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HARMOSTES (ἁρμοστής, from ἁρμόζω, to fit or join together) is best known as the name of the governors whom the Lacedaemonians, after the Peloponnesian war, sent into their subject or conquered towns, partly to keep them in submission, and partly to abolish the democratical form of government, and establish in its stead one similar to their own (Diod. 14.10; Xen. Hell. 4.2.5; Isocrat. Paneg. § 117; Suidas, Hesych. s. v.; Etym. M. s. v. Ἐπίσταθμοι). Although in many cases they were ostensibly sent for the purpose of abolishing the tyrannical government of a town, and to restore the people to freedom, yet they themselves acted like kings or tyrants, whence Dionysius (Antiq. Rom. 5.74) thinks that harmosts were merely another name for kings. How little sincere the Lacedaemonians were in their professions to restore their subject towns to freedom was manifest after the peace of Antalcidas; for although they had pledged themselves to reestablish free governments in the various towns, yet they left them in the hands of the harmosts (Plb. 4.27). The character of their rule is sufficiently described by the word κατέχειν, which Isocrates (l.c.) and Demosthenes (de Cor. p. 258.96) use in speaking of the harmosts. (Compare Demosth. c. Timocrat. p. 741.128; Plut. Narrat. Amat. 100.3.) Even Xenophon (Rep. Lac. 14.2) could not help censuring the Lacedaemonians for the manner in which they allowed their harmosts to govern.

It is not stated how long the office of a harmost lasted; but considering that a governor of the same kind, who was appointed by the Lacedaemonians in Cythera, with the title of Cytherodices, held his office only for one year (Thuc. 4.53), it is tolerably certain that the office of harmost was of the same duration (Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.64, 92).

These harmosts appear first in the closing years of the Peloponnesian war; the earliest writer who mentions them is Thucydides, and he once only in his last book (8.5). There is reason to think, however, that the name and office were not new, but that ἁρμοσταὶ had previously existed as Spartan magistrates, twenty in number, charged with keeping order among the Perioeci. The only evidence for this is the Scholiast on Pindar (ἦσαν δὲ ἁρμοσταὶ Λακεδαιμονίων εἴκοσι, ad Ol. 6.154); but it is accepted by Schömann, who thinks the Perioeci were divided into twenty districts, each presided over by a harmost (Antiq. 1.205, E. T.), and Gilbert (Staatsalterth. 1.38 n.).

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