Early Greek Law

Early Greek Law

MICHAEL GAGARIN
Copyright Date: 1986
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnf8d
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  • Book Info
    Early Greek Law
    Book Description:

    Drawing on the evidence of anthropology as well as ancient literature and inscriptions, Gagarin examines the emergence of law in Greece from the 8th through the 6th centuries B.C., that is, from the oral culture of Homer and Hesiod to the written enactment of codes of law in most major cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90916-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION: LAW IN HUMAN
    (pp. 1-18)

    The recognition that law is a basic feature of human society distinguishing men from animals is at least as old as the Greek poet Hesiod, who says in theWorks and Days(lines 276–80): “Zeus established the following way of life[nomos]for men: whereas for fish and beasts and winged birds it is the custom to eat one another, since there is no law[dikē]among them, to men he gave law, which is by far the best thing.”¹ In the following chapters I shall explore how law came into existence in ancient Greece, where the rule of...

  5. 2 THE SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES IN EARLY GREEK LITERATURE
    (pp. 19-50)

    I have suggested in the preceding chapter that in the development of a society formal procedures for settling disputes peacefully may arise before any rules are written down as statutory laws. This was certainly the order of events in Greece. The Greeks learned—or more precisely relearned—the art of writing in about the middle of the eighth century B.C., and all the evidence, which we shall examine in Chapters 3 and 4, indicates that they began writing laws about the middle of the seventh century.¹ By this time their earliest literary works, the poems of Homer and Hesiod, had...

  6. 3 EARLY WRITTEN LAWS: THE LITERARY EVIDENCE
    (pp. 51-80)

    We have seen that by the beginning of the seventh century at the latest a formal, public procedure existed in Greece for the peaceful settlement of disputes. The consistency of the testimony of different authors indicates that this practice was not confined to one or two cities but is likely to have been fairly widespread throughout the Greek world.¹ Moreover, although we have virtually no information about the proto-legal institutions of most Greek cities, there is evidence for the formal settlement of disputes in Athens in the period before that city's earliest written laws. Aristotle tells us that the early...

  7. 4 EARLY WRITTEN LAWS: THE INSCRIPTIONAL EVIDENCE
    (pp. 81-98)

    Our picture of early law-making in Greece, drawn from the literary evidence, is confirmed and amplified by the inscriptional evidence, which also indicates that the Greeks began to write laws in about the middle of the seventh century and that procedural concerns predominate in laws enacted before 500 B.C. There are, of course, difficulties in interpreting the inscriptions, which are usually fragmentary and sometimes of uncertain date,¹ but they have the advantage of being direct evidence and thus not distorted by later interpreters. As a group, moreover, the surviving inscriptions, though not large in number, should represent a more random...

  8. 5 JUSTICE IN EARLY GREECE
    (pp. 99-120)

    In the three preceding chapters we have assembled the evidence for legal procedure and substantive, written law in early Greece, on the basis of which we may now examine some of the general features of early Greek justice. Throughout this discussion I shall be using “justice” in a relatively restricted sense to designate the legal process by which disputes are settled and the substantive norms which help determine the content of these settlements. I exclude, in other words, matters of “morality” and religion, except as these may enter into legal contexts. Thus, the only aspect of “the justice of Zeus,”...

  9. 6 THE EMERGENCE OF WRITTEN LAW
    (pp. 121-142)

    We have seen that formal procedures for settling disputes were well established in Greece before the introduction of writing around the middle of the eighth century. We have also seen that Greek cities began to write down laws about the middle of the seventh century and that by the end of the sixth century many cities had some written laws.¹ Before we try to account for the widespread appearance of written laws throughout Greece during the last half of the archaic period, let us first examine various reasons other scholars have suggested.

    Perhaps the most commonly accepted view explains the...

  10. 7 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 143-146)

    We have seen that the emergence of law in Greece during the archaic period took place in two distinct stages. First in the preliterate period the basic elements of judicial procedure were established, providing a formal means for the public settlement of disputes by recognized third parties. This procedure depended ultimately on the voluntary submission of disputes by both litigants, although it appears that by the end of the eighth century many, if not most, Greeks felt strong public pressure to submit their disputes to this legal process rather than use force, as under the older system of self-help. High-ranking...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 147-156)
  12. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 157-162)
  13. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 163-167)