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DEMOCRACY AND  DEMOCRACIES.                  I29
the assembly by that committee of the senate who were the
presiding officers of the meeting: when brought before the
people, it could be modified and so passed. But to propose
a law, or originate a resolution in the ecclesia, subjected the
author of it to a prosecution for doing illegal things (a ypatyl
7rapav6/jt,(0v), which, if brought before the court and decided
against him, might bring on him a very heavy fine, if not the
loss of life, and after three convictions for the offense the for-
feiture of civic rights. This was one of the principal modes
of attack by which opposing politicians sought to overthrow
each other's power.
When new laws were to be enacted, the projects of them
needed to be laid before a lame committee of the people,
called the nomothetce, selected from the number of those wno
were annually appointed and sworn to sit as judges in the
courts. The people in the ecclesia appointed five advocates
of the old law; the proceedings before the nomothetft ^er^
prepared by action on the part of the senate, and after exami-
nation the decision in favor of the new law seems to have
brought with it, as a matter of course, abrogation of the old
A very remarkable feature of the Athenian political sys-
tem was the absence of a central magistracy,
Divided executive.                                                                                                f'nn
and the complete independence of the function-
aries upon one another. In many ancient city-states this
was carried very far; thus, the consuls, prsetors, quaestors,
asdiles, tribunes, censors, at Rome, were not amenable nor
properly subordinate to one another. But it went to a
much greater length at Athens. Every board of officers
was a kind of commission from'the people, and accountable
to them as well as to special boards of control appointed for
the purpose. All official persons were subject, before enter-
ing upon their work, to an examination which related to their
citizenship and character. Through the year, in the first
assembly of every prytany, i. e., ten times in the year, the
* Com p. C. F. Herm, u. sv i., 131.