A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities/Axones

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A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities  (1890) 
by Various Authors, edited by William Smith
Axones

AX´ONES (ἄχυνες), also called κύρβεις, wooden tablets painted white, and made to turn on an upright axis, on which were written the laws of Solon. According to some writers, the κύρβεις contained the public and religious, the ἄχονες the private laws; according to others, the κύρβεις had three sides, and the ἄχονες four. But at Athens, at all events, they were almost certainly identical, according to the statement of Aristotle (ap. Plut. Sol. 25). The grammarians, indeed, insist on the difference; but the opinion of most modern scholars is in agreement with that already expressed in the former editions of this work. The phrase ἐκ τῶν κύρβεων θύειν in Lysias (Or. 30, c. Nicom. § 17) has been relied upon by the advocates of the distinction. But the law of murder must have been a public and religious law: and this we find was ἐν τῷ ἄχονι (Lex ap. Dem. c. Aristocr. p. 629.28: read ἐν τῷ ά ἄχονι, i. e. πρώτῳ ἄχονι, with Cobet, Var. Lect. p. 123; the ἄχονες being always mentioned in the plural).

The words τρίγωνοι and τετράγωνοι, used of the ἄχονες and κύρβεις, have been wrongly explained by some authorities, both ancient and modern, as applying to the separate tablets, and not to the whole contrivance (κατασκεύαχμα). The gloss in Timaeus has Κύρβεις στηλὴ τρίγωνος πυρανοειδὴς νόμους ἔχουσα περὶ θεῶν (so also Bekk. Anecd. p. 274, τρίγωνοι, πυραμίδι ὅμοιοι). This pyramidal shape is accepted by Planck (ap. Pauly i,2 s. v. ἄχονες), and Liddell and Scott (ed. 7, s. v. κύρβεις). But apart from its unsuitableness for exhibiting writings, the clear account of Aristophanes of Byzantium (in Etym. M. p. 547; cf. Ruhnken on Timaeus, s. v. κυ̣ρβεις) leaves no doubt that the boards were rectangular, and formed, as Caillemer puts it, a prism (not pyramid) of three or four sides.

The ἄχονες were at first kept in the Acropolis, but were afterwards placed, at the suggestion of Ephialtes, in the agora for all to read. Some fragments of them were preserved in the prytaneium in the time of Plutarch (l.c.; cf. Paus. 1.18, 3). (Schol. ad Aristoph. Birds 1354; Schol. ad Apollon. 4.280; Anaximenes ap. Harpocrat. s. v. ὁ κάτωθεν νόμος: Etym. M. p. 547; Suid. s.v. Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 107, 1; Schömann, Antiq. 1.329, n., E. T.; Preller, on Polemonis Periegetae fragm. pp. 87-91 [the fragment itself in Müller, Fr. Hist. 3.138 a].) [W.S] [W.W]