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law in Greece


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Classical Athenian law (see law and procedure, athenian) is well documented from the Attic Orators (c.420–320 bc): over 100 lawcourt speeches survive, though we rarely hear the result or even the opponent's case, and our manuscripts do not usually preserve the texts of witnesses' statements or legal statutes. Further information, esp. about judicial procedure, can be gleaned from Athenian comedy (esp. Aristophanes' Wasps) and from the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia; and the Athenian habit of recording public decisions on stone has left large numbers of texts, though few of these are strictly legislative.

The other significant body of evidence comprises private documents written on papyrus (see papyrology, greek). Papyrus was widely used throughout classical antiquity, but for climatic reasons virtually none survives except in Egypt, where Greek was the dominant language of administration under Ptolemaic and Roman rule (c.320 bc–c. ad 630). The range of these texts is vast (wills, letters, agreements, etc.), and though often fragmentary, they give us an unparalleled picture of law operating at ground level. See also gortyn.

Subjects: Classical studies


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