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William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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An Athenian Court Trial

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Page 11

The Merits and Defects of the Athenian Courts

 

    No doubt injustice is sometimes done. Sometimes it is the honest man who hears the dreaded "Kataba!" Sometimes the weeping children have their intended effect. Sometimes it is the arguments about "My opponent's scoundrelly ancestry" which win the verdict. At the same time, your Athenian dicast is a remarkably shrewd and acute individual. He can distinguish between specious rhetoric and a real argument. He is probably honestly anxious to do justice. In the ordinary case where his personal interests or prejudices do not come into play, the decision is likely to match with justice quite as often perhaps as in the intricate court system of a great republic many centuries after the passing of Athens.

    Certain features of some Athenian trials have not explained themselves in the example just witnessed. To prevent frivolous or blackmailing litigation it is provided that, if the plaintiff in a suit gets less than one fifth of the ballots in his favor (thus clearly showing he had no respectable case), he is liable to a heavy fine or, in default thereof, exile. Again, we have not waited for the actual closing scene—the dicasts each giving up his colored staff as a kind of voucher to the court officers, and in return getting his three obols (9 cents) daily jury fee, which each man claps promptly in his cheek, and then goes off home to try the case afresh at the family supper.

 

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/old-athens-trial.asp?pg=11