Greek Justice: Trial and Punishment

Essay by FinlockHigh School, 10th gradeA, April 2004

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The first written laws, which have been credited to Draco, appeared in Athens at about 621 B.C. His laws (Draconian laws) were very cruel and harsh and his basic rule was that every crime warranted the death penalty. The earliest known laws in Athens and the one that remained unchanged for the longest time concerned homicide. As the Greeks believed that murder offended the gods, there were religious sanctions against homicide and anyone who killed another person (outside of wartime) was considered polluted.

The Solonian laws were developed at the time the Athenians realized they needed to change the constitution and reform their laws. Solon who was appointed lawgiver around 594 BC made a different set of legal codes. He was given a great deal of freedom and his first objective was to get rid of all of Draco's laws except the law that established exile as the penalty for homicide.

One of Solon's big changes to the Athenian justice system was that he passed a law allowing any male citizen, not just the victim or the victim's relatives, could bring an indictment if he believed a crime had been committed.

Just like today, ancient Greek society had problems that had to be dealt with by the courts and criminals had to be tried, convicted and sentenced. In my project you will learn all about the Greek trials, justice and punishments.

Courts, Trials and Punishments

The early law courts could basically be divided into those that heard and tried homicide cases and those that tried lesser offences. The Middle, Greater, Red and Green courts judged less serious crimes.

The most ancient homicide court was the Areopagus that tried only premeditated murders. This court got its name from the Ares hill in Athens, where the court was held. The court officials...