Four Lives

Ideally, a life of public service in Gehennese society should fall into four phases, called ‘the Four Lives’. Ideally these lives should each be twenty years in length. This tradition or custom is a robust and pervasive one, and persists throughout the history of Gehennum.

The first life is the Life of the Child, during which the boy should learn the arts and skills the man will need later in his career. For the last two years of his childhood, beginning when he is eighteen, the boy is an ephebe, learning martial skills in the gymnasium with the other //ephebes''.

The second life is the Life of the Warrior. The man comes of age at twenty, and serves the state in the armed forces. All citizens are required at least to serve in the militia until the age of forty, but a man seeking a political career ought to do more. Any person who takes the option of paying shield-money instead of serving in the militia, if it is allowed, sacrifices his political career by doing so for any length of time. To avoid the rigours of long service in the ranks, it is common to serve part-time in the militia until achieving a commission (see officers), and then to seek a transfer into the regular army, the aotos or the agema. Such transfers are often won through patronage. In the Decadent Period, service with the regulars connects one with the polemarkh’s party, and those seeking the favour of the episkopos or a career as a professional courtier prefer positions as agema/, perhaps transferring from the militia.

After forty a man in public service enters on the Life of the Magistrate, and is eligible for political office, judicial posts, and high command in the military (see strategos, hypostrategos/, and //polemarkh). Magistracies exist at all levels, from village headman to high positions at court, suitable for persons from all walks of life.

At the age of sixty a man enters on the Life of the Priest. He helps conduct public devotions and sacrifices, and is eligible to occupy an explicit priesthood at a temple, to join a college of priests, to preside at games, and to conduct solemn private devotions. See Gerusia.

At the age of eighty a man is considered to have finished his public service, and is expected to retire. Many monarchs and some emperors retire at eighty—some, who find the position burdensome, even make their sixtieth birthday an excuse to do so.

Of course, many careers do not fit exactly into the above mould, appointments sometimes coming early, and sometimes persisting until late, but this is the ideal. The exact form of the career, and the exact nature and duties of the offices held, vary from place to place and from time to time, but the framework endures.

In the Decadent Period dynastai are forbidden to live the Four Lives, ostensiblybecause they sacred court functions subsume the three senior lives. They may not train as ephebes, serve as soldiers or agema, command troops, hold magistracies, or serve as priests. The measure is intended by the polemarkhs to reduce their political power. In no period may slaves or metics exercise the rights of citizens. This excludes them from the Four Lives.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.