Ancient Greek Law

Ancient Greece featured diverse legal systems across city-states, often sharing core principles. These laws aimed to promote democracy, maintain order, and resolve disputes, reflecting the complexities of this influential civilization.

Ancient Greece Laws

  • Laws varied across Ancient Greek city-states.
  • Draco’s code had harsh penalties for crimes.
  • Solon’s reforms abolished debt slavery.
  • Athenian juries decided guilt and punishment.
  • Ostracism allowed the exile of unpopular citizens.
  • Spartan laws focused on military discipline.
  • Women had limited legal rights in Athens.
  • Homicide cases are handled in Areopagus court.
  • Property and inheritance laws were common.
  • Ancient Greek laws influenced modern democracies.

Many of the ancient Greek laws that were created are still practiced today. There were two main sets of laws written in ancient Greece. The two main characters were Draco and Solon.

How laws were created in ancient Greece

During the Dark Ages of Greece’s history from 1200-900 B.C.E. there were no official laws or punishments.

Murder was dealt with by family members killing the murderer. Many times families fought blood feuds that lasted for decades.

Draco produced the first set of written laws in ancient Greece around 620 B.C.E. Draconian Law is best described as a tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye.

Solon became a lawgiver in 594 B.C.E. he created a different structure of laws. Solon replaced every punishment of Draconian Law except for murder which was exile.

How laws were created in Ancient Greece

Early Greek laws were created and approved by two government entities. The Assembly was used to construct laws.

The Assembly was composed of any citizen (males were the only citizens in ancient Greece) who wanted to vote.

Any citizen could show up and vote for a law or subject involving the city-state.

The Council was determined by a lottery system. Citizens were named to sit on the Council for one year. Both the Council and the Assembly had to approve new laws.

Four Sets of Ancient Greek Law

There were four specific sets of laws in ancient Greece. The laws were written by Draco and Solon. The four sets created were a tort, family, public and procedural laws.

Tort laws are best described as actions of harm against you or your property. There were specific penalties and punishments for each crime.

Most penalties involved some type of monetary payment. One tort law punishment that did not change under Solon was exiled for murder.

Theft, rape, and even a dog bite were considered as tort laws. Other tort laws created by Solon include rules such as building codes, vegetation, water rights, and animals.

Family laws were geared toward the conduct of men and women. There were laws that outlined monetary payments for marriage and adoption.

Other laws dealt with inheritances and the role of each parent. Women did not have many rights. They were controlled by their father or husband.

Very seldom would a woman appear in court, other than for a murder trial.

Public laws were used to form public services and direct public dealings.

There were laws that dictated how much a merchant could charge in interest payments, what type of agricultural goods could be exported, and how much land a man could own.

Procedural laws were used by judges as an outline for applying other laws.

The guidelines were written in a step-by-step fashion. For instance, procedural law required there be a certain number of jurors or witnesses for trials dealing with murder, theft, rape, and so forth.

Law Givers

Law Givers such as Draco and Solon were appointed officials. Law Givers were not the king or rulers in charge. They were usually members of the middle-class aristocracy.

Government officials appointed Law Givers that was impartial and did not take sides with individuals or specific groups. The Law Givers were viewed as political outsiders.

Court System

Ancient Greeks set up a judicial system with courts in order to perform trials that led to convictions and sentencing of a criminal. The courts were not run by professionals.

There were no lawyers or judges. Cases generally took less than one day. In a normal court setting, two people would argue for and against an individual who had committed a crime.

Jurors or the audience would then vote guilty or not guilty. A separate vote for sentencing also took place.

Important facts about Ancient Greek law

Law Givers were appointed by the government.

Draco and Solon are the two most famous Law Givers.

Draco created Draconian Law which is referred to as a tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye.

Laws were created by the Assembly and Council.

Solon changed many of the punishments imposed on criminals except murder which was exile.

Ostracism is a form of exile.

There were four sets of Greek law-tort, public, procedural, and family.

Tort laws dealt with crimes against an individual or their property.


What type of law decided inheritances?

Family law

Ostracism is a form of what?


How is Draconian Law explained?

A tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye

What type of law dealt with businesses and the amount of land a man could own?

Public law

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