Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The law in 4th century Athens
Yesterday, I gave a short talk on From Democrats to Kings to an inter-disciplinary body of Cambridge graduates and academics at the Darwin College Art and Humanities lunch time seminar. The topic I decided to focus on was how Athens sought to put itself back on its feet after the debilitating period of revolution it suffered in 404-403BC - right at the beginning of the period covered by my book. What emerged from the talk, and more particularly from the discussion, was the importance of the development of the power of the law within Athens' democratic system in the aftermath of the revolution and the reinstatement of democracy. Specialists in law in the audience were throwing light on the cross-cultural phenomenon of a constant tussle between the organs of law and the organs of political activity within different societies across history. It became clear that one of the most important things Athens did was not necessarily to make law after the revolution, but to make the law they had more visible and more easily involved in civil discourse. This was combined with the building of new law courts, which increasingly through the 4th century, became the place for conducting both legal and political disputes.