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Athenian Political Art from the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE: Images of Political Personifications 

Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003

page 9 of 26

· Demoi of demes ·


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Discussion: The earliest extant image of Demos may be a young, unbearded youth on a relief decorating a document from Eleusis, the “Rhetoi Bridge Decree” [3]. In this relief the youthful male figure, dressed in a himation, stands with the Eleusinian divinities, Demeter and Persephone, and the city goddess, Athena. If the male figure was meant to represents Demos, as originally suggested by Olga Alexandri-Tzachou (in LIMC 3, 378-79 s.v. “Demos” no. 42), he would not represent the Athenian Demos, for his appearance is far too youthful, but rather the Demos of the deme of Eleusis, invented for this particular purpose. The illustration of the youthful Demos of Eleusis might have been intended to indicate that the deme of Eleusis was relatively young, as were the demoi of Roman cities such as Aphrodisias (see LIMC 3, 376 nos. 1-2, pl. 271). Since Eleusis and Athens were joined before the seventh century, the distinction between the Demoi of Eleusis and Athens seems inconsequential. A simpler explanation is that he represents one of youths that we encounter elsewhere in Eleusinian iconography—Ploutos (Wealth) or Triptolemos. Ploutos may be eliminated from consideration as he is usually nude. This figure would have been recognizable as Triptolemos, however, if he held sheaves of grain in his clenched left hand.

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A labelled Demos is shown on a the relief of a decree probably from the deme Aixone [2], and it is thought that he must then represent the Demos of Aixone. The Demos of Acharnai is conjectured to be represented on [1]. In these reliefs the Demoi, whose forms are similar to that of the Demos of Athens on decree reliefs, represent the political assembly of the local deme, and serve the same representative function as the Demos of Athens on the Panathenian honorary decrees.


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  1. Acharnai

    Plot on a Map

    A relief (in the Church of St. Lydakis, Athens) found at Menidi, Attica, from an honorary deme decree, probably from Acharnai, ca. 330-320, illustrating a male probably the Demos of Acharnai, crowning a man.

  2. Aixone

    Plot on a Map

    A relief (now lost) found at Trachones, Attica, from an honorary deme decree, ca. 350-300, illustrating Demos, labelled ΔΗ[ΜΟΣ] (probably the Demos of Aixone), crowning a man.

  3. Eleusis

    Eleusis 5093: a youthful male figure, standing with Demeter, Persephone, and god, on a relief from a building decree regarding the Rhetoi Bridge (IG I3, 79), 422/1.

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