Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ The Process of Making Laws: the Nomothetae.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 24, 2003
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The procedures for making new laws or revising existing laws was complicated, and seems to have been intended to make the process as democratic as possible, and to prevent any hasty or poorly considered changes to the laws.
When the Athenian democracy published a law (
Demosthenes describes process of legislation in detail, in his speech prosecuting Timocrates (Dem. 24). He reminds the jurors that, “In our laws at present in force, men of Athens, every condition that must be observed when new statutes are to be enacted is laid down clearly and with precision. First of all, there is a prescribed time for legislation; but even at the proper time a man is not permitted to propose his law just as he pleases. He is directed, in the first place, to put it in writing and post it in front of the statues of the Eponymous Heroes for everyone to see. Then it is ordained that the law must be of universal application, and also that laws of contrary purpose must be repealed; and there are other directions with which I do not think I need trouble you now” (Dem. 24.17-18).
While any citizen could suggest changes to the laws, laws were not passed by the Assembly or the Council, as decrees were, but were passed by a rather prolonged process involving the “Law givers,” the nomothetae (
These Nomothetae would get together and conduct legislation under three circumstances: if the Assembly called for revisions to the laws, if an individual Athenian proposed a change in the laws, and if the six Archons called the Thesmothetae (
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