Most of these officials were chosen by a lottery. , 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. 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). By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. 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. 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. Ancient Greek Laws. In Athenian courts, the jury tended to be made of the common people, whereas litigants were mostly from the elites of society. 2004.  We know little about Draco and the code, with the homicide law being the only one known due to it surviving the Solonian reforms. Ancient Greek law consists of the laws and legal institutions of Ancient Greece. 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. Prior to Draco, laws were given orally (ancientcivilisations77) Returning to Draco’s laws, they were first written on wooden tablets. But there were rules you had to follow to have your case heard in court. , 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. 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. 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. Draconian laws, traditional Athenian law code allegedly introduced by Draco c. 621 BCE. 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. 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. There were no court officials, no lawyers, and no official judges. A victorious plaintiff in a private lawsuit had to enforce the judgment himself by attaching property of the defendant.  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. In order to understand what contemporary public speaking is, we first must understand the genesis of public speaking. , 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. 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.” 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. 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. Apart from this, the differences between private and criminal procedures were slight. Citizens were expected 1975. These laws later gave birth to the English term ‘Draconian’, which basically meant a harsh and unreasonable law. The first two of these factors resulted in a rather stiff positivism. About 2,500 years ago, Greece was one of the most important places in the ancient world. 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. In Athens, criminals were tried before a jury of 200 or more citizens picked at random. 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. Rather than vote for representatives, like we do, each citizen was expected to vote for every law. This was the result of a great movement for legal codification that from the 7th century had swept the Greek world. Monarchy - rule by an individual who had inherited his role. 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. According to Aristotle, one of the few ancient sources we have for Draco, the laws were written in human blood, not ink. Solon kept many new laws that fit into the four basic categories of Ancient Greek law. It was time to start drinking. The dicasts were selected by lot, every citizen over 30 years old being eligible. , In Ancient Athens, there were two types of lawsuit. 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. They did have officials to run the government, however. The council of 500, or boule, was ancient Athens's full time government.  These laws were probably set up by the élites in order to control the distribution of power among themselves. 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. 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.  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. 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. Agora Architecture Greek City States Climate and Geography Law Enforcement 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). 2005. Then a different system called Democracy was introduced in Athens.  Athenian laws are typically written in the form where if an offense is made, then the offender will be punished according to said law, thus they are more concerned with the legal actions which should be undertaken by the prosecutor, rather than strictly defining which acts are prosecutable. 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. The Greek word, however, for police is astynomia, a compound noun consisting of asty (the officialese word for city) and nomos (law). Death was prescribed for almost all criminal offenses. 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. 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. , Ancient Greek courts were cheap and run by laypeople. 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. , Historians consider the Ancient Athenian law broadly procedural and concerned with the administration of justice rather than substantive. 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. The praetor was responsible for the administration of justice. 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. She argues that although there was a relatively effective law of war in ancient Greece, it did not encompass humanitarian ideals. 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. Corrections? Around 620 BC Draco, the, lawgiver, wrote the first known law of Ancient Greece. The laws were so harsh that it is believed that they were written in blood. 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. 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. The praetor was the second highest ranking official in the Roman republic (after the consuls). 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. The third determining factor for Greek law was the absence of a body of jurisprudence comparable to that of the Romans. Life Around Town in Ancient Greece. 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. The court system in ancient Greece was taken seriously.  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. Although Greek dominance may have ended then, their influence lasts to this day. 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. 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