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ClSt 136S S12

Greek and Roman Law



Joshua D. Sosin

Coordinates: Time: MW 1140-1255 | Space: Allen 103

Classical Studies | 229A Allen Bldg.
OH: | joshua[DOT]sosin[AT]duke[DOT]edu

Spiel: This course is an introduction to ancient Athenian law. We shall read real court speeches from real trials. Topics will range from homicide to commerce and banking, from citizenship to assault, from slavery to inheritance, from religion to sexuality, from literary representation to judicial torture. We shall explore, through in-class discussion, the theory and practice of Athenian law, aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural history as visible from the surviving court speeches, the relationship between Athenian law and Athenian democracy.



Week Monday Wednesday



01/11 - First day of class


01/16 - MLK Day - No Class

01/18 - Intro pt1
READ: M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (1991) ch3 27-43 [16pp]; 43-54 optional.
READ quickly: Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians (=AthPol or AP) [60pp]

Some terms from Hansen, if you want a bit of help:

  • Hoplite (p32): wikip (see def at top only)
  • for Kleisthenes' division of Attica (p34) see map / scheme
  • Piraeus = port pf Athens (p36): wikip | google map
  • Areopagos (p37): wikip paragr4 (optional longer description, if you want: dêmos)
  • Assembly = Ekklêsia (p37): wikip (detailed description: dêmos)
  • Council = Boulê (p37): wikip (detailed description: dêmos)
  • People's Court = Hêliaia (p37): wikip (detailed description: dêmos)



01/23 - Intro pt2
READ: MacDowell ch1-4 (58pp)

01/25 - Intro pt3
READ: MacDowell ch 5-6, 9 (42, 22pp)


01/30 - Intro pt4
READ: MacDowell ch 10-11, 13-14 (37pp, 16pp; 54 total)

02/01 - Intro pt5
READ: MacDowell ch 15-16 (40pp)

Data Dump - Take home - Due Friday 4pm, 229A Allen Bldg


02/06 - Homicide
READ: MacDowell ch7 (14pp)
READ: Antiphon 1 (7pp)
READ: Antiphon 5 (24pp)
READ: Antiphon 6 (17pp)

Draco's homicide law on stone

02/08 - Sex and Violence
READ: MacDowell ch8 (10pp)
READ: Lysias 1 (12pp)
READ: E. Harris, "Did Athenians Regard Seduction as a Worse Crime than Rape?" (9pp)

leukôma α due


02/13 - Upheaval, Upheavel 2.0
READ: Lysias 20 (8pp)
READ: [Ar.] AthPol 29-33 (5pp)
: Thuc. 8.63-72, 89-98 (5pp, 7.5pp)
: Lysias 12 (24pp)
READ: Lysias 13 (20pp)
READ: Lysias 31 (8pp)

02/15 - Assault
READ: Lysias 3 (10pp)
READ: Lysias 4 (3.5pp)
READ: Demosthenes 54 (13pp)
READ: Isocrates 20 (5pp)

leukôma β due


02/20 - Sexuality
READ: Aeschines 1 (70pp)
OPTIONAL READ: A. Lanni, "The Expressive Effect of the Athenian Prostitution Laws," ClAnt 29 (2010) 45-67.

visuals: Miss. pyxis / RISD amphora / Malibu kylis / London bell krater (Kilmer)

02/22 - Banking, Business, Trade
READ: Demosthenes 52 (10pp)
READ: Isocrates 17 (15pp)
READ: Hypereides 3 (15pp)
READ: Demosthenes 56 (15pp)

leukôma γ due


02/27 - Banking, Business, Trade
READ: Demosthenes 35 (20pp)
READ: Demosthenes 34 (20pp)

READ: Demosthenes 33 (14pp)

READ: Demosthenes 32 (11pp)
READ: Lysias 22 (8pp)

02/29 - Funds
READ: Demosthenes 13 (12pp)
READ: Demosthenes 14 (13pp)
READ: Demosthenes 20 (55pp)

leukôma δ due


03/05 - Spring Break

03/07 - Spring Break



03/12 - Damages, Property, Property Damage
READ: Demosthenes 37 (22pp)
READ: Demosthenes 53 (10pp)
READ: Demosthenes 55 (10pp)

03/14 - Religion and Law
READ: Lysias 7 (11pp)
READ: Lysias 30 (11pp)
READ: Hyperides 4 (13pp)
READ: MacDowell ch12 (11pp)

leukôma ε due


03/19 - Religion and Law
READ: Lysias 6 (16pp)
READ: Andocides 1 (41pp)

03/21 - Duties
READ: Lysias 9 (16pp)
READ: Lysias 14-15 (13pp)
READ: Lysias 21 (6pp)
READ: Demosthenes 42 (13pp)

leukôma ϛ due


03/26 - Citizenship
READ: Demosthenes 57 (21pp)
READ: [Demosthenes] 59 (43pp)

OPTIONAL READ: J. Blok, "Perikles' Citizenship Law: A New Perspective," Historia 58 (2009) 141-170.

03/28 - Oh Brother
READ: Demosthenes 39 (15pp)
READ: Demosthenes 40 (21pp)

leukôma ζ due


04/02 - Inheritance
READ: Isaeus 3 (24pp)
READ: Isaeus 4 (9pp)
READ: Demosthenes 27 (20pp)

04/04 - Torture
READ: M. Gagarin, "The Torture of Slaves in Athenian Law," CP 91 (1996) 1-18 (jstor)
READ: C. Carey, "A Note on Torture in Athenian Homicide Cases," Historia 37 (1988) 241-245 (jstor)
OPTIONAL READ: D. Mirhady, "The Athenian Rationale for Torture," in Law and Social Status in Classical Athens 53-74.

Ant. 6.23: question then basanos
Isoc. 17.15: question
Dem. 49.55-58: choosing
Dem. 29.38: strategy
Dem. 53.22: brilliant strategy
Dem. 48.16-18: 'actual' torture?

Dem. 30.37: always prefer torture
Lyc. 1.29: democratic torture
Lys. 7.37: torture, witnesses, evidence
Arist. Rhet. 1375a28: laws, witnesses, contracts, torture, oaths

Aristoph. Clouds 602
Ant. 5.49: two men, one free(?), one not
Ant. 1.20: broken on the wheel
Lys. 3.33: informing under torture
Dem. 54.27: if he'd been serious about it...

leukôma η due


04/09 - Law in Literature
READ: Sophocles, Antigone

Note: for those of you who have never read a Greek tragedy before, the Wikipedia entry for Sophocles' Antigone isn't too bad; I wouldn't recommend spending any serious time with it, but it might help you ease into the play a bit more quickly.

04/11 - Law and Inscriptions
READ: Selections from Rhodes-Osborne GHI 404-323 BC; NOTE: Read ONLY the translations of the inscriptions; DO NOT read all the commentaries, unless you want/need to; the reading will be way too long if you read all that; PLEASE, if you print, please do so selectively and 2-sided.

leukôma θ due


04/16 - Socrates
READ: Plato, Apology
READ: Xenophon, Apology
READ: Hansen, The Trial of Sokrates

If you are interested in the other relevant chunk of Xenophon: Memorabilia 1.2-1.2

04/18 - Scholarly perspectives
READ: A. Lanni, "Social Norms in the Courts of Ancient Athens," JLA 1 (2009) 691-736
: C. Carey, "The Shape of Athenian Laws," CQ 48 (1998) 93-109
READ: E. Harris, "Feuding or the Rule of Law?," in Symposion 2001 (Vienna 2005) 125-141

leukôma ι due

w16 04/23 - last day of class
READ: Lysias 24
READ: Lysias 8


Leukômata: 40% of grade. You will write 10 leukômata, 375-word response papers; how long is 375 words? Roughly this long. We shall discuss the assignments in greater detail in class.

  1. leukôma α: Free Write: What was the most surprising thing that you learned about Athenian law from MacDowell's handbook? If your roommate asked you to give an account of the coolest, weirdest, most interesting, or boring, or shocking thing you've encountered so far, what would you say? Your writing must be intelligible, but it need not be formal. The only requirement is that you type and keep typing, without pause, for 30 minutes. Then, turn it what comes out!
  2. leukôma β:You vs Text [Identify at least two things from our readings that have struck you as interesting, surprising, odd, difficult to understand--anything that really caught your interest for any reason (cite specific passages please). This exercise asks what seems interesting, in one or more texts, in the light of what you think or know. Feel free to circle or otherwise highlight the sentence or clause that contains the crux of your observation.]
  3. leukôma γ: You vs Text
  4. leukôma δ:Text vs Text. [Read at least two readings or passages against each other. How does the one illuminate, contradict, agree with, flesh out, etc. the other? So, say one speech runs a particular legal (or extra-legal) argument with which another speech disagrees in some specific way. What do we learn from that? Base your observations on at least 2 specific passages (or phenomena). Feel free to circle or otherwise highlight the sentence or clause that contains the crux of your idea/observation. This exercise asks what seems interesting, in one or more texts, in the light of what one or more other texts say. You might observe, for example, that in one text a litigant casts tax obligations as a forced intrusion on freedom while elsewhere another frames them as voluntary and honor-bearing; you might, then, speculate how it is that we see this difference of opinion. In doing so you are ineffect asserting that one passage speaks to another in an interesting way. You do not need to mount a full-bore argument; you do not need to 'discover' anything new. You simply need to have an honest thought born of careful reading.]
  5. leukôma ε: Text vs Text
  6. leukôma ϛ: Text vs Text
  7. leukôma ζ: Text vs Text
  8. leukôma η: Text vs Context [Read this week's selections against the semester's readings and discussions. This exercise asks what seems interesting, in one or more texts, in the light of your increasingly evidence-based knowledge and understanding of Athenian law. Perhaps you have noticed a theme, rhetorical strategy, legal or procedural phenomenon that appears in multiple sources: here is your chance to string a few of those multiple observations together. So, you might observe, for example, that a number of texts speak in some particular way to an aspect of law regarding the family. In so doing you are in effect asserting that a number of passages speak to some larger issue, which might not even be an ancient category of thought.]
  9. leukôma θ: Text vs Context
  10. leukôma ι: Text vs Context

Assessing the leukômata. Each leukôma will be assessed on a five-point scale:

  • 11 points: On-time delivery of 375 words. Writing shows little engagement with the texts and/or is so unclearly written as to render assessment of such impossible. [ = words]
  • 12 points: Writing is clear, but it shows engagement only inasmuch as it recapitulates prior classroom discussion; it is clear but does not take ownership of any ideas. [ = words + alien thought]
  • 13 points: Writing is clear and contains 1 good, clear, interesting idea of your own devising. [ = words + an idea]
  • 14 points: Writing is clear and contains at least 2 good, clear, interesting ideas of your own devising [ = words + ideas]
  • 15 points: Writing is clear, compelling, well-crafted, and efficient, and contains at least 2 good, clear, interesting and connected ideas of your own devising [ = words and ideas are as one]

This will generate not the grade, but a figure from which to calculate one; growth and improvement count.

In-Class Participation: 40% of grade; this is a seminar, a biggish one, but a seminar nevertheless; I provide framework, background, readings, occasional presentations and lectures, but you are responsible for discussion. On any given day your primary responsibility is to come prepared to attack the day's readings with questions, comments, problems, counter-arguments, parallels, etc.

  • See me: I am your biggest supporter. If for some reason you feel uncomfortable talking in class, come see me right away. We'll see what we can do to help you feel more at ease.
  • Primary sources: Primary sources assigned for this class are to be read in translation. But don't let me off the hook. You will develop an eye for the sorts of question that must be answered in full or part on consultation of the original language. When you have a question about this sort of thing, ask ask ask. I'll bring my laptop; we can look things up if it will help drive the discussion forward!
  • Discussion: I expect you to root your contributions in specific passages in the readings. Point to specifics. Be prepared to explain yourself with close reference to texts. I encourage you to bring up passages that you do not understand (chances are someone else, myself included, is similarly confused!), but I expect you to be able to describe the scope and dimension of your confusion: "The litigant's claim X at passage A seems to contradict his assertion Y at passage B in these 2 ways; I don't get it." On any given day our job is to bring these 2000-year-old texts to life in the light of the other texts we've read, of ideas we've developed in our leukômata, of thoughts we've floated in discussion, of ideas others have had in discussion. We shall move forward by reading carefully and across the syllabus, by listening to each other, and by throwing as many ideas as we can against the wall and seeing how many stick.
  • Contribution: I value and reward hard work and careful thought. You do not need to know anything about Greek history or about law to be a valuable contributor to this class! I expect you to work hard to master the materials that we cover, to think carefully about what we read, listen carefully to your peers in discussion, and have fun while doing so! Anything else you know from outside this class is gravy. Never let your fear that someone else might know more than you keep you from speaking in class. In this setting, how you think will often mean more than what you know.
  • Assessment: After class each day I shall note your performance for the day and then give you a grade for each week of discussion:
    • 4 : you are on fire, offering a number of solid points or, possibly, one or a couple really great points
    • 3 : you are working up a sweat, offering a few points or, possibly, one quite strong one
    • 2 : you are warming up, offering 1 solid contribution to the discussion
    • 1 : you are on the bench, present but not contributing

This will generate not the grade, but a figure from which to calculate one; growth and improvement count. Roughly speaking, 1=75:C, 2=82:B-, 3=89:B+, 4=99:A+. I shall drop the 2 lowest days; any absences, beyond 2, will be recorded as 0 in the daily note.

Data Dump: 20% of grade; there will be one test in this class. 1 hr.; closed book; take home. This test is designed simply to let you show that you have sufficiently mastered the basics, so that you will be able to have fun with the primary sources that we shall study throughout the rest of the semester. The test will cover Hansen, The Athenian Democracy ch3 and MacDowell, The Law in Classical Athens ch1-6, 10-11, 13-16. Format will be short answer / multiple choice. No tricks. The first five full days of class we shall walk through the assigned chapters very carefully so that we all build a solid foundation for further discussion. The logic of this exercise is to frontload the hard work of memorizing facts in the first few days of class, in order to allow scope for letting the discussion of primary sources take us wherever we like! I shall hand out the test in class Wed 1 Feb. You will be on your honor to: (1) leave the test in its envelope until you are ready to take it, (2) discuss the test with no one else after either of you has taken it (3), spend no more than 75 minutes taking the test; (4) use no books, notes, websites, or any other aids in the taking of the test.