philosophers shows that the teaching of philosophy to the ephebes was important to the Athenian State in the Hellenistic period.  In the philosophy category there lies the teaching of “self-control” or what Plato refers to as temperance.  By placing the ephebes under the lecture of the philosophers for a year, the instructors showed a keen desire to better educate their soon to be Athenian citizens. 
      Besides the fact that Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42, the decree in Document 2 and the Inscriptiones Graecae in Document 3 are all set in different time periods, they all focus on the education of the ephebes on their quest for Athenian citizenship.  Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42 and Document 2 both encompass the three basic duties of the Ephebeia, civic, military, and religious.  It is in Inscriptiones Graecae that the nautical, athletic and philosophical activities are added.  It also seems that the Athenian State is able to provide for so many more duties because of the money that families had pay to send their sons to train in the Ephebeia.  With more money, obviously, the ephebes had the luxury of training in more specialized areas and traveling to more places in order to garrison, hold ship contests, and attend civic festivals in the names of their gods.  All three documents reflect the era in which they were written and fit the criteria that the ephebes had fulfill to become an Athenian citizen. 
The development of the institution becomes clear through a look at the history of the Athenian Ephebeia.   Both the classical Hellenistic era and the early Hellenistic era focused on three activities in the ephebes training; civic, religious, and military, whereas the Hellenistic era, before Sulla, added nautical, athletics and philosophy to the mix.  A very important fact to consider when studying the addition of these new duties in the Hellenistic period, is that they were possible because the ephebes training was non compulsory.  This means that the ephebe’s father had to pay for them to go through their training, unlike the classical Hellenistic era, which was compulsory (Aristotle was a strong believer in public education), and made it a requirement that all young Athenian men go through the Athenian Ephebeia.  This change explains why the number of ephebes in training dropped drastic from 600-700 in the classical Hellenistic era to 40-60 in the early Hellenistic era (which was also non-compulsory).  The fact that families had to pay for their young sons to join the Ephebeia in the early Hellenistic period explains the decrease in participation.  Even though the Hellenistic period, before Sulla, was non compulsory, it contained about 70-179 ephebes because Athenian families were making more money and were able to send their sons to train in the Ephebeia.  Also, the duration of years the ephebes trained dropped from two years in the classical Hellenistic era to only one year in the early Hellenistic and Hellenistic periods.  All of these changes and additions to the Athenian Ephebeia throughout the Hellenistic periods follow the change of the times.  Each era had a Council that felt that these changes should take place and with good reason, to help improve the education and training of the ephebes of Athens and lead to the full development of the Athenian Ephebeia.
     Throughout the analysis of the Athenian Ephebeia, by taking from evidence from Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 42, the decree of Document 2 and the Inscriptiones Graecae in Document 3, it is clear that the training of the ephebes became more vigorous as time progressed.  Whether the Athenian State itself began to sophisticate or if the Council felt it necessary to set higher standards for the ephebes, there is no doubt that by the time of the Hellenistic era, before Sulla, the training of the ephebes had become truly educational.  Even though philosophical training was added at this time, Plato as well as Aristotle would have been disappointed in the Athenian State for making the training and education of the ephebes non-compulsory and not public.  Shouldn’t the Athenian State have given more credit to intellectuals such as these and granted their wishes when it came to preparing young men for citizenship?
 
 

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