CLST 308 / HIST 240 / POLSCI 381 Su16

Greek and Roman Law



Joshua D. Sosin

Coordinates: M-F 1000-1205 | Allen 226

CLST | 229A Allen
OH: by appt
e: joshua.sosin AT duke

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. 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.

For the first week we shall bulldoze our way through a slim textbook, learning basics, mastering facts. Then we'll take a straightforward short answer test (Data Dump). This will give us the freedom to have open and unscripted discussions throughout the rest of the term. It is a great format.

You will have the opportunity to engage with the readings in very brief (375-word) papers leukômata. These are meant to be short, informal, raw. No detailed or developed arguments here; rather, an exercise in generation of ideas, a chance to try to think inside the box. These should be fun and should have the added benefit of generating ideas for classroom discussion.

The backbone of our work will be discussion. Read the court cases before class, and come to class ready to roll up your sleeves, offer observations, ask questions, have fun.

Wk Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday




05/18 - Intro
READ: M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (1991) ch3 27-43; 43-54 optional.

Athens (close) / Demes / Divisions / Mon of eponymous heroes /

some terms from the readings.

05/19 - Intro
READ: MacDowell ch1-4
READ: MacDowell ch5-6, 9

05/20 - Intro
READ: MacDowell ch 10-11, 13-14
READ: MacDowell ch 15-16

Data Dump - Take home - Due Monday 10am, in class


05/23 - Homicide
READ: MacDowell ch7
READ: Antiphon 1
READ: Antiphon 5
READ: Antiphon 6

05/24 - Sex and Violence
READ: MacDowell ch8
READ: Lysias 1
READ: Lysias 3
READ: Demosthenes 54

leukôma α due

05/25 - Franchise
READ: Demosthenes 57
READ: Demosthenes 58

Ath.Pol. 42

05/26 - Sexuality
READ: Aeschines 1
OPTIONAL: A. Lanni, "The Expressive Effect of Athenian Prostitution Laws"

leukôma β due

05/27 - Prostitution
READ: [Demosthenes] 59


05/30 - Mem Day : No Class

05/31 - Banking, Business, Trade
READ: Demosthenes 52
READ: Isocrates 17
READ: Hypereides 3
READ: Demosthenes 56

leukôma γ due

06/01 - Banking, Business, Trade
READ: Demosthenes 35
READ: Demosthenes 34
READ: Demosthenes 33

READ: Demosthenes 32
READ: Lysias22

06/02 - Duties
READ: Lysias 9
READ: Lysias 10-11
READ: Lysias 14-15
READ: Lysias 21
READ: Demosthenes 42

leukôma δ due

06/03 - Inheritance
READ: Isaeus 3
READ: Isaeus 4
READ: Demosthenes 27


06/06 - Upheaval
READ: Lysias 12
READ: Lysias 13
READ: Lysias 31

leukôma ε due

06/07 - Religion and Law
READ: Lysias 6
READ: Andocides 1

READ: MacDowell ch12

06/08 - Religion and Law
READ: Lysias 7
READ: Lysias 30
READ: Hyperides 4

leukôma ϛ due

06/09 - Socrates
READ: Plato, Apology
READ: Xenophon, Apology
READ: Hansen, The Trial of Sokrates

06/10 - Summary discussion

leukôma ζ due



Leukômata: 40% of grade. You will write 7 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: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 (you must cite specific passages). 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.]
  2. leukôma β: You vs Text
  3. leukôma γ: 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 in effect 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 attention to the texts that we read.]
  4. leukôma δ: Text vs Text
  5. leukôma ε: Text vs Context [Read this week's selections against the term'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.]
  6. leukôma ϛ: Text vs Context
  7. leukôma ζ: Text vs Context

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

  • 11 points (out of 15): 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: 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 a good, clear, interesting observation of your own; shows clear understanding of text. [ = words + solid observation]
  • 14 points: Writing is clear and contains one or more good, clear, interesting ideas based on observations; shows clear understanding of text and attempts critical engagement with it [ = words + observation + analysis]
  • 15 points: Writing is clear, compelling, well-crafted, and efficient, and shows ambitious or profound analysis of text [ = words clearly show excellent intellectual engagement]

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

Note: there is a simple way to raise the mark of any one leukôma by one point. First: have one of your classmates write a brief assessment of your leukôma; a few careful sentences will suffice. Then: add your own thoughts (again, a few careful sentences will do) in response to their response. Your classmate's job is to try to put him/herself in your shoes and try to appreciate what you are trying to say; your job is to put yourself in your classmate's shoes and try to appreciate their understanding. So, this is an exercise in imagining the mindset of your reader. If you both make an honest effort, the original author gets a point. Simple. If you trade (i.e. each reads the other's paper), you both get a point. Even better. This is purely optional.

In-Class Participation: 40% of grade; this class is discussion driven; I provide framework, background, and readings, 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: Author, speech number, paragraph number (e.g. Dem. 33.10). 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 that we've read, ideas that we've developed in our leukômata, thoughts that we've floated in discussion, suggestions that others have made 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. So long as we are reading carefully, 'mistakes' are not bad; on the contrary, they are essential to the day's business. So, don't be shy about voicing ideas that you're not sure about.
  • Contribution: I value and reward hard work and careful thought. You do not need to know anything about ancient history or Greek or rhetoric or 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, to listen carefully to your peers in discussion, and to have fun while doing so! Never let your fear that someone else might know more than you or that an idea might be somehow wrong keep you from speaking in class. In this setting, how you think will often mean more than what you know.
  • Summary Discussion: For the last day of class there will be no readings. You should come prepared to discuss the broad sweep of the course, framing your thoughts around a single question: "Why should we bother to read any of this?!?" This is not a formal presentation, but you should come prepared to discuss in depth; if it would help you to bring notes / questions / selected passages to share with the class that would be fine; if it would help you to address your final leukoma to this question that would also be fine.
  • 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 many strong points, responding thoughtfully to peers
    • 3 : you are working up a sweat, offering numerous points
    • 2 : you are warming up, contributing only a bit to the discussion
    • 1 : you are on the bench, present but not contributing

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

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 three 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 Fri 20 May. 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; (5) hand it in at the start of class on Mon 23 May.

Directions will be: "Identify / define / describe / answer briefly ONLY N (will be ca.35) of the following N+ (will be ca. 40) questions. Partial credit will be awarded; each question is worth 3 pts. Do not answer more than N! Write as much as you know. No full sentences; phrases suffice. No notes, books, or any other helps. Take no more than 75 minutes. You are on your honor not to discuss with anyone else till after the due data/time."

Sample Q&A: "dike stupidou: private action against people who turn without using turn signal; attrib. to Solon, but maybe invented 4th c.; penalty = double damages; MacDowell doubts it was used much (dike blabes more common)."