The praetor was the second highest ranking official in the Roman republic (after the consuls). In. , In the Athenian legal system, there were no professional lawyers, though well-known speechwriters such as Demosthenes composed speeches which were delivered by, or on behalf of others. Murder cases were argued before the Areopagus, a body composed of former archons. Most of these officials were chosen by a lottery. This somewhat narrow clinging to literal interpretation, combined with the absence of any attempt to deal with statutes or legal situations in an analytical manner, led to the result that Greek law never attained the doctrinal refinement of Roman law, notwithstanding the remarkable technical flexibility that characterized it in Hellenistic times. Further details may exist on the, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ancient_Greek_law&oldid=999544371, Articles with unsourced statements from March 2017, Wikipedia articles incorporating a citation from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica with Wikisource reference, Wikipedia articles incorporating text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Wikipedia articles with SUDOC identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Blanshard, Alastair J. L. 2014. , Other evidence for ancient Athenian law comes from statements made in the extant speeches of the Attic orators, and from surviving inscriptions. Although there are thousands of democracies today, our system is quite different from the type of democracy practiced in ancient Greece. The third determining factor for Greek law was the absence of a body of jurisprudence comparable to that of the Romans. , The Athenian court system was dominated by men. A special jurisdiction was that of the polemarchos (literally, “general”) over the metics (resident aliens). Around 620 BC Draco, the, lawgiver, wrote the first known law of Ancient Greece. Marriages were usually arranged by the parents; on occasion professional matchmakers were … Ancient Greek law consists of the laws and legal institutions of Ancient Greece. The trial competence of the dicasteries rested on the principle, first introduced within certain limits by Solon and made universal after the establishment of full democracy, that the citizenry in its totality should judge the affairs of its members. Omissions? Law, Crime and Punishment in Ancient Greece Law Facts Most city-states were governed by Oligarchy- a small group of rich noblemen called aristocrats. Complaints could only be brought by individuals: our modern concept of a “legal” but not “natural” “person”, such as a corporation or partnership, apparently did not exist. , In Ancient Athens, there were two types of lawsuit. In Athenian courts, the jury tended to be made of the common people, whereas litigants were mostly from the elites of society. Monarchy - rule by an individual who had inherited his role. In distinct contrast with the Greek philosophy of justice, the positive law of ancient Greece had little influence on later developments. There was no prosecutor. They sat on co… "Law and Greek Comedy. Historians generally agree that the end of "Ancient Greece" as we know it came with Roman victory in the Battle of Corinth in 146 B.C., at which point the Greek peninsula came under Roman rule.  It is also said that orators constructing stories played a much more significant role in Athenian court cases than those of the modern day, due to the lack of modern forensic and investigatory techniques which might provide other sources of evidence in the Athenian courtroom. Greek society relied on oral expression, which also included the ability to inform and give speeches of praise, known then as epideictic (to prais… The Greek word, however, for police is astynomia, a compound noun consisting of asty (the officialese word for city) and nomos (law). The room was then splashed with perfume, garlands were presented for the participants to wear and the floor with all the debris was swept away. As noted in an article on Livius.org: “In ancient Greece, there was not a word to describe homosexual practices: they were simply part of aphrodisia, love, which included men and women alike.” To put it simply, some Greek men didn’t discriminate when it came to sex - to them any sexual activity was just “sexuality.” Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. The laws were enforced by an official called the praetor. 1. Agora Architecture Greek City States Climate and Geography Law Enforcement In rare cases of great political importance, the whole hēliaia (i.e., the popular assembly organized as a court of 6,001 men) was convened. Unable to vote, own land, or inherit, a woman’s place was in the home and her purpose in … Harris, Edward M., and Lene Rubinstein. Family-owned and -operated farms provided both the wealth and the hoplite defense for early ancient Greek cities. Both private dikai and graphai had to be initiated by summoning the defendant (who might be under arrest) to the magistrate having jurisdiction in the matter and by filing a written complaint with the latter, who would subject it to a preliminary examination (anakrisis). In 632 BC, a Greek statesman named Draco devised the first written laws of Greek. What this means is that all the citizens voted on all the laws. Contrary to views held by scholars until recently, new research has shown that the Athenian dicasts who sat in judgment did not feel free to base their verdicts on vague notions of equity but adhered, at least in theory, to the literal meaning of the written statutes (nomoi), which they were bound by a solemn oath to observe. But there were rules you had to follow to have your case heard in court. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. A normal case consisted of two litigants, arguing if an unlawful act had been committed. According to Aristotle, one of the few ancient sources we have for Draco, the laws were written in human blood, not ink. What policing existed was done by non-Athenians, such a…  We know little about Draco and the code, with the homicide law being the only one known due to it surviving the Solonian reforms. 2.The Greeks had some strange superstitions about food – some wouldn’t eat beans as they thought t… Further, there were no prosecutors, no professional lawyers, and no crime-investigating police. In ancient Greece, there were many rules and laws which made trade difficult. Public prosecutions, or graphai, were heard by juries of 501 or more, increasing in increments of 500 jurors, while private suits, or dikai, were heard by 201 or 401 jurors, depending on the amount of money at stake. The council was chosen by lottery and anyone who was a male citizen could enter. Says Prof Davidson, “One of the reasons why there’s so much fuss about the symposium, or drinking party, in Ancient Greece is that it’s the centre of a lot of culture. Contrary to views held some decades ago, however, the late Roman law, and with it west European legal doctrine, did not undergo any notable degree of Hellenization. But the Ancient Romans and Greeks openly practiced forms of pedophilia, although it … Greek law, legal systems of the ancient Greeks, of which the best known is the law of Athens. In ancient Greece the word politeia represented all authorities and the force of power mastered by the head of the state (lord) to ensure compliance with what had been voted into force. The people were involed in the decision making process because they had to attend, vote and they all could speak. In the democratic period its justice was administered by magistrates, popular courts (dikastēria), and the Areopagus. The council of 500, or boule, was ancient Athens's full time government. The law code of Gortyn, which is itself the revised version of an older code, is the only one that comes close to being fully preserved. , Please expand the article to include this information. Also, the mountains were difficult to traverse and there were not many rivers to travel on. At around 620 BC, Draco, law giver, gave the first law of ancient Greece; those laws were so harsh that made an English word named ‘draconian’ meaning unreasonable laws. The Ancient Greek Empire spread from Greece through Europe and, in 800 BC, the Greeks started to split their land into city-states, each with its own laws, customs and rulers. On the civil side, they permitted enslavement for debt, and death seems to have been the penalty … A number of enactments rightly or wrongly attributed to Solon still are known from literary quotations rendering them in a modified form that reflects a legislative reform of 403–402 bce. , In the Athenian legal system, the courts have been seen as a system for settling disputes and resolving arguments, rather than enforcing a coherent system of rules, rights and obligations. Life Around Town in Ancient Greece. The Greek laws consisted of tort laws, family laws, public laws and many others. , Along with the official enforcement of the law in the courts in the Grecian states, justice and social cohesion were collectively enforced by society at large, with informal collective justice often being targeted at elite offenders. Today’s version of democracy is voting for representatives who rule us, but the Greeks had far more hands on participation in their version of democracy. Parties to a civil suit concerning pecuniary affairs were then sent to a public arbitrator (diaitētēs). Ancient Greek law consists of the laws and legal institutions of Ancient Greece. The jury would decide whether the accused was guilty, and should he be guilty, what the punishment will be. The jury was all-male, and it has been argued that the Athenian court seemed to have been remarkably unwilling to allow any female presence in the civic space of the lawcourt itself. 1975.  Aristotle criticized Plato's Laws in his Politics, in which he reviews the work of certain early Greek lawgivers. These laws later gave birth to the English term ‘Draconian’, which basically meant a harsh and unreasonable law. The claim (dikē) might be raised by the plaintiff in pursuance of a private right or as a “public” (dēmosia) dikē for the purpose of obtaining the defendant’s punishment. ", Finley, Moses I. New laws were introduced into Ancient Greece by means of a polis, a gathering of all the Greek men in the council, which was picked annually at random.  However, attributing specific legal innovations and reforms to Solon and his successors is notoriously difficult because there was a tendency in ancient Athens to ascribe laws to Solon irrespective of the date of enactment. Ancient Greek Laws.  These laws were probably set up by the élites in order to control the distribution of power among themselves. Functionaries received the actions and arranged the trials that took place before the courts, with each functionary having a specific jurisdiction: the archon over matters pertaining to family and succession, the “king” (archōn basileus) over religious matters (including murder), the thesmothetai (“determiners of customs”) and others over the rest. In Athens, criminals were tried before a jury of 200 or more citizens picked at random. , The Athenian law codes set forth by Draco were completely reformed by Solon, who was the archon of Athens c.593 BC. Rather than vote for representatives, like we do, each citizen was expected to vote for every law. 2014. These speechwriters have been described as being as close as a function of a modern lawyer as the Athenian legal system would permit. , Incidental illustrations of the Athenian law are found in the Laws of Plato, who describes it without exercising influence on its actual practice. There were no court officials, no lawyers, and no official judges. The four most common systems of Greek government were: Democracy - rule by the people (male citizens). "The Permeable Spaces of the Athenian Law-court. Solon of Athens (594 bce), who had been preceded in 621 by Draco, is the best known of a number of famous lawgivers, other outstanding ones being Zaleucus of Locri Epizephyrii (south Italy) and Charondas of Cantana; Lycurgus of Sparta is considered legendary. Draconian laws, traditional Athenian law code allegedly introduced by Draco c. 621 BCE. Democracy in Greece could be described as the rule of the people by the people. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Imprisonment was not typically used as a punishment. The Draconian laws were most noteworthy for their harshness; they were said to be written in blood, rather than ink. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Greek-law.  This and other early laws (such as those which survive in only fragmentary form from Tiryns) are primarily concerned not with regulating people's behaviour, but in regulating the power of officials within the community. Its concepts and methods did, of course, widely determine the legislation and practice of Hellenistic monarchies, and a few institutions of Greek origin, such as the “Rhodian” maritime law of jettison or certain methods of documentation (mostly Hellenistic, to be sure), were adopted by the Romans. Normally sections of the hēliaia (specifically called dikastēria), composed of 1,501, 1,001, or 501 men in criminal cases and 201 men in civil cases, were charged with the decision. Corrections? The goal and focus of all marriages was intended to be reproduction, making marriage an issue of public interest. Instead, the laws of war focused on protecting sacred objects and observances. The dicasts, after listening to the arguments and evidence submitted by the parties, found their decision, which could only be a choice between the two proposals made by the parties, by secret ballot without debate. This meant that all who were literate would be able to know the contents of his laws.  Juries were made up of men selected from a panel of 6,000 volunteers, who were selected annually and were required to be full citizens, aged over 30. Their judgment was final between the parties, but the loser might bring a private tort action (dikē pseudomartyriōn) against a witness whose false deposition had influenced the verdict. Greek legal life of the 5th and 4th centuries bce was determined by three dominant factors. A classic example of this view is given in Sophocles’ play, In ancient Greece effects similar to those of a will were achieved by gift, to take effect upon the death of the donor or, where the only child of the family was a daughter, by giving her in marriage together with the estate. Laws were passed by the state (or at any rate through the state, via popular referendum), and applied by governmental courts (manned by juries). In order to understand what contemporary public speaking is, we first must understand the genesis of public speaking. In the Greek view, the trial served to determine the justification of a claim to seize the defendant’s person or belongings or both by way of an enforcement proceeding (praxis). The ‘common law of the Greeks’ agreed with the ‘unwritten, unshakeable laws of the gods’ in insisting that even the body of an enemy should … Transfer by use of…. Marriage Partners . Josiah Ober's 'Institutions, Growth, and Inequality in Ancient Greece' summarizes evidence and arguments from his recent The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece: by pre-modern standards, the classical Greek world sustained exceptionally high economic growth and, in Athens, historically low levels of income inequality, both driven primarily by "fair rules and fierce competition" (24). Anyone could bring a charge against another person in ancient Greece. One of the Draconian laws has been preserved in an Attic inscription giving it in a revised version dating from 409 or 408 bce. A victorious plaintiff in a private lawsuit had to enforce the judgment himself by attaching property of the defendant. In Greece, citizens did not elect their favorite people to represent them but rather personally participated in the process.  The law seems to have distinguished between premeditated and involuntary homicide, and provided for the reconciliation of the killer with the family of the dead man. Ancient Greece laws and rules didn't start until after the dark ages then during 620 B.C.E the first official law was given by Draco. Marriage in ancient Greece had less of a basis in personal relationships and more in social responsibility.  Though the rest of the code is unknown, it was by Athenian tradition known to have been very harsh. The filing of a public dikē (technically called a graphē) was open to every citizen. Citizens were expected 2005. The works of Theophrastus, On the Laws, included a recapitulation of the laws of various barbaric as well as of the Grecian states, yet only a few fragments of it remain. The general unity of Greek law shows mainly in the laws of inheritance and adoption, in laws of commerce and contract, and in the publicity uniformly given to legal agreements. , Ancient Greek courts were cheap and run by laypeople. Athenian Courts heard two types of cases—private [dikai] or public [graphai]. Updates? Only in the customs of isolated places in Greece itself do some ancient traditions seem to survive; their extent is still a problem for legal historians. It was time to start drinking. , It has been argued that the rhetorical and performative features evident in surviving Classical Athenian law court speeches are evidence that Athenian trials were essentially rhetorical struggles which were generally unconcerned with the strict applicability of the law. Probably transformed from an original council of the nobility, it was a relic of the predemocratic period. "The Problem of the Unity of Greek Law." There were no lawyers in Ancient Greece. Gagarin, Michael and David Cohen, eds. …was well understood in ancient Greece as early as the 4th century, …of human rights to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was closely tied to the doctrines of the Stoics, who held that human conduct should be judged according to, and brought into harmony with, the law of nature. The existence of certain general principles of law is implied by the custom of settling a difference between two Greek states, or between members of a single state, by resorting to external arbitration. and historical backgrounds as well as the changing social, economic, political, and intellectual conditions of their respective societies. These laws were so harsh that his name gave rise to our English word “Draconian” meaning an unreasonably harsh law. We begin with the Greeks and rhetoric. Solon's reforms included the cancellation of debts and reforms to land ownership, as well as the abolition of slavery for those who were born Athenian. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. But there were no police, and no public prosecutors. , The earliest Greek law to survive is the Dreros inscription, a seventh century BC law concerning the role of kosmos. Then a different system called Democracy was introduced in Athens. There were no attorneys or prosecutors. This often began endless blood feuds.This came to an end when around 620 BC Draco, the lawgiver, set down the first known written law of Ancient Greece. This law established exile as the penalty forhomicide and was the only of the of Draco's laws that Solon kept when he was appointed law giver in bout 594 BC. While in rome they were fighting for freedom after they won that battle they made a government called the ROMAN REPUBLIC. Ancient Greece Laws and punishments. It should not be forgotten, however, that such common foundations as there were gave rise to a great variety of individual legal systems differing as to their completeness and elaboration and reflecting the tribal (i.e., Dorian, Ionian, etc.) Nor, for that matter, did the philosophers care for the law as it was, their aim being the discovery of abstract standards of justice. These could be amplified with the confiscation of property and/or the razing of the convict's house and/or a refusal of burial). Democracy in Ancient Greece was very direct. Although Greek dominance may have ended then, their influence lasts to this day. , One of the earliest dateable events in Athenian history is the creation of the Draconian law code, c.620 BC. , Historians consider the Ancient Athenian law broadly procedural and concerned with the administration of justice rather than substantive. If one of them refused to accept the award or if the matter was not subject to compulsory arbitration, the case was referred to a dicastery presided over by the magistrate.  Juries were paid a small fee from the time of Pericles, which may have led to disproportionate numbers of poor and elderly citizens working on juries. Lanni surveys what is known about the law of war in ancient Greece, addressing the law's sources, content, and enforcement mechanisms. This was the result of a great movement for legal codification that from the 7th century had swept the Greek world. The second element was the fact that in many, if not most, of the poleis (one certain exception was Sparta) the laws were laid down in written statutes, some of them being elaborate and more or less complete codes setting forth procedural methods and substantive rules for the administration of justice. One was the existence of a multiplicity of city-states (poleis), each of which possessed and administered its own set of laws. Women in the ancient Greek world had few rights in comparison to male citizens. , While its older forms can be studied by the laws of Gortyn, its influence can be traced in legal documents preserved in Egyptian papyri and it may be recognized as a consistent whole in its ultimate relations to Roman law in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, with scholars in the discipline of comparative law comparing Greek law with both Roman law and the primitive institutions of the Germanic nations. The ancient Greeks were the first to create a democracy.The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words that mean people (demos) and rule (kratos).Democracy is the idea that the citizens of a country should take an active role in the government of their country and manage it directly or through elected representatives. Since citizenship was passed through to one's offspring, there were limits on whom a citizen might marry. Although there never was a system of institutions recognized and observed by the nation as a whole as its legal order, there were a number of basic approaches to legal problems, certain methods used in producing legal effects, and a legal terminology, all shared to varying degrees by the numerous independent states constituting the Hellenic world.  Often, this would have resulted in juries having to decide whether the offense said to have been committed was in fact a violation of the law in question. It’s believed the first Ancient Greek civilisations were formed nearly 4,000 years ago (approximately 1600 BC) by the mighty Mycenaeansof Crete (a Greek Island). Prior to Draco, laws were given orally (ancientcivilisations77) Returning to Draco’s laws, they were first written on wooden tablets. 2004. Their achievement, argues Hanson, was the precursor in the West of private ownership, free economic activity, constitutional government, social notions of equality, decisive battle, and civilian control over every facet of the military—practices that affect every one of us right now. To keep the laws in the city, the Romans had a police force called the Vigiles. About 2,500 years ago, Greece was one of the most important places in the ancient world. The praetor was responsible for the administration of justice. She argues that although there was a relatively effective law of war in ancient Greece, it did not encompass humanitarian ideals. Greek law, legal systems of the ancient Greeks, of which the best known is the law of Athens.  The homicide law of Draco was still in force in the fourth century. The court system in ancient Greece was taken seriously. The treatise on the Constitution of Athens includes an account of the jurisdiction of the various public officials and of the mechanics of the law courts, and thus enables historians to dispense with the second-hand testimony of grammarians and scholiasts who derived their information from that treatise. The first two of these factors resulted in a rather stiff positivism. The dicasts were selected by lot, every citizen over 30 years old being eligible. The laws were so harsh that it is believed that they were written in blood.  The Prytaneion court was responsible for trialing random residents, animals, and inanimate objects for homicide, and it is assumed that it was in order to ensure that Athens was free of blood-guilt for the crime. Even the Attic orators, for all their practical familiarity with the laws of the city, were mainly interested in presenting arguments suited to persuade the mass juries before whom they had to argue, not in analyzing the legal system with the object of obtaining a deeper insight into its implications. The three characteristics outlined here were important influences on the general character of Greek law. , There is no systematic collection of Greek laws; thus knowledge of the earliest notions of the subject is derived from the Homeric poems. Death was prescribed for almost all criminal offenses. Criminals were punished by fines, their right to vote taken away, exile, or death. Ancient Methods Of Capital Punishment Athenians imposed fines, imprisonment, public humiliation in the stocks, limited loss of political rights, disfranchisement, exile and then death. Rhetoric, as defined by Aristotle, is the “faculty of discovering in the particular case all the available means of persuasion.”For the Greeks, rhetoric, or the art of public speaking, was first and foremost a means to persuade. Court officials were paid little, if anything, and most trials were completed within a day, with private cases done even quicker. Oligarchy - rule by a select group of individuals. Acting on pedophilia, either by obtaining pornographic material of children or partaking in sexual or romantic relations with a minor who is under the legal age of consent, is illegal. They did have officials to run the government, however. The individual’s right to receive burial was, of course, supported by powerful social and supernatural sanctions. ", Buis, Emiliano. At the present stage of research, the only judicial system sufficiently known to warrant description is that of 4th-century Athens. 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