Ephialtes was leader of the democratic opposition in Athens (462-461). The most powerful political leader at the time was Cimon, son of Miltiades. He was an aristocrat and not willing to privide Athens more democratic rights. By ostracism, Cimon was sent away which gave Ephialtes the opportunity to restrict the Areopagus's power. The Areopagus (or Areopagos) was the last of the aristocratic bastions in Athens.

Ephialtes turned the right to supervise the archons (the political leaders) over to the people's Council of 500 (boulè). This restricted the archons' freedom of action hugely. The council also checked upon their antecedents and could dismiss them immediately at the start of each prytany, the bouleutai's term of office. Civilians could now ask the council to investigate a political leader.

The people's lawcourt (hèliaia) received all the Areopagus' legislative powers but the murder cases. Thanks to Ephialtes this democratic court rose in importance. Yearly 6000 volunteers were drawn in a lottery, to form a huge reservoir of judges who took place in a special jury, called dikastèrion. The number of jury members depended on the importance of the case, but was enormous to our standards (to prevent bribes). The court that sentenced Socrates in 399 consisted of 501 jury members.

Ephialtes was killed in 461.

Ephialtes was also the name of the greek from Trachis who betrayed the Spartans to the Persians at the battle of Thermopylae in 480B.C.

A bounty was placed on his head in 488B.C. by the Delphic Amphictiony the international organisation that oversaw affairs at Delphi. He spent ten years in Thessaly. He was murdered in 478B.C. on his return to Trachis by a fellow Trachinian, who killed him for personal reasons. The Spartans honoured the man who killed him as a hero.


A different Ephialtes was one of the giants who attacked Mount. Olympus. He was apparently killed by Apollo and his bow.

Eph`i*al"tes (?), n. [NL., fr. Gr. , lit., one who leaps upon.]

The nightmare.

Brande & C.

 

© Webster 1913.

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