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Archon (Gr. ἄρχων, pl. ἄρχοντες) is a Greek word that means “ruler”, frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem αρχ-, meaning “to rule”, derived from the same root as monarch and hierarchy.
In the early literary period of ancient Greece the chief magistrates of various Greek city states were called Archon. 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”. In Roman terms, archontes ruled by imperium, whereas Basileis (“Kings“) had auctoritas.
In Athens a system of three concurrent Archons evolved, the three office holders being known as the Archon Eponymos, the Polemarch, and the Archon Basileus. Originally these offices were filled from the aristocracy by elections every ten years. During this period the Eponymos 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. After 683 BC the offices were held for only a single year, and the year was named after the Archon Eponymos. (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 a new class of generals known as strategoi.The Polemarch thereafter had only minor religious duties. The Archon Eponymos remained the titular head of state under democracy, though of much reduced political importance. The Archons were assisted by “junior Archons”, called Thesmothetes. 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.
Under the Athenian constitution, Archons were also in charge of organizing festivals by bringing together poets, playwrights, actors, and city-appointed choregai (wealthy citizen patrons). The Archon would begin this process months in advance of a festival by selecting a chorus of three playwrights based on descriptions of the projected plays. Each playwright would be assigned a choregos, also selected by the Archon, from among the wealthy citizens who would pay all the expenses of costumes, masks, and training the chorus. The Archon also assigned each playwright a principal actor (the protagonist), as well as a second and third actor. The City Dionysia, an ancient dramatic festival held in March in which tragedy, comedy, and satyric drama originated, was under the direction of one of the principal magistrates, the archon eponymos. The archon eponymos remained the titular head of state under democracy, though of much reduced political importance.
Byzantine historians usually described foreign rulers as archontes. 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 and 9th centuries, these were the governors of some of the more peripheral provinces, inferior in status to the themata: Dalmatia, Cephalonia, Crete and Cyprus. Archontes were also placed in charge of various naval bases and trade stations, as well as semi-autonomous Slavic-inhabited areas (sclaviniae) under Byzantine sovereignty. 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 (ἀρχοντία). The title was also used for the holders of several financial posts, such as the head of the mint (ἄρχων τῆς χαραγῆς), as well as directors of the imperial workshops, arsenals, etc.
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.
Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
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 http://www.archons.org/ .
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.
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In late antiquity some variants of Gnosticism used the term Archon 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.
The Egyptian Gnostic Basilideans accepted the existence of an archon called Abraxas who was the prince of 365 spiritual beings (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, I.24). The Orphics accepted the existence of seven archons: Iadabaoth or Ialdabaoth (who created the six others), Iao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Elaios, Astaphanos and Horaios (Origen, Contra Celsum, VI.31). The commonly-called Pistis Sophia (or The Books of the Savior) gives another set: Paraplex, Hekate, Ariouth (females), Typhon, and Iachtanabas (males).
Ialdabaoth had a head of a lion, like Mithraic Kronos (Chronos) and VedicNarasimha, a form of Vishnu. Their wrathful nature was mistaken as evil. The snake wrapped around them is Ananta (Sesha) Naga (mythology).
- 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 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 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.
- 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. The wives of the members are termed Archousa (pl. Archousai).
- The Archons are a Greek co-ed group at Kenyon College that focuses on social fun through service events. 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 fraternity has adapted the Greek letters AXN (alpha chi nu).
- Archon is the title given to presidents of student chapters of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity.
- The term is used as the title of rulers in English languagefiction, television programs, and games of the science fiction and fantasy genres. Examples include the Outlanders series of science fiction novels and the comic book series, The Invisibles, in which they are generally portrayed according to the authentic Gnostic nature of the term. It is also a common title in collegiate fraternity and sorority organizations.
- 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.
- In the Greek versions of the Harry Potter books, Tom Riddle is named Anton Morvol Hert, which is an anagram of “Archon Voldemort”.
- 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).
- “Archons of Athens!” was the catchphrase of Dr. Gideon Fell, a long-running detective character created by John Dickson Carr.
- In the book The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Archons are beings of an ancient race which once ruled earth.
Movies and television
- In the Star Trek episode “The Return of the Archons,” the space vessel 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 advance 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.
- Some speculate that the Agents featured in The Matrix films were intended to metaphorically represent Gnostic Archons, in that they stood between humanity and their transcendence from the Matrix, into the enlightened real world. Also the robots could be seen as Archons in that they are our creations who have in a sense enslaved us in a false reality and live off our energy.
- In the Dungeons & Dragonsmultiverse, archons are an angelic race indigenous to Mount Celestia.
- 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 evil Demiurge. Their task is to keep humanity imprisoned in the Demiurge’s illusion and ignorant of Reality and their true nature.
- Warlords Battlecry uses Archons as special powerful troops that can be produced in towers (as allies) and as a flight unit for one of the races in Warlords Battlecry III.
- In the Battletech universe, the heads of state of first the Lyran Commonwealth and later the Lyran Alliance are known by the title of Archon.
- 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.
- 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.
- One of the final areas in the video gameXenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is called the Archon Cathedral. The game is known to use Gnostic and Judeo-Christian terminology as well as various terms from psychology.
- Used as the title for subcommanders of the Council villain group in the MMORPGCity of Heroes and its expansion/counterpart City of Villains.
- In the computer gameLords of Magic (put out by Sierra Entertainment), the Archons were the human race that adhered to the faith of Order.
- In the computer gameEVE Online (put out by CCP Games), the Archon is the carrier of the Amarrian race.
- In the computer gameNetHack, the Archon is the second most difficult of the randomly-generated monsters, and is regarded as the best pet.
- In Deus Ex, the username demiurge and the password archon can be used on a UNATCO computer to find a killphrase to be used on a powerful enemy.
- 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 X-COM 2, Archon is a powerful enemy (Alien) unit. And, one of the bosses of the game was named “Archon King” which is an advanced Archon unit.
- In Destiny (video game) Archon priest is a title given to high commands and spiritual leaders from the Elixni race (The fallen).
- In the popular trading card gameMagic: The Gathering, there are cards named Blazing Archon and Cabal Archon.
- In the fantasy webcomic Erfworld, “Charlie’s Archons” are powerful flying units. Their appearance and name are parodies of Charlie’s Angels.
- Aksum: an African civilisation of late antiquity By Stuart C. Munro-Hay Page 145 ISBN 0-7486-0209-7
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 160, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, pp. 160–161, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
- Bartusis, Mark C. (1997), The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society 1204-1453, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 382, ISBN 0-8122-1620-2