The Law of Ancient Athens
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
The purpose of this book is to provide, in English translation, and for the widest possible readership, from specialists to those who come to the book with no knowledge of the subject, the principal literary and epigraphical sources that state, illustrate, and elucidate the substantive law (and, to a significant extent, the procedural law: on these terms, see below) of ancient Athens in ...
General: The standard multi-volume English-language scholarly survey of the history of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world is The Cambridge Ancient History; the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek history are covered in vol. 3 pt. 3 ed. 2 (The Expansion of the Greek World, Eighth to Sixth Centuries B.C., ed. J. Boardman-N.G.L. Hammond,...
Chapter 1. Homicide
While the Classical Athenians believed that their homicide laws and courts originated in legendary antiquity (20; cf. 8b), and the Alcmaeonids were tried and exiled for acts of homicide and sacrilege (1), the history of Athenian homicide law in the strict sense begins with Draco, who was appointed to codify the laws of Athens in 621/0 B.C. (6a). Although the rest of Draco’s laws were repealed by Solon in 594/3 (6b), his homicide law remained in force through the Classical period. Draco’s homicide law is known from a late fifth-century ...
Chapter 2. Wounding, Battery, and Hubris
Classical Athenian law had three principal actions for non-homicidal
physical assaults: the graphê traumatos ek pronoias, for intentional wounding; the dikê aikeias, for battery; and the graphê hybreôs, for hubris (aggravated battery).
Trauma ek pronoias, literally “wounding as a result of intent,” had a physical and a mental requirement. In physical terms, trauma required the use of...
Chapter 3. Sexual Offenses
The earliest surviving Athenian law that deals (indirectly) with seduction and rape is the clause in Draco’s homicide law concerning lawful killings (3f Dem. 23.53; cf. 54), which permits the killing of a man discovered in the act of intercourse with the killer’s wife, mother, sister, daughter, or concubine kept for the procreation of free children; these provisions do not distinguish between consensual intercourse and rape....
Chapter 4. Defamation
Although the Classical Athenians prided themselves on the freedom of speech (parrhêsia) that they considered characteristic of their city (e.g., Demosthenes 9.3), Athenian law placed restrictions on the defamation of persons. According to Plutarch (68), the code of laws that Solon promulgated during his archonship (594/3: 6b [Arist.] Ath. Pol. 7.1) included provisions against defaming the...
Chapter 5. Marriage and Dowry
The basic social unit of the Athenian polis was the oikos (household), which, at least in its ideal form, corresponded approximately to the modern nuclear family and was headed by an adult male kyrios (“lord, master, [man in] authority”; plural kyrioi). (The word oikos can also designate the “estate” of a decedent, on which see chapter 7.) The kyrios exercised legal control and guardianship ...
Chapter 6. Children and Citizenship
From Solon (83 [Dem.] 46.18) onward, Athenian law defined a legitimate (masculine gnêsios, plural gnêsioi; feminine gnêsia) child as the product of a marriage either by engyê and ekdosis (see chapter 5) or by epidikasia (the judicial award of an epiklêros to her father’s nearest living male relative: see chapter 7). All other children were illegitimate (masculine nothos, plural nothoi; feminine...
Chapter 7. Estates and Epiklêrol
“The law of estates and epiklêroi” ([Aristotle], Constitution of the Athenians [Ath. Pol.] 9.2)—in our terms, the law of succession upon death—is the best documented and most complex area of Athenian law. The estate (§7.1: 166–175) left by a decedent (who is also called the de cuius, an abbreviation of the ...
Chapter 8. Damage
The evidence for a legal category of blabê (damage) before the Classical period is scant: we have one law attributed to Solon that appears to prescribe payment of either the simple value or twice the value of damage done to a slave (51 Lys. 10.18–19), another on damage or injury caused by animals (237, 238), and Solonian zoning regulations that may, when violated, have formed the basis...
Chapter 9. Theft
Thefts can be categorized in various ways, depending, for example, on what and how a person steals. Accordingly, Athenian sources employ a variety of terms, often with legal significance, to describe theft and theft-related offenses (see especially 280, 283). The general term, klopê (“theft”), has a corresponding...
Chapter 10. Contracts and Commerce
In his Nicomachean Ethics (1131a2–9), composed between 335 and 322, the philosopher Aristotle lists as examples of “voluntary obligations”—that is, contracts—sale and purchase (prasis ônê), loan for consumption (daneismos: typically loan of money), pledge (engyê), loan for use (chrêsis), deposit (parakatathêkê), ...
Chapter 11. Impiety
While no legal definition of impiety (asebeia) survives, and quite possibly none existed (p. 28; compare, for example, the undefined offense of hubris: 35 Dem. 21.47), the wide variety of attested prosecutions for impiety demonstrates that any act that could be construed as violating a rule (including, before 403/2 ...
Chapter 12. Treason, Subversion, Bribery, and Apatê tou dêmou (Decieving the People)
Major offenses against the Athenian state were divisible into four principal and mutually permeable substantive categories: treason, military or civil (362, 365, 367, 369, 370, 371, 373, 375, 377, 381, 383, 385a, 387, 390, 391h, 391k, 392b, 392c; cf. 366, 368, 391i, 391l); subversion of the constitution and the government...