An Athenian Court Trial
Ariston is smiling; his friends are congratulating him, but the trial is by no means over. If Lamachus had been found guilty of something for which the law provided an absolute fixed penalty, this second part of the proceedings would be omitted. But here, although the jury has said some damage or penalty or penalties are due, it has still to fix the amount. Ariston has now to propose to the dicasts a sum which he thinks is adequate to avenge his wrongs and losses; Lamachus can propose a smaller sum and try to persuade the court that it is entirely proper. Each side must act warily. Athenian jurors are fickle folk. The very men who have just howled down Lamachus may, in a spasm of repentance, vote for absurdly low damages. Again, Lamachus must not propose anything obviously inadequate, otherwise the jurors who have just voted against him may feel insulted, and accept Ariston's estimate. Ariston therefore says that he deserves at least a talent. Lamachus rejoins that half a talent is more than ample, even conceding Arison's alleged wrongs. The arguments this time are shorter and more to the point. Then comes the second balloting. A second time a majority (smaller this time, but enough) is in favor of Ariston. The better cause has conquered; and there is at least this advantage to the Athenian legal system, there will be no appeal nor tedious technicalities before a "higher court." The verdict of the dicastery is final.
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