Show Summary Details

Text expanded to include epigraphic evidence and full discussion of different types of dokimasiai. Bibliography updated to reflect current research.

Updated on 7 March 2016. The previous version of this content can be found here.
Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 25 September 2018


The term δοκιμασία‎ and the related verb dokimazein were used in various Greek contexts to denote a procedure of examining or testing, and approving or validating as a result of the test.1 For Athens, Ath. Pol. mentions four categories of dokimasiai: two political, of eighteen-year-old men registered as citizens, which were conducted by deme assemblies and the council (42.1–2); and of men appointed as councillors and officials, which was conducted by the council in some cases and by law courts in others (45.3, 55.2–4, 56.1, 59.4, 60.1); and two more technical, of the cavalry’s horses and the prodromoi and hamippoi who fought with the cavalry, and in effect of the cavalrymen themselves (though in connection with them the word is not used), which were conducted by the council (49.1–2); and of invalids, who were entitled to a grant if impoverished and unable to work, which also was conducted by the council (49.4). As with the cavalrymen, there were other procedures which may be considered dokimasiai, though the word is not applied to them, such as decisions about designs for the peplos, the robe made every fourth year for the cult statue of Athena, and perhaps about plans for public works in general, carried out originally by the council but in the time of Ath. Pol. by a law court (49. 3). At the dokimasia of the archons, candidates were asked about their parentage, family cults and tombs, treatment of their parents, payment of taxes, and military service, and they had to produce witnesses (55.3–4). Thus the purpose of officials’ dokimasiai was to check that the men were citizens in good standing rather than that they were particularly suited to the office that they were to hold (though Dem. 19.338 suggests that for some appointments relevant questions could arise).

Challenges were sometimes made and sometimes succeeded: Theramenes was elected general for 405/4 bce but rejected in his dokimasia (Lys. 13.10). Lys. 16 (membership of council), 24 (grant to invalid2), 25 (probably: appointment to some office), 26 (appointment as archon: a second man challenged after the man first appointed had already been rejected), 31 (membership of council) and frs. 106–7 Carey (appointment to some office) were all written for contested dokimasiai. Meidias challenged Demosthenes unsuccessfully when he was appointed to the council for 347/6 bce (Dem. 21.111). Aeschines mentions a dokimasia of rhetores (Aeschin. 1.28–32), which provided an opportunity to challenge a man who spoke in the assembly if he had behaved in ways unbecoming to an Athenian citizen (he mentions maltreatment of parents, military desertion, prostitution, and squandering one’s inheritance), and which he used to counterattack Timarchus when Timarchus prosecuted him. That procedure is scarcely mentioned elsewhere, and presumably was not much used.3

Andocides uses dokimazein of a procedure followed on the restoration of the democracy in 403 bce: the laws of Draco and Solon were subjected to a dokimasia, and those that were approved were written up on stelai and placed in front of the Stoa Basileios (Andoc. 1.81–5).4

We learn from inscriptions of the Hellenistic period about dokimasiai in a law court which followed decisions of the assembly to grant citizenship or some of the associated rights, first attested probably in the brief period of democracy in 318 bce (IG 22. 398.b = Osborne, Naturalization in Athens, D 36.3–6), and to award the highest honours to outstanding citizens, first attested in 295/4 bce (IG 22.646.48–52). Dokimasiai have appeared also in two recently discovered 4th-century bce laws: a dokimasia performed by slave dokimastai to distinguish genuine from spurious coins (SEG 26.72 = RO 25), and a dokimasia in the council to check the acceptability of guarantors nominated by the men bidding to collect the grain tax of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros (SEG 47.96 = RO 26.29–31).

While other means of holding officials to account are attested widely across the Greek world, in states of various political complexions, there is very little evidence outside Athens for dokimasiai of men appointed to office: only three Hellenistic instances (Polyb. 33.17.5, Rhodes; IG 12.5. 652.10–15 with SEG 46. 1140, Syros; IC 1. 19.3.14–15, Malla on Crete), and two from the time of the Roman principate (RC 75 = IK Estremo Oriente Greco 218.7–9, Susa; SIG3 838 = IK Ephesos 1487.12–15, Ephesus). This is surprising, since in the smaller cities it may have been true that anybody appointed would be so well known that no check of this kind was needed, but in the larger cities that cannot have been true.

Dokimasia and its cognates are, however, used outside Athens for various other procedures of approval or validation, of a technical rather than a political kind. Some are procedures found in Athens also: for instance, of cavalry and their horses (Hatzopoulos, L’ Organisation de l’ armée macédonienne, pp. 157–60 no. 2. II.2–7); of men granted citizenship (e.g. Plut. Cleom. 10.11, Sparta; ISE 108.13–20, Phalanna in Thessaly); of coinage approved as genuine (IG–7). Others have no direct Athenian parallel: the dokimasia of wives and daughters claiming family property after the restoration of exiles in Tegea (SIG3 306 = RO 101.49–57), or of the status or capacity of land (Recueil des inscriptions juridiques grecques 12.116–9, Heraclea in Italy; Inschriften von Priene 37.109–16 = IK Priene 132.143–50, Priene) and of sacrificial victims (e.g. IG 12.5.647 = SIG3 958.14–16, Coresia on Ceos). In the Achaean League the title dokimaster was given to members of a special board chosen to examine accounts in a particular crisis, who in Athens would have been styled logistai or euthynoi (Polyb. 24.7.5–6).


Feyel, Christophe. Δοκιμασία‎: La Place et le rôle de l’ examen préliminaire dans les institutions des cités grecques. Paris: de Boccard for Association pour la Diffusion de la Recherche sur l’ Antiquité, 2009.Find this resource:

    Fröhlich, Pierre. Les Cités grecques et le contrôle des magistrats (IVe–Ier siècle avant J.-C.). Geneva, Switzerland: Droz for École Pratique des Hautes Études, 2004.Find this resource:

      Hansen, Mogens Herman. The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles and Ideology. 2d ed. London: Duckworth (Bristol Classical Press), 1999.Find this resource:

        Hatzopoulos, Miltiades B. L’ Organisation de l’ armée macédonienne sous les Antigionides. Paris: de Boccard for Centre for Research in Greek and Roman Antiquity, 2001.Find this resource:

          Henry, Alan S. Honours and Privileges in Athenian Decrees: The Principal Formulae of Athenian Honorary Decrees. Hildesheim: Olms, 1983.Find this resource:

            Osborne, M. J. Naturalization in Athens. Brussels: Royal Academy, 1981–1983.Find this resource:

              Rhodes, P. J. A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.Find this resource:


                (1.) Cf. D. M. MacDowell, Andokides, On the Mysteries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 121.

                (2.) For another disputed case see Aeschin. 1.103–4.

                (3.) On the position of a guilty man before being challenged and after a challenge had succeeded, see the discussion by D. M. MacDowell and L. Gagliardi, “The Athenian Procedure of Dokimasia of Orators,” in Symposion 2001 (Akten der Gesellschaft für griechische und hellenistische Rechtsgeschichte 16, edited by R. W. Wallace and M. Gagarin. (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2005), 79–87 and 89–97.

                (4.) See discussion by M. Canevaro and E. M. Harris, “The Documents in Andocides’ On the Mysteries,” Classical Quarterly n.s. 62 (2012) 110–116.

                Do you have feedback?