Each state in ancient Greece had its own laws, government, and money. After the Dark Ages – About 1200-900 BC – and beginning at about 900 BC, the Ancient Greeks had no official law or punishments. Murders were settled by members of the victim’s family, who would then go and kill the murderer.
Ancient Greece Laws and punishments
This often began endless blood feuds.This came to an end when around 620 BC Draco, the lawgiver, set down the first known written law of Ancient Greece. These laws were so harsh that his name gave rise to our English word “Draconian” meaning an unreasonably harsh law.
On the civil side, they permitted enslavement for debt, and death seems to have been the penalty for almost all criminal offenses. Aristotle claims that he was the first written Athenian laws and that Draco established a constitution enfranchizing hoplites, the lower class soldiers.
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 revised every statute except that on homicide and made Athenian law altogether more humane. The Areiopagos is reputed to be the most ancient homicide court in Greece.
It first tried cases of homicide, but later began to try other cases as well. It was made up of former archons, or magistrates. The murder was a tort law, and the punishment was exile as set by Draco. Foreign slaves have often employed to police the cities of Ancient Greece.
Greeks found it uncomfortable to have citizens policing their own fellow citizens. Often Greeks relied on citizens to report crimes. After reporting a crime, if an arrest was made, an informant would receive half of the fine charged to the criminal.
Under public law, he wrote laws that required that people who lived a certain distance from public wells needed to dig their own, laws that forbade the export of agricultural goods except for olive oil, a law that restricted the amount of land a man could own, laws that allowed vendors to charge any kind of interest rate they wanted to etc.
Ancient Greece Laws: Facts
Other than in cases involving theft, murder, rape and adultery, the accused received a written summons naming the day that he or she was required to appear before a magistrate.The procedure through which laws were made in Athens was that only men who were born here were allowed to vote.
They did this at public assemblies where upper-class citizens discussed laws that might benefit Athens. These assemblies often got very noisy and led to many arguments between the men who were there.
In Athens, by a vote of the Assembly, any person could be banished from Athens. You didn’t get a hearing or a trial; you had to leave. Athens had laws covering personal property and providing for damages if that personal property was ruined or stolen. The Greeks even had a law protecting trademarks.
Spartan Laws and Customs
Spartan laws and customs may seem very curious and very harsh to us today. They forbade every form of ostentation and display. To prevent this they made all their money of iron; thus each coin was so big and yet of so little value that no one could carry much, or buy much with it, or hoard it up in secret. Any large sum would have filled an entire house.