There are also the stocks and whipping posts for meting
out summary justice to irresponsible offenders. When the death penalty
is imposed (and the matter often lies in the discretion of the dicasts),
the criminal, if of servile or Barbarian blood, may be put to death in
some hideous manner and his corpse tossed into the Barathron, a vile pit
on the northwest side of Athens, there to be dishonored by the kites and
crows. The execution of Athenian citizens, however, is extremely humane.
The condemned is given a cup of poisonous hemlock juice and allowed to
drink it while sitting comfortably among his friends in the prison.
Little by little his body grows numb; presently he becomes senseless,
and all is over without any pain.
The friends of the victim are then at liberty to give his body a
An Athenian trial usually lasts all day, and perhaps we
have been able to witness only the end of it. It may well happen,
however, that we cannot attend a dicastery at all. This day may be one
which is devoted to a meeting of the public assembly, and duty summons
the jurors, not in the court room, but to the Pnyx. This is no loss to
us, however. We welcome the chance to behold
the Athenian Ecclesia in