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Classical Studies 2301A/B Chapter Notes -Prytaneion, Ancient Greek Comedy, Diopeithes

Classical Studies
Course Code
CS 2301A/B
Randall Pogorzelski

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Chapter 1: Background and Beginnings of Athenian Law
1.01: Introduction
Ancient Greeks had a profound effect on legal progress and evolution, but in an indirect manner
1.02: The Earliest Greek Law
Earliest evidence for law in ancient Greece comes from poetry of Homer and Hesiod
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey show that individuals usually resolved conflict by fighting and seek vengeance
as a means to redress wrongs
This pattern of violent self-help was formative in early Greek law
No historical evidence that early Greek law was founded on religious rules or divine commandment
Dikē – used to refer to law, judgment, or more generally, justice
In Homer, we see evidence that archaic Greek society was beginning to explore an orderly means of
dispute resolution
On several occasions, a king acts as arbiter (a person who settles a dispute or has authority in a matter)
oLikely older and therefore have considerable experience
oAs a rule, kings are thought to have received divine inspiration
oKings also hold authority by consent of the aristocracy whom they rule and have the power to
enforce their judgments
Hesiod’s poetry makes a strong plea for justice – argues that “without an effective legal process, the social
order will disintegrate”
Both Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey depict instances where groups of elders – rather than an individual king –
make judicial decisions in public
oPublic opinion influenced decision of judges
In both Homer and Hesiod, using procedure for dispute resolution was voluntary
oIn addition, procedure took place in a public forum, involved a judge or group of judges who tried to
compromise a settlement acceptable to both parties and often involved the swearing of oaths
oIt is not until later that dispute resolution evolved into a mandatory process
1.03: The First “Lawgivers” and Written Laws
A. Introduction
First written laws began to appear in the Greek world in the mid-7th century BC
Zaleucus is the Greek who first wrote laws in 662 BC for a Greek colony in southern Italy
oWas supposedly a shepherd who learned his laws (nomoi) from the goddess, Athena
oKnown for simplifying contracts, creating several procedural laws and for providing stiff penalties
for anyone who tried to change his laws
City of Dreros on the island of Crete in the 7th century had also written laws, and as the 6th century
dawned, many other large Greek cities had begun to embrace written laws as well
Gortyn Code
oFrom southern Crete
oRepresents early attempt to codify ancient Greek law
oWas inscribed in twelve large columns that comprise part of a wall, over 500 lines of text dealing
with various legal subjects such as marriage and family, inheritance, debtors and procedure
Sparta and Athens – two city states that came to dominate the Greek mainland during the Classical Period
of the 5th century BC, had different experiences at the start of written laws
oSparta – tradition maintained that Lycourgos was the lawgiver who prohibited written laws
oAthens – two famous lawgivers, Draco and Solon, initiated a strong tradition of written law
B. Draco
Promoted the first written laws in Athens in 621 BC, very important and influential
Homicide law contained both substantive and procedural elements – “establishes exile as the penalty for
homicide and then deals largely with procedural matters: the trial, obtaining of pardon, and protection of
the killer from the threat of retaliation by self-help.”

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Draco recognized the procedures called apagogē and endeixis, which permitted the arrest of certain
criminals as a substitute for unrestrained self-help
Draco’s laws helped to achieve two primary social objectives:
1. To curb violent conduct, primarily revenge
2. To establish a judicial procedure that was mandatory rather than voluntary
C. Solon
In 594 BC, Solon abolished most of Draco’s laws but not those relating to homicide
Solon’s laws were inscribed on wooden axones
Laws were extensive, covering many different topics of law; can be categorized as
2. Procedural
3. Private
4. Political
5. Economic/Commercial
6. Religious
Greatest contribution to Athenian law appears to have been in procedural matters
Was responsible for inventing several important institutions of Athenian legal procedure:
1. Public cause of action that later came to be called graphē – permitting a third person to bring suit
on behalf of another in certain circumstances
2. Procedure known as dikē exoules – permitting a creditor to sue on a rendered judgment (or verdict)
that forced the defendant to pay a double penalty
3. Eisangelia – providing impeachment for tyranny
4. Ephesis – permitting a right of appeal to the popular courts
Responsible for many family laws relating to matters such as adoption, marriage, dowries, inheritance, and
behavior of women
Laws that regulated political activity concerned affairs such as citizenship, qualification for political office,
taxes and public meals.
His laws also controlled many components of economic activity in Athens – dealt with mortgages, surety,
debt slavery, interest rates, and agricultural exports
D. The Impact of Written Laws
Promoted equality in law
Increased the use of the judicial system because it made legal procedure mandatory
Diminished power of individual magistrates, by providing innovations such as term limits and a right of
Increased the authority of the polis over its citizens and all who lived there
1.04: The Evolving Vocabulary of “Law”
Athenians did not formulate precise legal definitions
In the 4th century BC, jurors swore an oath at the beginning of every year (not before each individual trial)
Greek word used for “laws” in the juror’s oath was nomos – means custom, way of life
oTerm of a norm of action recognized by a society, what is agreed to be the right thing to do
By the early 4th century BC, the word nomos was adopted in Athens to mean statute or written law
Early lawgivers, Draco in particular, used the word thesmos for their laws
oThesmos – “that which is laid down, law, ordinance”
Some argue that shift in terminology from thesmos to nomos illustrates a shift to a more democratic
definition of law
1.05: The “Reinscription” of Laws
In about 410 BC, a special commission called the Anagrapheis was appointed to inscribe Solon’s laws on
stone, and shortly after, took the task to inscribe Draco’s homicide law on stone as well
After 404 BC, the Nomothetai (“law givers”), along with the Boulē (“council”) established a new beginning
of legal orders in Athens
Ionic alphabet was used for all legal inscriptions and Athenians established a central records office for
keeping copies of laws

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The Nomothetai had to review and vote on every proposed change to a law that the citizen assembly, the
Ekklēsia, handed down
Any new law had to be proposed in writing and read aloud at three meetings of the Ekklēsia
As the 4th century progressed, both restriction that laws cause only be proposed at certain times and
requirement that they had to be read aloud three times fell into disuse
1.06: Justice and Jurisprudence – The Role of Law
Sophocles’ play AntigoneAntigone challenges King Creon by burying her brother against Creon’s laws,
arguing that unwritten laws of god and heaven take precedence over mortal laws
oHer sympathetic position illustrates an Athenian ideal – that there existed certain natural laws that
superseded the positive legislation of humans (man-made laws)
Plato’s Republic – metaphor of the shadows in the cave; people in the cave perceive only one aspect of
truth – like a ruler who enacts statutes – whereas the world outside the cave represents complete truth –
like Antigone’s universal, higher law
oPlato also proposes that law’s purpose is to benefit all people in a society, not just any one class
oAccording to Plato, law either persuades or compels citizens to unite, and it helps them to share
the benefits that each individual is able to give the community
In the Laws, Plato’s last dialogue, Plato emphasizes two principles:
1. Laws must apply equally to all
2. Voluntary acceptance of citizens to the rule of law is what gives it its force
In Nichomacean Ethics, Aristotle takes the position that an unjust man is one who either breaks the law or
one who appropriates
oPostulates a distinction between natural law (that retains its validity in all times and places) as
opposed to man-made laws (that are merely conventions adopted by communities with individual
oAlso explains that there were two types of justice:
1. Distributive justice – relates to equality, operates to reward individuals for the benefits that
they confer upon society (in simple terms, those who are equals receive equal rewards
while those who are non-equals receive unequal shares)
2. Corrective justice – relates to lawfulness, judges exercise corrective justice when they
punish criminals, award damages, or impose injunctions to settle disputes
Chapter 2: Legal Procedure, Institutions, and Organizations
2.01: Private and Public Arbitration; D ē me Judges
Athenians could submit a dispute to independent arbitration, could be legally binding
In order to be binding, the parties had to agree in advance:
1. Who would serve as arbitrator(s)
2. What was the content of the question for the arbitrator(s) to resolve
At age 59, all male citizens were required to perform the civic duty of serving as public arbitrators
oA plaintiff was responsible for paying the arbitrator’s fee of one drachma
oArbitrators heard cases in public as litigants argued their sides and presented evidence
oUnder Athenian law, litigants could not produce evidence later at trial unless he had produced it first
at the arbitration
By the middle of the 5th century BC, there were 30 dēme judges who rotated through Attica
oIncreased to 40 in about 400 BC (each of four ten tribes chose four judges)
A plaintiff first took his complaint to the four judges from his own tribe and if the amount in dispute was ten
drachmas or less, they could decide the matter themselves. If not, the tribe judges were required to refer
the case to a public arbitrator (after 399 BC)
2.02: The Vocabulary of Athenian Legal Procedure
Dikē – law case or
Dikē idia – private case Dikē demosia – public
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