Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Judgement & Punishment.
Victor Bers & Adriaan Lanni, edition of March 15, 2003
page 6 of 7
Once the litigants and men speaking in their behalf made their presentations—the number and length of the speeches varied with the sort of case being heard—the jury proceeded at once to cast their ballots. There was no formal deliberation, though the unruly shouting might have served as a primitive substitute. “Cast” is no metaphor, since Athenian jurors voted by dropping ballots into baskets. (See images of ballots—for the plaintiff, and for the defendant.) In the
Imprisonment was rarely, if ever, used as a punishment; the most common types of penalties in public suits were monetary fines and execution, which involved either poisoning by hemlock or, more gruesomely, being shackled to wooden planks and left to die. Magistrates known as “the Eleven” (see the Glossary entry) supervised executions. The collection of monetary fines due to the state was more informal and relied to an extent on private initiative. If a convicted man failed to pay the fine by the appointed date, he became a state debtor and his property was subject to public confiscation initiated by—once again—a volunteer prosecutor. Victorious litigants in private suits were responsible for personally collecting on the judgment, a process that could turn violent.
There was no provision for appeal from a jury verdict per se. A dissatisfied litigant might, however, indirectly attack the judgment by means of a suit for false witness or a new case, ostensibly involving a different incident and/or raising a different complaint. Some of the surviving speeches point explicitly to a protracted series of connected legal confrontations. To cite one example, the prosecution of Neaera for false claims of citizenship in
page 6 of 7