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p480 Exegetae

Unsigned article on p480 of

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

EXEGETAE (ἐξηγηταί, interpreters; on this and other meanings of the word see Ruhnken, ad Timaei Glossar. p109, &c.), is the name of the Eumolpidae, by which they were designated as the interpreters of the laws relating to religion and of the sacred rites (Demosth. Euerg. p1160). [Eumolpidae] They were thus at Athens the only class of persons, who, in some measure, resembled the Roman jurists; but the laws, of which the ἐξηγηταί were the interpreters, were not written but handed down by tradition. Plutarch (Thes. 25) applies the term to the whole order of the Eupatridae, though properly speaking it belonged only to certain members of their order, i.e. the Eumolpidae. The Etymologicum Magnum (s.v.), in accordance with the etymological meaning of the word, states, that it was applied to any interpreter of laws, whether sacred or profane; but we know that at Athens the name was principally applied to three members of the family of the Eumolpidae (Suidas, s.v.), whose province it was to interpret the religious and ceremonial laws, the signs in the heavens, and the oracles; whence Cicero (De Leg. II.27) calls them religionum interpretes (compare Pollux, VIII.124 and VII.188;º Plato, Euthyphr. p4D). They had also to perform the public and private expiatory sacrifices, and were never appointed without the sanction of the Delphic oracle, whence they were called Πυθόχρηστοι (Timaeus, Glossar. s.v. Ἐξηγηταί: compare Meier, De Bonis Damnat. p7; Müller, ad Aeschyl. Eumen. p162, &c.).

The name ἐξηγητής was also applied to those persons who served as guides (cicerone) to the visitors in the most remarkable towns and places of Greece, who showed to strangers the curiosities of a place, and explained to them its history and antiquities (Paus. I.41 § 2).


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