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The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens$
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Edward M. Harris

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199899166

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199899166.001.0001

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Was Athens a State or a Stateless Community?

Was Athens a State or a Stateless Community?

The Political Context of Athenian Law

(p.21) 1 Was Athens a State or a Stateless Community?
The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens

Edward M. Harris

Oxford University Press

This chapter places the Athenian administration of justice in its broad political context. First, it shows that the Athenians made a clear distinction between the public sphere and the private sphere, and between officials (archontes), who had the primary responsibility for maintaining public order, and private citizens (idiotai). Second, it demonstrates that in laws and decrees passed by the Athenian Assembly the main responsibility for enforcing regulations was placed in the hands of public officials, not private individuals. Third, it studies the role of the Areopagus and the Council in investigating crime and arresting offenders. Fourth, it analyzes the laws about the use of force by private individuals and reveals that its use was restricted to a few exceptional circumstances, as it is in modern societies.

Keywords:   Athens, justice, public sphere, public officials, private citizens, rule of law

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