CS 1000 Week 9
Lecture 1 November 4, 2013
Greek Law andAthenian Legal Procedure
• The idea of law wass important to the Greeks – Pindar personified Law and
described it as the king of all
o Plato also quoted these lines from Pindar
o Apapyrus gives us a stronger sense of the rest of the poem as Pindar
applies this to Heracles and doing what he wants even though it is
breaking the law.
o The Greeks knew that breaking laws was dangerous
• Nomos means ‘custom’but also ‘law’ a law is officially articulated and ratified
while custom is a traditional way of doing something
o Customary ways of dealing with things in the Greek world were codified
into legal statutes
• Law making is about working out in detail traditional practices and making them
• Thesmos is something that is set down and refers to the idea of articulating a law
(vs. customary practice); the word thesmos is gradually displaced by nomos
• There are two distinct views on the idea of laws and how they are put into place:
o (1) The unwritten laws (and so oral): out of this comes a formalization of
o (2) Only written rules are really laws
• Both of these depend on literacy and a transition from an oral society (where
customs matter) to a literate society which uses written statutes
o This begins in the 7 century BCE and continues into the 5 century BCE
Driven by the growing polis (there were more people to deal with
which resulted in the need to have common practices to regulate
and deal with various things in a large area with a great number of
people), gap between rich and poor (people want to feel that
certain processes are reliable and will work according to
• Historically, the first written laws were made by Zaleucus for Locri Epizephyrii
(in southern Italy)
o This reflects a pattern that occurs in many Greek cities the first formal
legal statutes were drawn up by a named lawmaker
• In Athens, the first laws were attributed to Draco (621/20 BCE)
o Draco’s laws against homicide were very harsh but they remained, the rest
of his laws were replaced by Solon’s laws (594/93 BCE) 2
• Solon’s laws were inscribed on wooden blocks and put on display for everyone to
see (reliable and public) and then later they were transferred to stone.
• There were many, however, that wouldn’t have been able to read these laws this
is elites speaking to other elites while the poor had to rely on what others said
(even though the laws were applicable to all, the fact that they were written on
stone reinforced the divisions within the society).
• There were alterations and additions over time, but theAthenians continued to
refer to their code as the ‘laws of Solon’
o Solon was such a powerful figure to theAthenian imagination and this
became reassuring that these were good laws.
• There is a tension between formally articulated laws and traditional laws
(customary ways of doing things)
o Slide: Sophocles’Antigone.Antigone is a young woman who has two
brothers (sons of the former king of Thebes who fell in dispute over the
throne). The two brothers kill each other on the battlefield and their uncle,
Creon, becomes king. Creon wants to express his disapproval of the
attempt of one of the brothers (Polyneices) to take Thebes by force. He
passes a law forbidding anyone to bury the body of Polyneices. This was
very serious because in Greek culture proper burial is crucial. Antigone,
Polyneices’sister, disobeys this and buries the body during the night. She
is brought before Creon and she says the quote on the slide.
o This quote expresses the potential conflict between human legislation and
laws that are unwritten (and here seem to descend from a divine source).
o This play is interested in the tension between the decisions humans make
and the larger setting in which we make those decisions.
o Creon changes the method of execution (seals her up in a cave) and she
o Antigone is vindicated as being right: Creon realizes his mistake and
comes back for her but she is already dead.
• After the democracy laws could be passed by a majority of theAssembly
(ekklesia). If it passds, it became a ‘law of Solon’.
• In the 5 century, there was no distinction between laying down a permanent rule
(nomos) and making a decree for a special occasion (psephisma)
o TheAthenians didn’t have a mechanism is their system to distinguish
between these classes of laws. Since the legislation wasn’t systematic,
they ended up having laws that were confusing and contradictory.
• They attempted to fix this and in 410 BCE:
o (1) Existing laws were revised (esp. by usage since practice showed if this
law worked or not).
o (2) All were inscribed on stone: new decrees had not been put inscribed
o (3) No un-inscribed laws were enforced: if it didn’t exist on stone, it
wasn’t a law.
o (4) No decrees could override a law
o (5) Decrees continued to be passed by theAssembly 3
o (6) New laws were made by the nomothetai
• Judicature: a legal system in action; The administration of justice through courts
• Until the early 6 century BCE all verdicts were given by 9 archontes, the court
of theAreopagus, and the ephetai (a jury of 51 members)
• Solon instituted a system of trial by the elaia which added an appeal process to
the existing system
• This state of affairs proved to be inadequate, and so a system of juries was set up
• Anumber of citizens tried a case on behalf of all citizens:
o There were many courts
o Volunteers for jury service were called at the start of each year (a list of
6,000 was drawn) and to encourage volunteers a small fee was paid
• The number of jurors depended on the type of case they wanted a jury that was
too large to bribe or bully
o Even numbers were also avoided so that there were no ties
• Each trial was presided over by a magistrate and a number of different courts
were used depending on the trial this is the basic Athenian system even though
there were slight changes
o Homicide cases still used Draco’s laws
• The law on any subject generally specified the action to be raised against the
transgressor and in some cases there was a choice
o If someone is charged, the law dictated what the punishment would be
• The principal distinction was between public actions and private actions
o This distinction between the two spheres in theAthenian consciousness
• PublicAction (dikai demosiai): concerns the community as a whole and could be
raised by a magistrate or official acting on behalf of the state or ‘he who wishes’.
o Some people abused the system to settle personal scores and would sue
others in the guise of public charges in order to raise the importance
o In court,Athenians were not bound by truth-telling and each person could
say whatever would serve their purpose even if it is false
Lying had to be strategic because it was a small community
o Safe guard against this abuse: There were penalties for those who failed to
win 1/5 of the jury’s votes or abandoned prosecutions
o Public charges were typically more serious because they were believed to
threaten that state. 4
• PrivateAction (dikai idiai): a wrong or injury suffered by an individual. This
could be raised only by the person who claimed to be wronged. There were no
penalties imposed and many tried to move a private action to a public action.
• Typically a charge was presented to a relevant magistrate and this magistrate held
a preliminary inquiry (anakrisis). There was a public arbitrator who was there to
make sure that the rules of the court are followed, not the same as a modern judge.
• The trial occurs: prosecutor speaks first and then the litigant (if this is a woman
or child, then the closes male relative speaks); the litigant had to speak for himself
(i.e. there were no lawyers) but he could use a speech writer (logographos)
o The litigant could call on friends to speak in support
o Documents (ex. Laws) could be read in court
o Witnesses could be called
This aspect changed in the course of the Classical Period
o Evidence from slaves could be introduced only if it was obtained under
torture (torture ensured that the information was reliable)
o Speeches were limited by time
Awater clock was used for each speaker
• When the speeches were over, the jury voted immediately (the jurors didn’t
discuss it at all and they voted by casting pebbles into an urn) and it was a
• Punishment is proposed by both the prosecutor and the litigant (ex. In Socrates’
trial, the prosecutors suggest the death penalty not thinking that this would happen
because the litigant, Socrates, would have proposed exile which is what they
really wanted. Socrates proposed that he could be kept at state’s expense for the
rest of his life).
• By far the most common is a monetary fine
• Partial or total disenfranchisement (loss of political and civil rights)
• Confiscation of property
• Confinement in the stocks (put on public display)
o Long terms of imprisonment were not common
• Exile (this was common)
• Death (less common but still happened)
• All of these were arrived at through a process of negotiation
Lecture 2 November 6, 2013 5
TheAthenian Judicial System: GeneralAssessment
• The chief disadvantage to this system was that it could be swayed by skillful
speakers (two speeches are given to the jurors with the same time limit and the
jurors voted immediately).
o As a democracy, there was no ruler since the people made decisions but
since the courts relied on people speaking and making arguments, the
importance of being able to speak well was extraordinary. If one was a
good speaker, he could obtain great importance and power (ex. Pericles
who was a citizen but was looked up to as a leader because he spoke so
o From this, there was a desire and need to educate children in rhetoric and
o This transformed the cultural landscape of ClassicalAthens. Teachers of
speaking came from all over the Greek world and congregated inAthens.
They taught people, influenced people, and had a certain amount of power.
o This ultimately leads to Greek philosophy with Socrates, Plato, and
o Skillful speakers were common inAthens because it was an essential tool
to public life.
o This is a weakness, however, if good speaking gets in the way of the truth.
• There were also advantages to this system. Since the jury was 501 people, it was
difficult to bribe and bully them.Also, the fact that the juries were so large meant
that there was a sense that one pleaded their case before the people and it made
the hearing seem fair (therefore, the legal system in Athens is a natural extension
of democracy itself).
Women and Children in ClassicalAthens
• These groups are not part of the public face of democracy (these groups include
slaves as well).
• Slide: pottery showing two women working in the house. Information about
women and children is rare so pottery like this is very useful.
o Women occupy a large proportion of the population inAthens but we
don’t have access to them because literary sources we have were written
by men for men.
• M.R. Lefkowitz Women’s Life in Greek and Rome: a Source Book in Translation
o This book shows that almost all of the sources are composed by men 6
Ex. Tragedy: composed by a male poet and performed by male
actors for a male (?) audience. Even though women are powerful in
tragedy, this is not an authentic view of women.
• There are a few exceptions:
o (1) Women poets:
(a) Sappho: considered by Greek men to be one of the greatest
poets. We have a somewhat large collection of fragments.
(c) Erinna: substantial papyrus fragments
(d) Nossis: two short poems
(e) Sulpicia (Roman) – really two poets
o (2) There were also some early philosophers who were women
o (3) Personal letters from womth
o (4) Travel diary of Egeria (5 centuryAD)
• This is all we have of direct evidence for the voice of women. We can’t even be
entirely sure that these were written by the people who claimed to be the writer
(ex. The letters in (3) may have been written by male scribes).
• There were allegations that Pericles’partnerAspasia wrote his speeches. Sappho
shows that women could achieve a high level of culture and education. Statements
such of these, however, come from comedy which is very critical of Pericles so its
accuracy cannot be confirmed.
• Much effort has been expended in recent years to determine the reliability of our
sources and what they have to offer.
o This attempts to look at ordinary lives inside the oikos for the world of
women and children.
• Do we need special hermeneutical strategies to interpret the evidence (i.e. do we
need special methods when looking at the evidence to minimize the bias imposed
by our male sources)?
o Ex. Sappho seems to reflect homoerotic interest in women and her name
becomes associated with female homosexuality. It is not as explicit that
this was how women related to women so many scholars have looked at
her poetry and seen it as analogous to male homosexuality while others
believe that the male model cannot be imposed on women.
Women in Early Greek Myth
• Women in myth play a certain number of finite roles:
o (1) Wives
o (2) Mothers
o (3) Daughters
o (4) Betrayers
o All of these roles in myth exist in some way in relation to a man (male
perspective is implicit). 7
• The goddesses are different. Female goddesses are highly anthropomorphic
(portrayed in human terms) even though they are not human. In epic and myth,
they are more autonomous and powerful than mortal women. Often they are
sexless (especiallyAthena who is curiously unfeminine).
• These roles are expressed in early Greek literature: the Homeric Poems show
these feminine models.
• There is an idea that the Greeks are highly misogynistic.
• Hesiod: negative take on women. In the Theogony he talks about the first woman,
created as a punishment for Prometheus’crime (Prometheus is divine, deceived
Zeus, stole fire, and men suffer).
o Hesiod returns to this story in his Works and Days. In the Theogony she is
nameless but here she is named as Pandora. Zeus instructs Hephaestus to
make a woman from clay and all the gods give her a gift (jewelry and a
thieving mind). She is presented to Prometheus’brother and without a lot
of explanation Pandora has a jar (pithos) not a box (pyxis).
o Apithos is a large storage jar which hints at the origin of the name
‘Pandora’(who was an earth goddess). The Greeks used a jar to store grain
which links the Pandora of this story with the earth.
o Pandora’s jar is filled with evil things and she was told not to o