Archon (Gr. ἄρχων, pl. ἄρχοντες) is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy and anarchy.

Ancient Greece Edit

In the early literary period of ancient Greece the chief magistrate in various Greek city states was called Archon.[1] The term was also used throughout Greek history in a more general sense, ranging from "club leader" to "master of the tables" at syssitia to "Roman governor".[citation needed] In Roman terms, the board of archontes ruled by potestas, whereas the Basileus ("King") had auctoritas.

In Athens a system of nine concurrent Archons evolved, led by three respective remits over the civic, military, and religious affairs of the state: the three office holders being known as the Eponymous archon (Ἐπώνυμος ἄρχων; the "name" ruler, who gave his name to the year in which he held office), the Polemarch ("war ruler"), and the Archon Basileus ("king ruler").[2] Originally these offices were filled from the aristocracy by elections every ten years. During this period the eponymous Archon was the chief magistrate, the Polemarch was the head of the armed forces, and the Archon Basileus was responsible for the civic religious arrangements, including many of the law courts. After 683 BC the offices were held for only a single year, and the year was named after the Archōn Epōnymos. (Many ancient calendar systems did not number their years consecutively.) After 487 BC the archonships were assigned by lot to any citizen and the Polemarch's military duties were taken over by new class of generals known as stratēgoí.[citation needed] The ten stratēgoí (one per tribe) were elected, and the office of Polemarch was rotated among them on a daily basis. The Polemarch thereafter had only minor religious duties, and the titular headship over the strategoi. The Archon Eponymous remained the titular head of state under democracy, though of much reduced political importance.[citation needed] The Archons were assisted by "junior" archons, called Thesmothétai (Θεσμοθέται "Institutors"). After 457 BC ex-archons were automatically enrolled as life members of the Areopagus, though that assembly was no longer extremely important politically at that time. (See Archons of Athens.)

Byzantine EmpireEdit

Byzantine historians usually described foreign rulers as archontes.[3] The rulers of the Bulgars themselves, along with their own titles, often bear the title archon placed by God in inscriptions in Greek.

Inside Byzantium, the term could be used to refer to any powerful noble or magnate, but in a technical sense, it was applied to a class of provincial governors. In the 8th–9th centuries, these were the governors of some of the more peripheral provinces, inferior in status to the themata: Dalmatia, Cephalonia, Crete and Cyprus. In the 10th–12th centuries, archontes are also mentioned as the governors of specific cities. The area of an archon's jurisdiction was called an archontia' (Template:Polytonic).[4] The title was also used for the holders of several financial posts, such as the head of the mint (Template:Polytonic), as well as directors the imperial workshops, arsenals, etc.[5]

The title of megas archon ("grand archon") is also attested, as a translation of foreign titles such as "grand prince". In the mid-13th century, it was established as a special court rank, held by the highest-ranking official of the emperor's company. It existed throughout the Palaiologan period, but did not have any specific functions.[6]

Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople Edit

From time to time, laity of the Orthodox Church in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople have been granted the title of Archon to honor their service to Church administration. In 1963, Archons were organized into a service society dedicated to St Andrew. This Archon status is not part of the Church hierarchy and is purely honorary. See .

An Archon is an honoree by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, for his outstanding service to the Church, and a well-known, distinguished, and well-respected leader of the Orthodox Church (at large).

It is the sworn oath of the Archon to defend and promote the Orthodox Church faith and tradition. His main concern is to protect and promote the Holy Patriarchate and its mission. He is also concerned with human rights and the well-being and general welfare of the Church.

As it is a significant religious position, the faith and dedication of a candidate for the role are extensively reviewed during consideration; the candidate should have demonstrated commitment for the betterment of the Church, Parish-Diocese, Archdiocese and the community as a whole.

Gnostic ArchonsEdit

Template:Gnosticism In late antiquity the term archon was used in Gnosticism to refer to several servants of the Demiurge, the "creator god" that stood between the human race and a transcendent God that could only be reached through gnosis. In this context they have the role of the angels and demons of the Old Testament. They give their name to the sect called Archontics.

The HebdomadEdit

A characteristic feature of the Gnostic conception of the universe is the role played in almost all Gnostic systems by the seven world-creating archons, known as the Hebdomad (ἑβδομάς). There are indeed certain exceptions; for instance, Basilides taught the existence of a "great archon" called Abrasax who presided over 365 archons (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, i. 24); in the Valentinian system, the Seven are in a manner replaced by the Aeons. These Seven, then, are in most systems semi-hostile powers, and are reckoned as the last and lowest emanations of the Godhead; below them—and frequently considered as derived from them—comes the world of the actually devilish powers.

The ancient astronomy taught that above the seven planetary spheres was an eighth, the sphere of the fixed stars.[7] In the eighth sphere, these Gnostics taught, dwelt the mother to whom all these archons owed their origin, Sophia (Wisdom) or Barbelo. In the language of these sects the word Hebdomad not only denotes the seven archons, but is also a name of place, denoting the heavenly regions over which the seven archons presided; while Ogdoad denotes the supercelestial regions which lay above their control.

The Ophites accepted the existence of these seven archons (Origen, Contra Celsum, vi. 31; a nearly identical list is given in On the Origin of the World):[8]

In the hellenized form of Gnosticism either all or some of these names are replaced by personified vices. Authadia (Authades), or Audacity, is the obvious description of Yaldabaoth, the presumptuous Demiurge, who is lion-faced as the Archon Authadia. Of the Archons Kakia, Zelos, Phthonos, Errinnys, Epithymia, the last obviously represents Venus. The number seven is obtained by placing a proarchon or chief archon at the head. That these names are only a disguise for the Sancta Hebdomas is clear, for Sophia, the mother of them, retains the name of Ogdoad, Octonatio. Occasionally one meets with the Archon Esaldaios, which is evidently the El Shaddai of the Bible, and he is described as the Archon "number four" (harithmo tetartos).

In the system of the Gnostics mentioned by Epiphanius we find, as the Seven Archons,

  • Iao
  • Saklas (the chief demon of Manichaeism)
  • Seth
  • David
  • Eloiein
  • Elilaios (probably connected with En-lil, the Bel of Nippur, the ancient god of Babylonia)
  • Yaldabaoth (or no. 6 Yaldaboath, no. 7 Sabaoth)

The last book of the Pistis Sophia (or The Books of the Savior) contains the myth of the capture of the rebellious archons, whose leaders here appear as five in number.[10]

  • Paraplex
  • Hekate
  • Ariouth (females)
  • Typhon
  • Iachtanabas (males)

Mandaean ArchonsEdit

Among the Mandaeans, we find a different and perhaps more primitive conception of the Seven, according to which they, together with their mother Namrus (Ruha) and their father (Ur), belong entirely to the world of darkness. They and their family are looked upon as captives of the god of light (Manda-d'hayye, Hibil-Ziva), who pardons them, sets them on chariots of light, and appoints them as rulers of the world.[11]

Manichaean ArchonsEdit

The Manicheans readily adopted the Gnostic usage; and their archons are invariably evil beings. It is related how the helper of the Primal Man, the spirit of life, captured the evil archons, and fastened them to the firmament, or according to another account, flayed them, and formed the firmament from their skin,[12] and this conception is closely related to the other, though in this tradition the number (seven) of the archons is lost.


As planetsEdit

Irenaeus tells us: "Sanctam Hebdomadem VII stellas, quas dictunt planetas, esse volunt." It is safe, therefore, to take the above seven Gnostic names as designating the seven planetary divinities, the sun, moon and five planets. In the Mandaean system the Seven are introduced with the Babylonian names of the planets. The connexion of the Seven with the planets is also clearly established by the expositions of Celsus and Origen (Contra Celsum, vi. 2 2 seq.) and similarly by the above-cited passage in the Pistis Sophia, where the archons, who are here mentioned as five, are identified with the five planets (excluding the sun and moon).

In this, as in several other systems, the traces of the planetary seven have been obscured, but hardly in any have they become totally effaced. What tended most to obliterate the sevenfold distinction was the identification of the God of the Jews, the Lawgiver, with Yaldabaoth and his designation as World-creator, whereas formerly the seven planets together ruled the world. This confusion, however, was suggested by the very fact that at least five of the seven archons bore Old-Testament names for God—El Shaddai, Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah, Sabaoth.

Wilhelm Anz (Ursprung des Gnosticismus, 1897) has pointed out that Gnostic eschatology, consisting in the soul's struggle with hostile archons in its attempt to reach the Pleroma, is a close parallel of the soul's ascent, in Babylonian astrology, through the realms of the seven planets to Anu. The late Babylonian religion can definitely be indicated as the home of these ideas.[13] And if in the old sources it is only the first beginnings of this development that can be traced, we must assume that at a later period the Babylonian religion centred in the adoration of the seven planetary deities. Very instructive in this connexion is the later (Arabian) account of the religion of the Mesopotamian Sabians. The religion of the Sabians, evidently a later offshoot from the stock of the old Babylonian religion, actually consists in the cult of the seven planets.[14]

In ZoroastrianismEdit

The Bundahishn (iii. 25, v. z) is able to inform us that in the primeval strife of Satan against the light-world, seven hostile powers were captured and set as constellations in the heavens, where they are guarded by good star-powers and prevented from doing harm. Five of the evil powers are the planets, while here the sun and moon are of course not reckoned among the evil powers—for the obvious reason that in the Persian official religion they invariably appear as good divinities.[15] It must be also noted that the Mithras mysteries, so closely connected with the Persian religion, are acquainted with this doctrine of the ascent of the soul through the planetary spheres (Origen, Contra Celsum, vi. 22).


In Judaism and ChristianityEdit

The N. T. several times mentions the "prince (ἄρχων) of the devils" (δαιμονίων), or "of the (this) world," or "of the power of the air;" but never uses the word absolutely in any cognate sense. In Leviticus (LXX.) Αρχων (once οἱ Ἄρχοντες, Template:Bibleverse) represents, or rather translates, Molech. The true biblical source of the usage however is Template:Bibleverse (six times Theodotion; once indistinctly LXX.), where the archon (שַׂ֣ר, "prince" A. V.) is the patron angel of a nation, Persia, Greece, or Israel; a name (Michael) being given in the last case only.

The Book of Enoch (vi. 3, 7; viii. 1) names 20 "archons of the" 200 "watcher" angels who sinned with the "daughters of men," as appears from one of the Greek fragments. The title is not indeed used absolutely (τ. ἀρχόντων αὺτῶν, Σεμιαζᾶς, ὁ ἄρχων αὐτῶν, bis: cf. ἱ πρώταρχος αὐτῶν Σ.), except perhaps once (πρῶτος Ἀζαὴλ ὁ δέκατος τῶν ἀρχόντων), where the Ethiopic has no corresponding words: but it has evidently almost become a true name, and may account for St. Jude's peculiar use of ἀρχή (Template:Bibleverse).

Christians soon followed the Jewish precedent. In the 2nd century the term appears in several writers alien to Gnosticism. The Epistle to Diognetus (7) speaks of God sending to men "a minister or angel or archon," etc. Justin (Dial. 36) understands the command in Template:Bibleverse (ἄρατε πύλας οἱ ἄρχοντες ὑμῶν LXX.) to open the heavenly gates as addressed to "the archons appointed by God in the heavens." The first spurious set of Ignatian epistles enumerates "the heavenly beings and the glory of the angels and the archons visible and invisible" (Ad Smyrn. 6), and again "the heavenly beings and the angelic collocations and the archontic constitutions" (i. e. order of provinces and of functions), "things both visible and invisible" (Ad Trall. 5); the meaning being lost by the time of the interpolator, who in one case drops the word out, and in the other gives it a political sense. The Clementine Homilies adopt and extend (xi. 10, ἐν ᾅδῃ . . . ὁ ἐκεῖ καθεστὼς ἄρχων) the N. T. usage; and further call the two good and evil ("right and left") "powers," which control the destiny of each man, "rulers" (archons, vii. 3), though more commonly "leaders" (ἡγεμόνες).

In Greek theologyEdit

The classical theology of Greece knew only gods, daemons, and heroes. The phrase θεοὶ ἄρχοντες in Plato (Phaedr. 247 A) is of no account here. Even Philo never alludes to archons: in a single passage (De Mon. i. 1)[16] ἄρχοντες is merely correlative to ὑπήκοοι.

Presently the syncreticism of the later Greek philosophy found room for archons. They are inserted by the author of the book De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum (ii. 3-9), and even it would seem by his questioner Porphyry, below gods, daemons, angels, and archangels, and above heroes (omitted by Porphyry) and departed "souls," in the scale of invisible beings whose presence may become manifest. It may be only an accidental coincidence that about the end of the 2nd century "Archon" was one of the names given by the Platonist Harpocration to the "Second God" of Numenius (Proclus in Tim. 93 C).

In any case the new term struck no deep root in either Christian or heathen soil. Probably "archangel" was found sufficient for every need. Even Origen (С. Cels. vi. 30 f.) has to introduce the archons of the early Ophites with the explanatory phrase "ruling daemons."

Other uses Edit

Real life Edit

  • The term is used within the Arab-speaking Copts in church parlance as a title for a leading member of the laity.
  • Archon is the title given to the six district presidents of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.
  • Archon is the title given to presidents of student chapters of the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. Vice-presidents are known as Vice Archons.
  • Archon is the title given to the vice-president of student chapters of the Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity
  • Archon is the title given to the presidents of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity.
  • Archon is the title given to presidents of student chapters of the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority. Vice-presidents are known as Vice Archons.
  • Eminent Archon is the title given to presidents of chapters of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Vice-presidents are known as Eminent Deputy Archons.
  • Archon is the title given to alumni volunteers who direct and oversee undergraduate chapters located within a geographic province of the Sigma Pi Fraternity.
  • Grand Archon is the title given to presidents of the Sigma Delta Phi sorority and the Sigma Rho fraternity of the University of the Philippines.
  • Archon is the designation given to individual members of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, also known as the Boule. Chapter Presidents are known as Sire Archon and the national president is know as the Grand Sire Archon. The wives of the members are termed Archousa (pl. Archousai).
  • Archon is the title given to the Brandeis university yearbook.
  • The Archon Society is a co-ed service and social fraternity at Kenyon College that focuses on fostering a connection between Kenyon College students and the residents of Knox County through excellence in service and community outreach programs. Their motto is "Esse Quam Videri," Latin for "To Be, Not to Seem to Be."
  • On the campus of the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) the Fraternal order of Archon exists. Their brethren are commonly called, “Archons.” The fraterinty has adapted the Greek letters AXN (alpha chi nu).
  • ARCHON directory is an on-line database, administered by The National Archives in the United Kingdom, which contains the contact details of archive repositories in the UK and elsewhere which hold archival collections relating to British history.

Books Edit

  • In the 1898 utopian novel Ionia, the Ionians are ruled by an archon.
  • In the book Scar Night, Archons were a race of winged beings that were sent by Ulcis, the god of chains, out of the Abyss.
  • In the book Mind Invaders by Dave Hunt, The Archons are nine demonic beings who pretend to be highly evolved intelligent beings who have come to guide mankind to its next evolutionary step.
  • Jacques Derrida uses "archon" to refer to the guardian and authoritative interpreter of an archive. For example, Derrida traces the archon to the Greek concept in Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995, p. 2).
  • In the Sherrilyn Kenyon book series Dark Hunters, Acheron's father was Archon, king and ruler of the Atlanteans and Apollites.
  • In "The Sorceress", the third book in The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott, the Archons were a powerful race that predated the Elders.

Movies and television Edit

  • In the Star Trek episode "The Return of the Archons," the starship Archon crashes on Beta III. The crew of the USS Enterprise are referred to as Archons, after the crew of the ill-fated ship.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Archons are similar to lawyers for the Tollans (an advanced race living on a planet called Tollana). During Triad (trial), there are three archons, one for each defendant and a neutral archon, who has a casting vote.
  • In NX Files, Archons are evolved beings who guide Team Xtreme, the true purpose of which remains a mystery.

Role-playing games Edit

  • In the World of Darkness, Archons are the chosen servants of the Justicars; both serving under, to reinforce, the Camarilla sect of Vampires.
  • In the game Kult, the ten Archons are servitors of the Demiurge. Their task is to keep humanity imprisoned in the Demiurge's illusion and ignorant of Reality and their true nature.

Video games Edit

  • In the science-fiction series StarCraft, archons are powerful psionic entities, formed by two mentally disciplined Protoss merging their minds and corporeal bodies into psionic energy. In the games, they serve as heavy assault warriors. A number of variations of archons can be formed depending on the affiliation of the participants.
  • In the game Fable, archon was the title of rulers of the Old Kingdom. Ultimately, the last archon became corrupted by the Sword of Aeons that granted archons the might to rule.
  • Archon was a popular 1980s 8-bit computer game where opposing teams of good and evil characters did battle on a game board similar to a chess board. Archon II: Adept was the sequel.
  • In the online game Materia Magica, Archons are the highest level players, subordinate only to the Immortals (system administrators). Achievement of Archon rank requires advancement through 240 levels of play and completion of a special quest.
  • In the computer game NetHack, the Archon is the second most difficult of the randomly-generated monsters, and is regarded as the best pet.
  • Archons in RF Online are ten players with the highest Contribution Point (although Archons must be voted in to be elected), therefore considered as the leader of the race. Each race has its own Archon players.
  • In Age of Wonders 2 the Archons are a race who fight for just causes, and preach virtue and obedience to their subjects. They seldom seek to overrun any kingdom, but instead seem to appear where they might most likely be overpowered. Still, they persevere and are fearless in the face of death.
  • In Spellforce 2, the Archons are an organisation of mages that rule over the dark elves.

Music Edit

  • Folk metal band Eluveitie has a song entitled "Gray Sublime Archon" on their album "Slania"

Others Edit

  • In the fantasy webcomic Erfworld, "Charlie's Archons" are powerful flying units. Their appearance and name are parodies of Charlie's Angels.

References Edit

  1. Archive Fever A Freudian Impression- Jacques Derrida
  2. Michael Rostovtseff, Greece, passim.
  3. Aksum: an African civilisation of late antiquity By Stuart C. Munro-Hay Page 145 ISBN 0748602097
  4. Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 160, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  5. Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, pp. 160–161, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  6. Bartusis, Mark C. (1997), The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society 1204-1453, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 382, ISBN 0812216202 
  7. Clem. Alex. Stromata, iv. 25, xxv. p. 636: see also his quotation, v. 11, p. 692, of a mention of the fifth heaven in apocryphal writings ascribed to Zepbaniah
  8. For "feminine names," see Robinson, James M. (1990). "On the Origin of the World, translated by Hans-Gebhard Bethge and Bentley Layton". The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins.  For planets, see Template:CathEncy
  9. "Moreover, they distribute the prophets in the following manner.... Each one of these, then, glorifies his own father and God, and they maintain that Sophia, herself has also spoken many things through them regarding the first Anthropos (man), and concerning that Christ who is above, thus admonishing and reminding men of the incorruptible light, the first Anthropos, and of the descent of Christ." (Irenaeus i. 30)
  10. Schmidt, Koptisch-gnostische Schriften, p. 234 seq. These ideas may possibly be traced still further back, and perhaps even underlie St Paul's exposition in Template:Bibleverse.
  11. Cf. chiefly Genza, in Tractat 6 and 8; W. Brandt, Manddische Schriften, 125 seq. and 137 seq.; Mandaische Religion, 34 seq., &c.
  12. F. C. Baur, Das manichdische Religionssystem, v. 65
  13. Zimmern, Keilinschriften in dem alien Testament, ii. p. 620 seq.; cf. particularly Diodorus ii. 30.
  14. Cf. the great work of Daniel Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier u. der Ssabismus.
  15. Cf. similar ideas in the Arabic treatise on Persian religion Ulema-iIslam, Vullers, Fragmente fiber die Religion Zoroasters, p. 49, and in other later sources for Persian religion, put together in Spiegel, Eranische Altertumskunde, Bd. ii. p. 180.
  16. De Mon. i. 1, p. 213; cited by Hilgenfeld, Apost. Vater, 252 q. v.
  17. Italo Calvino (1979), If on a winter's night a traveler (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore), translated by William Weaver (Harcourt, 1981), p. 129. ISBN 0-15-643961-1



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