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In ancient Greece, the chief magistrate or magistrates in a city-state, from the Archaic period onward. In Athens, nine archons divided state duties: the archon eponymous headed the boule and Ecclesia, the polemarch commanded troops and presided over legal cases involving foreigners, the archon basileus headed state religion and the Areopagus, and the six remaining archons handled various judicial matters. At first only elected aristocrats could serve, and their term was for life; later, terms were limited to a year. Archons were chosen by a combination of election and lot. In the 5th century BC the authority of the archons declined as elected generals assumed most of their powers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on archon, visit Britannica.com.