Pinakia, identification tablets (name, father's name, deme) used for tasks like jury selection, Museum at the Ancient Agora of Athens

In Ancient Greece, a deme or demos (Greek: δῆμος) was a suburb of Athens or a subdivision of Attica, the region of Greece surrounding Athens. Demes as simple subdivisions of land in the countryside seem to have existed in the 6th century BC and earlier, but did not acquire particular significance until the reforms of Cleisthenes in 508 BC. In those reforms, enrollment in the citizen-lists of a deme became the requirement for citizenship; prior to that time, citizenship had been based on membership in a phratry, or family group. At this same time, demes were established in the city of Athens itself, where they had not previously existed; in all, at the end of Cleisthenes' reforms, Attica was divided into 139 demes[1] to which one should add Berenikidai, established in 224/223 BC, Apollonieis (201/200 BC) and Antinoeis (126/127). The establishment of demes as the fundamental units of the state weakened the gene, or aristocratic family groups, that had dominated the phratries.[2]

A deme functioned to some degree as a polis in miniature, and indeed some demes, such as Eleusis and Acharnae, were in fact significant towns. Each deme had a demarchos who supervised its affairs; various other civil, religious, and military functionaries existed in various demes. Demes held their own religious festivals and collected and spent revenue.[3]

Demes were combined with other demes from the same area to make trittyes, larger population groups, which in turn were combined to form the ten tribes, or phylai of Athens. Each tribe contained one trittys from each of three regions: the city, the coast, and the inland area.

Cleisthenes' reforms and its modifications

First period: 508 – 307/306 BC

The division of Attica into urban (pink), inland (green), and coastal (blue) zones by Cleisthenes

Cleisthenes divided the landscape in three zones—urban (asty), coastal (paralia) and inland (mesogeia)—and the 139 demes were organized into 30 groups called trittyes ("thirds"), ten for each of the zones and into ten tribes, or phyle, each composed of three trittyes, one from the coast, one from the city, and one from the inland area.

Cleisthenes also reorganized the Boule, created with 400 members under Solon, so that it had 500 members, 50 from each tribe, each deme having a fixed quota.

The ten tribes were named after legendary heroes and came to have an official order:

  1. Erechtheis (Ἐρεχθηΐς) named after Erechtheus
  2. Aigeis (Αἰγηΐς) named after Aegeus
  3. Pandionis (Πανδιονίς) named after Pandion
  4. Leontis (Λεοντίς) named after Leos, son of Orpheus
  5. Acamantis (Ἀκαμαντίς) named after Acamas
  6. Oineis (Οἰνηΐς) named after Oeneus
  7. Kekropis (Κεκροπίς) named after Cécrops
  8. Hippothontis (or Hippothoontis) (Ἱπποθοντίς) named after Hippothoon
  9. Aiantis (Αἰαντίς) named after Ajax
  10. Antiochis (Ἀντιοχίς) named after Antiochus, son of Heracles

Second period: 307/306 – 224/223 BC

In 307/306 – 224/223 BC the system was reorganized creating the two Macedonian Phylai (XI. Antigonis and XII. Demetrias), named after Demetrius I of Macedon and Antigonus I Monophthalmus, and increasing the Boule to 600 members. Each of the ten tribes, except Aiantis, provide 3 demes (not necessarily one for trittyes); the missing contribution of Aiantis is covered by two demes of Leontis and 1 from Aigeis.

In connection the contribution of each village to the Boule is properly adapted.

Third period: 224/223 – 201/200 BC

The Egyptian Phyle XIII. Ptolemais, named after Ptolemy III Euergetes is created in 224/223 BC and the Boule increases to 600 members, the twelve tribes giving each a demos; moreover a new village is creatied and named Berenikidai, after Ptolemy's wife Berenice II of Egypt.

Fourth period: 201/200 BC – 126/127 AD

In 201/200 BC the Macedonian Phylae are dissolved and the villages (except the two given to Ptolemais) go back to the original tribe. Moreover, in spring 200 BC the tribe XIV. Attalis, named after Attalus I, is created following the same scheme used for the creation of the Egyptian Phyle: each tribe contributes a deme and a new deme, Apollonieis, is created in honour of Apollonis, wife of Attalus I of Pergamum. As a consequence we have again 12 tribeas and 600 members of the Boule.

From this period there are no more quotas assigned to the demes for the 50 Boule members of each tribe

Fifth period: 126/127 – third century

The last modification is the creation in 126/127 of XV. Hadrianis, named after Hadrian following the same scheme: each tribe contributes a deme and a new deme, Antinoeis is created in honour of Hadrian's favorite, Antinous.

More over each tribe contributes 40 members to the Boule.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Dêmos
català: Demos
dansk: Deme
Deutsch: Demos
Ελληνικά: Δήμοι
español: Demo ático
Latina: Demus
lietuvių: Demas
magyar: Démosz
Nederlands: Deme (bestuur)
norsk: Deme
polski: Dem
português: Demo (Grécia)
română: Deme
русский: Дем
slovenščina: Dema
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Dema
suomi: Demos
Tagalog: Dimos
українська: Деми