One of the most famous lawgivers in Athens was Draco. Draco was a Greek lawmaker who introduced the first written code of law in Greece. The code included very severe laws. His homicide law is the first known written law of Ancient Greece. He was appointed lawgiver in Athens after a failed Cylon attempt to overthrow the government.

Ancient Sparta

Draco Ancient Greece

Draco’s laws were shockingly severe, so severe that they were said to have been written not in ink but in blood. Draco Ancient Greece earned a reputation for being extremely severe with his punishments, and it is even argued that he set death as the penalty for all offenses, even very minor offenses. Hence the continued use of the word draconian to describe repressive legal measures.

Solon Ancient Greece

But this was the first code to distinguish between homicide and murder. He served as lawgiver until he was succeeded by Solon in about 594 BC. His laws were unpopular and most of them were rewritten by Solon.

Draco the Ancient Greek legislator

When asked why he decreed death as the penalty for most offenses he said that small offenses deserved death and he knew of no severe punishment for great ones. All his laws were repealed by Solon except those dealing with homicide (which entrusted trials for murder to the Areopagus), it cannot be assumed that in fact, they had remained unchanged since his day. The constitution attributed to Draco by Aristotle is now rejected as a later compilation.

Ancient Greek Law

Around 620 BC Draco, the lawgiver, wrote the first known written law of Ancient Greece. Solon, an Athenian statesman, and lawmaker refined Draco’s laws and is credited with “democratizing” justice by making the courts more accessible to citizens. Solon created many new laws that fit into the four basic categories of Ancient Greek law.

human law vs. Divine law

Dracos rule in ancient Greece

Before the advance of Dracos rule in ancient Greece justice has not always been dispensed by judges operating under a written or common law equally applicable to all. In early Athens, justice was not a matter of applying a written standard to any situation or dispute.

The only one of Draco’s laws that Solon kept when he was appointed lawgiver in about 594 BC was the law that established exile as the penalty for homicide. The four categories created by solon are as follows:- tort laws, family laws, public laws and procedural laws. These laws had specific penalties for specific crimes.

Most crimes involved monetary (payment) penalties. A murder was a tort law, and the punishment was exile as set by Draco. Also during his time, it was enacted in the laws which he drew up for the Athenians that the punishment of an adulterer should be one of the acts condoned by the State.

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