Greek Law

Essay by sesslerA+, February 2005

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Ancient laws evolved as a necessary means by which to regulate society's behavior. What had typically been left up to the whims of each individual to handle on his own needed to be a product of a fair and sensible legal procedure. It can be argued that there was a great need for this because at the time there was no sense of conformity when it came to retribution. In the tribal village, for example, there was no government as we know it today. The family patriarch ruled and cared for his family's property. Conflict was a common problem. As more and more people lived in cities, where there were many classes and ethnic groups (craftsmen, traders, soldiers, scribes judges and priests), the need for governance on an expanded scale became evident. As Greek law became established, it became an integral component of other areas of life, branching out into political and social implications.


The earliest human legal systems were almost universally forms of lex talionis. The lex talionis is a law of equal and direct retribution, in other words, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an arm for an arm, a life for a life." (Hooker, n.d.)

The earliest known written code of laws was the Code of Hammurabi, the most famous of the Babylonian kings of Mesopotamia. Hammurabi's code of laws is almost entirely based on lex talionis; it portrays the origin of law in retributive violence. Unlike direct retribution, however, the law is administered by the state or by individuals that cannot be victims of revenge in return. Hammurabi's code consisted of some 280 laws grouped in sections for administering ownership of land and the rights of ownership; ownership of sheep, relations to neighbors, relations between husband and wife, selling, renting...