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Ephebus

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp462‑463 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

p462 EPHE′BUS (ἔφηβος), the name of an Athenian youth after he had attained the age of 18 (Pollux, VIII.105; Harpocrat, s.v. Ἐπιδίετες Ἡβῆσαι). The state of ἐφηβεία lasted for two years, till the young men had attained the age of 20, when they became men, and were admitted to share all the rights and duties of a citizen, for which the law did not prescribe a more advanced age. That the young men, when they became ἔφηβοι, did not receive all the privileges of full citizens, is admitted on all hands; but from the assertion of Pollux and Harpocration, who state that their names were not entered in the lexiarchic registers until they had completed their 20th year, that is to say, until they had gone through the period of ἐφηβεία, it would seem that they were not looked upon as citizens as long as they were ἔφηβοι, and that consequently they enjoyed none of the privileges of full citizens. But we have sufficient ground for believing, that the names of young men at the time they became ἔφηβοι, were entered as citizens in the lexiarchic registers, for Lycurgus (c. Leocrat. p189) uses the expressions ἔφηβον γίγνεσθαι and εἰς τὸ ληξιαρχικὸν γραμματεῖον ἐγγράφεσθαι as synonymous. The statement of Harpocration and Photius is therefore probably nothing but a false inference from the fact, that young men before the completion of their 20th year were not allowed to take an active part in the public assembly; or it may be, that it arose out of the law which, as Schömann (De Comit. p71, transl.) interprets it, prescribed that no Athenian should be enrolled in the lexiarchic registers before the attainment of the 18th, or after the completion of the 20th year [Docimasia]. From the oration of Demosthenes against Aphobus (p814, &c.; compare c. Onetor. p868), we see that some of the privileges of citizens were conferred upon young men on becoming ἔφηβοι: Demosthenes himself, at the age of 18, entered upon his patrimony, and brought an action against his guardians; one Mantitheus (Demosth. c. Boeot. De Dote, p1009) relates that he married at the age of 18; and these facts are stated in such a manner that we must infer that their occurrence had nothing extraordinary, but were in accordance with the usual custom.

Before a youth was entered among the ephebi, he had to undergo a δοκιμασία, the object of which was partly to ascertain whether he was the son of Athenian citizens, or adopted by a citizen, and partly whether his body was sufficiently developed and strong to undertake the duties which now devolved upon him (Aristoph. Vesp. 533, with the Schol; Demosth. c. Onetor. p868; Xen. De Rep. Ath. c. 3 § 4; Plato, Crito, p51, with Stallbaum's note p174 Eng. transl.). Schömann (l.c.) believes that this δοκιμασία only applied to orphans, but Aristophanes and Plato mention it in such a general way, that there seems to be no ground for such a supposition. After the δοκιμασία the young men received in the assembly a shield and a lance (Aristot. ap. Harpocrat. s.v. Δοκιμασία); but those whose fathers had fallen in the defence of their country, received a complete suit of armour p463in the theatre (Aeschin. c. Ctesiph. p75, ed. Steph.; Plato, Menex. p249, with Stallbaum's note). It seems to have been on this occasion that the ἔφηβοι took an oath in the temple of Artemis Aglauros (Demosth. De Fals. Leg. p438; Pollux, VIII.106), by which they pledged themselves never to disgrace their arms or to desert their comrades; to fight to the last in the defence of their country, its altars and hearths; to leave their country not in a worse but in a better state than they found it; to obey the magistrates and the laws; to resist all attempts to subvert the institutions of Attica, and finally to respect the religion of their forefathers. This solemnity took place towards the close of the year (ἐν ἀρχαιρεσίαις), and the festive season bore the name of ἐφήβια (Isaeus, De Apollod. c. 28; Demosth. c. Leochar. p1092). The external distinction of the ἔφηβοι consisted in the χλαμύς and the πέτασος (Hemsterhuis, Ad Polluc. X.164).

During the two years of the ἐφηβεία, which may be considered as a kind of apprenticeship in arms, and in which the young men prepared themselves for the higher duties of full citizens, they were generally sent into the country, under the name of περίπολοι, to keep watch in the towns and fortresses, on the coast and frontier, and to perform other duties which might be necessary for the protection of Attica (Pollux, VIII.106; Photius, s.v. Περίπολος: Plato, De Leg. VI p760C).


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