Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
Victor Bers & Adriaan Lanni, edition of March 15, 2003
page 7 of 7
The preceding discussion has centered on the main lines of Athenian legal process. There were, however, a number of extraordinary procedures that do not follow the general pattern. In certain major political trials a team of prosecutors was appointed to represent the state, for example, and some cases were heard by the entire assembly sitting in judgment while others came before a special jury of soldiers (eisangelia, see the Glossary entry) (apophasis, see the Glossary entry). For homicide special procedures obtained from the initiation of charges through trial, which took place in one of five special courts depending on the nature of the charges (Areiopagos, see the Glossary entry, and the article on the Areopagus).
Contemporary American society is permeated by legal process and legal professionals. The U.S. population is served by an army of lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers, all trained and certified by law schools and specialized academies. To the extent that we think well of U.S. justice, we are accustomed to credit its achievements to this professionalism; the most often despised aspect of our system is the lay jury. Amateurism is associated with incompetence, irrationality, and susceptibility to prejudice. The Athenians certainly had no illusions that their system of justice was perfect, but they maintained it until Macedonian power suppressed the democracy of which the courts were an essential component (for the end of the Athenian democracy, see Blackwell’s Introduction to Athenian Democracy). In Athenian eyes, expertise in the law was inherently suspicious; amateurism, the mark of democratic control, was for them the system’s chief virtue.
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