Ancient Greece Law Codes

Going back to Draco`s laws, they were first written on wooden panels. This meant that all who were educated would be able to know the content of its laws. According to Aristotle, one of the few ancient sources we have for Draco, the laws were written in human blood, not ink. Although a literal reading can be applied, a metaphorical interpretation can also be valid. Wu Mingren (“Dhwty”) holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his main interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, he is also interested in other geographical regions as well as other periods. The Greek legal life of the 5th and 4th centuries BC was determined by three dominant factors. One of them was the existence of a multitude of city-states (poleis), each owning and administering its own laws. The second element was the fact that in many, if not most, poleis (some exception was Sparta), laws were set out in written laws, some of which were elaborated and more or less comprehensive codes establishing procedural methods and substantive rules for the administration of justice. It was the result of a major movement for legal codification that had swept the Greek world since the 7th century.

Solon of Athens (594 BC), preceded by Draco in 621, is best known to a number of famous legislators, other notable ones are Zaleucus of Locri Epizephyrii (southern Italy) and Charondas of Cantana; Lycurg of Sparta is considered legendary. A number of decrees attributed to Solon, rightly or wrongly, are still known from literary quotations, which reproduce them in a modified form that reflects a reform of the law of 403-402 BC. J.-C. One of the draconian laws was preserved in an Attic inscription, which exists in a revised version of 409 or 408 BC. The De Gortyn Code of Law, which is itself the revised version of an older code, is the only one that is almost entirely preserved. Unlike the Greek philosophy of justice, the positive law of ancient Greece had little influence on later developments. Its concepts and methods, of course, largely determined the legislation and practice of the Hellenistic monarchies, and some institutions of Greek origin, such as the “Rhodian” law of the sea of dropping or certain methods of documentation (mainly Hellenistic, of course) were adopted by the Romans. Contrary to the opinions expressed a few decades ago, however, late Roman law and with it Western European jurisprudence did not experience a significant degree of Hellenization. It is only in the customs of the isolated places of Greece itself that some ancient traditions seem to survive; Their extent remains a problem for legal historians. Plutarch, another ancient source for Draco, claims in his life as Solon that the punishment for stealing an apple or cabbage was death, and that you could have someone who made your personal slave if he owed you money. The author also reports that when Draco was asked why he made execution a punishment for most crimes, the answer was, “The little ones deserve this (i.e., death), and I don`t get more for the bigger crimes.” With so much human blood shed in the dispensation of justice, it is no wonder that Draco`s laws were supposedly written in blood.

The ancient Greek world did not have a uniform legal system; Instead, states formed their own political and legal systems, although these were likely largely based on the same general principles. “Arguing from `Previous`: Modern Perspectives on Athenian Practice” by Adriaan Lanni offers another in-depth and useful examination of a possible parallel between ancient and modern legal systems. Although the citation of a binding precedent is not a necessary element of a modern rule of law, it tends to ensure consistency in the application of the law. But the Athenians could not have applied such a system, because there was no public record of the ratio decidendi of a court, and therefore nothing more concrete than an appeal to collective memory was possible (164-166). Since the “court” was often composed of five hundred jurors who voted without thinking, any assertion about their reasoning would necessarily have been speculative. Nevertheless, Lanni`s examination of existing judicial discourses shows that about one-fifth of them include an appeal of previous judicial decisions. This could be interpreted as referring to `a convincing [but not binding] doctrine of precedent` (159). Lanni doesn`t even go that far. References to past cases fall into three roughly equal classes. First, in some cases, there is nothing more specific or concrete in invoking precedents than an exhortation not to be “lax about crime” (161-162).

The next class consists of an argument a fortiori based on the social status of the accused: if an Athenian nobleman has been severely punished for a ritual error, how can one spare Neaira, an ordinary prostitute (162 on [Dem.] 59.72-86)? Only the third group, which comprises about eight cases, consists of reconstructing the reasoning of previous decisions and trying to show how to apply it to the present case. Lanni also takes into account the argument that a jury`s decision will influence the city`s future behavior. This argument implicitly assumes that a case will set a precedent for future decisions – and thus acts as a deterrent to potential criminals – and has been described as a “potential precedent” (166). Lanni tries to avoid this implication by arguing that logic is presented only in two cases: it is only explicitly stated that one decision will influence others. Both cases deal with new issues and can therefore be considered an exception. Lanni concludes that references to precedents tend to “give an aura of coherence to a system that was only too unpredictable” (168). Their arguments about the impossibility of a binding precedent and the scarcity of actual arguments of convincing precedents are compelling, but whether or not the decisions of the Athenian courts were actually predictable is a broader and more complex issue that could benefit from further examination. Greek law, legal systems of the ancient Greeks, the most famous of which is the law of Athens. Although there has never been a system of institutions recognized and observed by the nation as a whole as a legal system, there have been a number of fundamental approaches to legal problems, some methods used to produce legal effects and legal terminology, all to varying degrees from the many independent states that make up the Greek world.

were shared. However, it should not be forgotten that these common foundations as they existed led to a variety of individual legal systems that differed in their comprehensiveness and elaboration, reflecting the tribal (i.e. Dorian, Ionian, etc.) and historical contexts, as well as the changing social, economic, political and intellectual conditions of their respective societies.