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The Law of Ancient Athens

David Phillips

Publication Year: 2013

The Law of Ancient Athens contains the principal literary and epigraphical sources, in English, for Athenian law in the Archaic and Classical periods, from the first known historical trial (late seventh century) to the fall of the democracy in 322 BCE. This accessible and important volume is designed for teachers, students, and general readers interested in the ancient Greek world, the history of law, and the history of democracy, an Athenian invention during this period. Offering a comprehensive treatment of Athenian law, it assumes no prior knowledge of the subject and is organized in user-friendly fashion, progressing from the person to the family to property and obligations to the gods and to the state. David D. Phillips has translated all sources into English, and he has added significant introductory and explanatory material. Topics covered in the book include homicide and wounding; theft; marriage, children, and inheritance; citizenship; contracts and commerce; impiety; treason and other offenses against the state; and sexual offenses including rape and prostitution. The volume’s unique feature is its presentation of the actual primary sources for Athenian laws, with many key or disputed terms rendered in transliterated Greek. The translated sources, together with the topical introductions, notes, and references, will facilitate both research in the field and the teaching of increasingly popular courses on Athenian law and law in the ancient world.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Law and Society in the Ancient World


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

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pp. v-xiv

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 ...


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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-43

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,...

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Chapter 1. Homicide

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pp. 44-84

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 ...

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Chapter 2. Wounding, Battery, and Hubris

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pp. 85-101

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...

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Chapter 3. Sexual Offenses

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pp. 102-123

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....

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Chapter 4. Defamation

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pp. 124-136

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...

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Chapter 5. Marriage and Dowry

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pp. 137-173

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 ...

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Chapter 6. Children and Citizenship

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pp. 174-215

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...

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Chapter 7. Estates and Epiklêrol

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pp. 216-285

“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 ...

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Chapter 8. Damage

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pp. 286-331

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...

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Chapter 9. Theft

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pp. 332-369

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...

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Chapter 10. Contracts and Commerce

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pp. 370-406

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), ...

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Chapter 11. Impiety

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pp. 407-462

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 ...

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Chapter 12. Treason, Subversion, Bribery, and Apatê tou dêmou (Decieving the People)

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pp. 463-508

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...


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pp. 509-522

Index Locorum

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pp. 523-532

General Index

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pp. 533-540

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029266
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472035915

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Law and Society in the Ancient World