The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-11-05
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens examines how the Athenians attempted to enforce and apply the law when judging disputes in court. Recent scholarship has paid considerable attention to the practice and execution of Greek law. However, much of this work has left several flawed assumptions unchallenged, such as that Athenian law was primarily concerned with procedure; that the main task of enforcement lay in the hands of private citizens; that the Athenians used the courts not to uphold the law but to pursue personal feuds; and that the Athenian courts rendered ad hoc judgments and paid little attention to the letter of the law. Drawing on modern legal theory, the author examines the nature of "open texture" in Athenian law and reveals that the Athenians were much more sophisticated in their approach to law than many modern scholars have assumed, and thus breaks considerable new ground in the field. At the same time, the book studies the weaknesses of the Athenian legal system and how they contributed to Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War. By reexamining the available evidence, Edward Harris provides a much needed corrective to long-held views and places the Athenian administration of justice in its broad political and social context.

Author Biography

Edward M. Harris is Research Professor of Ancient History at Durham University.

Table of Contents

Part I - The Political And Social Contexts of Athenian Law
Chapter 1 - Was Athens a State or a Stateless Community? The Political Context of Athenian Law
Chapter 2 - Feuding or the Rule of Law? An Essay in Legal Sociology
Part II - Applying the Law
Chapter 3 - The Judicial Oath
Chapter 4 - What are Athenian Laws about? Substance and Procedure in Athenian Statutes
Chapter 5 - Open Texture in Athenian Law: The Approach of the Litigants
Chapter 6 - Open Texture in Athenian Law: The Response of the Courts
Chapter 7 - Did the Athenian Courts Attempt to Achieve Consistency? The use of Precedents in Forensic Orator
Chapter 8 - How Strictly did the Athenian Courts Apply the Law? The Role of Epieikeia
Part III - The Breakdown of the Rule of Law
Chapter 9 - Cleon and the Defeat of Athens
Appendix 1 - Hunter on Citizens Enforcing the Law
Appendix 2 - Magistrates Enforcing Laws and Decrees in the Fifth Century BCE
Appendix 3 - Quotations or Allusions to Judicial Oath in Attic Orators
Appendix 4 - Organization of the Gortyn Lawcode
Appendix 5 - Laws in the Attic Orators
Appendix 6 - Categories of atimoi listed in the decree of Patrocleides
Appendix 7 - Issues in the Orators
Appendix 8 - Public Service in the Attic Orators
Appendix 9 - The Authorship of the Speeches in the Demosthenic Corpus

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