Political Organization of Attica: Demes and Tribal Representation
Each tribe was divided into three parts, and each third (trittys) was from one of the three regions of Attica, plain, coast, or hills. Every trittys was itself made up of several smaller units called demes. These were the old townships, villages, or neighborhoods which had existed for centuries. They were somewhat independent units with their own local officials and administrators, like any small town in the United States today. Altogether, there were about 140 demes in Attica, distributed among the ten new tribes.
In some cases, when traditional ties between demes were particularly close, as, for instance, between Marathon and Probalinthos on the east coast of Attica, the new system usually had them assigned to separate tribes in an attempt to break such alliances. Surviving lists of tribesmen serving in the Boule (Senate) show that large demes regularly sent several representatives to serve each year, while small demes sent fewer, just as the number of congressmen and congresswomen from each state in our House of Representatives is determined by the population of the state. Acharnai in northern Attica was the largest deme, with twenty-two representatives (4% of the citizens of Attica), whereas many small denies sent a single representative or even alternated with another small deme.
This attempt to ensure equal representation is found throughout Athenian administration. Each jury in the lawcourts had an equal number of jurors from each of the ten tribes. Public offices were also apportioned out as fairly as possible. A good example of this concern with fairness is the fragmentary inscription which records the transfer of the official weights and measures from the outgoing board of officials (metronomoi) to the incoming board. The five members and two secretaries of the metronomi are listed by name, patronymic (father's name), and deme and indicate that the seven came from seven different tribes:
The metronomoi when Archelaos was Archon:
Demostratos from Hestiaia
Aristokrates from Angele
Apollodoros son of Apollonios from Lamptrai
Theodotos from Ekale
Eratymenes from Oinoe and the allotted secretary:
Nikias son of Philo from Kydathenaion and the elected secretary:
Herakleitos son Timotheos from Krio gave over the following weights and measures...