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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter gives an overview of law in ancient Greece. After discussing the unity of Greek law and scholarship on Greek law, it reviews the evidence for law in Gortyn (in Crete), including the Gortyn Law Code, in Sparta, and at greater length in Athens, which is best documented. Athens had a highly democratic legal system. Legislation was enacted by an Assembly open to all citizens, laws were written and publicly displayed, plaintiffs and defendants pleaded their own cases, and trials were judged by juries of 200 or more. Private disputes first went to arbitration. When no individual victim existed (e.g. public embezzlement), anyone could prosecute. There were no professional judges, prosecutors, or advocates, but the rule of law was largely observed. In Hellenistic Greece, law in cities remained relatively unchanged but in newly settled areas like Egypt, law developed very differently. Greek law had little influence on later law.

Keywords: law, ancient Greece, Gortyn, Sparta, Athenian law, democratic law, Hellenistic law

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