In Attica - e altrove nell'antica Grecia - un demo (dêmos = popolo) costituiva un'unità territoriale politico-amministrativa. Per saperne di più bisogna avere la pazienza di leggere quanto proposto da Sir William Smith (1813-1893) in Dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities (Boston, 1870).
Demus. The word δῆμος originally indicated a district or tract of land, and is by some derived from δέω, as if it signified an " enclosure marked off from the waste," just as our word town comes, according to Home Tooke, from the Saxon verb "tynan," to enclose. (Arnold, ad Time. vol. i. Appendix, iii) It seems, however, more simple to connect it with the Doric δᾶ for γᾶ. In this meaning of a country district, inhabited and under cultivation, δῆμος is contrasted with πόλις: thus we have ἀνδρῶν δῆμόν τε πόλιν τε (Hes. Op. et Dies, 527); but the transition from a locality to its occupiers is easy and natural, and hence in the earlier Greek poets we find δῆμος applied to the outlying country population, who tilled the lands of the chieftains or inhabitants of the city ; so that δῆμος and πολῖται came to be opposed to each other, the former denoting the subject peasantry, the latter, the nobles in the chief towns.
The Demi (οἱ δῆμοι) in Attica were subdivisions of the tribes, corresponding to our townships or hundreds. Their institution is ascribed to Theseus; but we know nothing about them before the age of Cleisthenes, who broke up the four tribes of the old constitution, and substituted in their place ten local tribes (φυλαί τοπικαί), each named after some Attic hero. (Herod, v. 66, 69.) These were subdivided each into ten demi or country parishes, possessing each its principal town; and in some one of these demi were enrolled all the Athenian citizens resident in Attica, with the exception, perhaps, of those who were natives of Athens itself. (Thirlwall, Hist, of Greece, vol. ii. p. 74.) These subdivisions corresponded in some degree to the ναυκραρίαι of the old tribes, and were, according to Herodotus, one hundred in number; but as the Attic demi amounted in the time of Strabo (ix. p. 396, c.) to 174, doubts have been raised about this statement. Niebuhr has inferred from it that the tribes of Cleisthenes did not originally include the whole population of Attica, and "that some of the additional 74 must have been cantons, which had previously been left in a state of dependence; by far the chief part, however, were houses (γένη) of the old aristocracy," which were included in the four Ionian tribes, but, according to Niebuhr, were not incorporated in the ten tribes of the "rural commonalty," till after the time of Cleisthenes. This inference, however, seems very questionable; for the number of the demi might increase from a variety of causes, such as the growth of the population, the creation of new tribes, and the division of the larger into smaller demi; to say nothing of the improbability of the co-existence of two different orders of tribes. "Another fact, more difficult to account for, is the transposition by which denies of the same tribe were found at opposite extremities of the country." (Thirlwall, l.c., and app. i. vol. ii.) The names of the different demes were taken, some from the chief towns in them, as Marathon, Eleusis, and Acharnae; some from the names of houses or clans, such as the Daedalidae, Boutadae, &c. The largest of all was the demus of Acharnae, which in the time of the Peloponnesian war, was so extensive as to supply a force of no less than three thousand heavy-armed men. (Comp, Thuc. ii. 191.)
In explanation of their constitution and relation to the state in general, we may observe, that they formed independent corporations, and had each their several magistrates, landed and other property, with a common treasury. They had likewise their respective convocations convened by the Demarchi (δήμαρχοι), in which was transacted the public business of the demus, such as the leasing of its, estates, the elections of officers, the revision of the registers or lists of Demotae (δημόται), and the admission of new members. [demarchi] Moreover, each demus appears to have kept what was called a πίναξ ἐκκλεσιαστικός, or list of those Demotae who were entitled to vote at the general assemblies of the whole people. In a financial point of view, they supplanted the old "naucraries " of the four tribes, each demus being required to furnish to the state a .certain quota of money, and contingent of troops, whenever necessary. Independent of these bonds of union, each demus seems to have had its peculiar temples, and religious worship (δημοτικά ἱερά, Paus. i. 31 ; Pollux, viii. 108), the officiating priests in which were chosen by the Demotae (Dem. c.. Eubul. p. 1313); so that both in a .civil and religious point of view, the demi appear as minor communities, whose magistrates, moreover, were obliged to submit to a δοκιμασία, in the same way as the public officers of the whole state. But besides the magistrates, such as demarchs and treasurers (ταμίαι), elected by each parish, we also read of judges., who were called δικασταὶ κατὰ δήμους: the number of these officers., originally thirty, was afterwards increased to forty, and it appears that they made circuits through the different districts, to administer justice in all cases where the matter in dispute was not more than ten drachmae in value, more important questions being reserved for the διαιτηταί. (Hudt-walcker, p. 37.)
On the first institution of the demi, Cleisthenes increased the strength of the δῆμος, or commonalty, by making many new citizens, amongst whom are said to have been included not only strangers and resident foreigners, but also slaves. (Arist. Pol. iii. 1.) [Πολλοὺς ἐφυλέτευσε ξένους καὶ δούλους μετοίκους. This passage has given rise to much dispute, and has been considered by many critics to afford no sense; but no emendation which has been proposed is better than the received text. See Grote, History of Greece, vol. iv. p. 170.]
Now admission into a demus was necessary, before any individual could enter upon his full rights and privileges as an Attic citizen; and though in the first instance, every one was enrolled in the register of the demus in which his property and residence lay, this relation did not continue to hold with all the Demotae; for since a son was registered in the demus of his real or adoptive father, and the former might change his residence, it would often happen that the members of a demus did not all reside in it. Still this would not cause any inconvenience, since the meetings of each demus were not held within its limits, but at Athens. (Dem. c. Eulml. p. 1302.) No one, however, could purchase property situate within a demus to which he did not himself belong, without paying to the demarchs a fee for the privilege of doing so (ἐγκτητικόν), which would, of course, go to the treasury of the demus. (Btickh, Pull, Econ. of Athens, p. 297, 2nd ed.)
Two of the most important functions of the general assemblies of the demi, were, the admission of new members and the revision of the names of members already admitted. The register of enrolment was called ληξιαρχικόν γραμματεῖον, because any person whose name was inscribed in it could enter upon an inheritance and enjoy a patrimony, the expression for which in Attic Greek was τῆς λήξεως ἄρχειν: λαγχάνειν κλῆρον, being equivalent to the Roman phrase adire hereditatem. These registers were kept by the demarchs, who, with the approbation of the members of the demus assembled in general meeting, inserted or erased names according to circumstances. Thus, when a youth was proposed for enrolment, it was competent for any demote to object to his admission on the ground of illegitimacy, or non-citizenship, by the side of either parent. The Demotae decided on the validity of these objections under the sanction of an oath, and the question was determined by a majority of votes. (Dem. c. Eub. p. 1318.) The same process was observed when a citizen changed his demus in consequence of adoption. (Isaeus, De Apoll. Hered. p. 66. 17.) Sometimes, however, a demarch was bribed to place, or assist in placing, on the register of a demus, persons who had no claim to citizenship. (Demosth. c. Leoch. p. 1091.) To remedy this admission of spurious citizens (παρεγγραπτοί) the διαψήφισις was instituted. [Diapephisis.] Lastly, crowns and other honorary distinctions could be awarded by the demi in the same way as by the tribes. (K. F. Hermann, Griech. Staats-alterth. §111, &c.; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alter-thumsk. Arol, i. p. 544, &c., 2nd ed.; Leake, The Demi of Attika, London, 1841, 2nd ed.; Ross, Die Demen von Attika.) [R. W.]