Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

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Context for the Evidence: Lycurgus

David D. Phillips, edition of April 8, 2003

· Lycurgus ·

This article was originally written for the online discussion series “Athenian Law in its Democratic Context,” organized by Adriaan Lanni and sponsored by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies.

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Lycurgus son of Lycophron of the deme Boutadae (ca. 390-324) belonged to one of Athens’ most distinguished families, the Eteoboutads. Rising to prominence after the battle of Chaeroneia, Lycurgus administered the Athenian state treasury from 336 until his death. During his tenure he increased revenues, enlarged the fleet and renovated its dockyards, and oversaw a public building program. In addition, he may have reorganized the ephebic system, under which Athenian men in their first two years of adulthood underwent military training and patrolled the border of Attica.

Read about the evidence
Lycurgus (Lyc. 1).
Plutarch (Plut. Mor.).

An extremely pious man, Lycurgus legislated often regarding religious cults and festivals. He also saw himself as a moral reformer; as such he involved himself in numerous prosecutions, favoring especially the procedure of eisangelia (impeachment). His sole surviving speech, “Against Leocrates”, was delivered in an impeachment for treason. Some of his contemporaries, including Hypereides, objected that Lycurgus was overly zealous in his use of eisangelia and impeached men for petty offenses. So vigorous was Lycurgus in his prosecution of wrongdoers that it was said that he anointed his pen not with ink but with death ([Plut.] Moralia 841e). In 307/6 the Athenians honored Lycurgus’ memory by erecting a bronze statue of him in the Ceramicus. (See also Oratory.)