In Athens were the six junior of the nine archontes, appointed annually. They were instituted in the 7th cent. bc. Thesmos is an early word for ‘law’ or ‘rule’, but it is unlikely that the thesmothetai ever made laws; their original function must have been ‘laying down the law’ in the sense of pronouncing verdicts on accusations and disputes.
After the establishment of juries, the main function of the thesmothetai was to receive charges in various legal actions and arrange for a trial by jury, over which one thesmothetēs presided. Their trials were held in the building known as the Eliaia. The public actions for which they were responsible included eisangelia for treason, probolē (see law and procedure, athenian), and graphe for many offences, including graphe paranomon. They took trials arising from dokimasia, and they also took some private actions. They could authorize the execution without trial of persons exiled for homicide who were afterwards found in Attica. In the 4th cent., after magistrates ceased to sit regularly in the same courts, it was the thesmothetai who arranged the dates for trials and allotted courts to magistrates each day.
Subjects: Classical studies