BMCR 2004.09.10

Dike. Rivista di storia del diritto Greco ed ellenistico, vol. I-IV

, Dike. Rivista di storia del diritto Greco ed ellenistico, vol. I-IV. Milano: Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, 1998-2001. Annual subscription €22.00 (Italy); €32.00 (Europe); €42.00 (other countries).

Dike is not the first journal dedicated to the study of ancient law although it is the first that focuses exclusively on the law of the Greek-speaking (including Hellenistic) world. Published under the directorship of Eva Cantarella, the editorial board of the journal consists of some of the most notable names in the field. Articles published in volumes 1-4 range chronologically from the Mycenean period to Ptolemaic Egypt. However, the majority of the papers deal with the law of the Greek mainland (including the islands) during the archaic and classical period, particularly with Athens and Crete. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that most epigraphic and literary evidence on Greek law derives from exactly these regions. In addition to original contributions, Dike also publishes critical surveys ( rassegne critiche) of various topics related to Greek law as well as reports ( cronache) on international conferences on the subject.1

Methodologically, the journal caters to almost every taste, from traditional Quellenforschung to essays that bear evident signs of multidisciplinary influence. Such variety is to be expected and, I believe, should be encouraged. Given the wide range of themes, periods and approaches covered in the over forty essays published in the first four volumes of Dike, for the purposes of this review it would be more effective to identify the major themes in the current study of Greek law as reflected in the contents of Dike and outline the major contributions to the subject made by these volumes.

Volume 1 (1998) was clearly intended to firmly establish Dike in the circuit of academic journals. To that purpose it includes papers from names very familiar to the students of Greek law. After a short foreword by Cantarella which outlines the genesis and scope of Dike, the first volume opens with a re-examination by Gerhard Thür of some recent interpretations of IPArk 8 ( IG V 2, 262), a late archaic legal inscription from Mantineia. A series of articles dealing with classical Athens follows, starting with a detailed discussion by J. Fernández Nieto of the financial cost of the Samian revolt. The essays by Michael Gagarin and David Cohen on the status and role of women in Athenian courts are important contributions to the subject and should be read in conjunction. Cohen’s article is essentially an outgrowth of his earlier work on Athenian law and perceptions of deviance that emphasizes the interrelationship between legal institutions and social agency. Both articles are insightful and their overview of the evidence for the role of women in legal contexts in classical Athens is useful and will become a point of reference for future work on the subject. Robert Wallace’s piece on the multifaceted concept of atimia in classical Athens has as its starting point the Athenian laws that imposed civic rights restrictions (like the right to speak in the assembly) to those who were accused of some act that incurred atimia, even though they were never formally convicted of it. Wallace’s selective discussion of the legal and social implications of such situations is illuminating and it indicates the ambiguity and discrepancy that often existed between popular morality and the letter of the law (an aspect of Athenian law also emphasized by Cohen). With regard to the concept of atimia this line of analysis can be further and fruitfully pursued. The section on Athens closes with an article by Claude Mossé on some legal aspects of the conviction of the general Phokion in 317. The following section, dealing with Crete, consists of an article by Remo Martini discussing legal aspects of land ownership in classical Gortyn, a controversial issue for historians of archaic and classical Crete; an examination by A. Magnelli of a new block of IC IV 232, a second century BC inscription from Gortyn regulating acts of manumission; and an extensive and quite illuminating examination by Jean-Marie Bertrand of perceptions of law and forms of political discourse in Plato’s Laws. Volume 1 concludes with a piece by Joseph Mélèze-Modrzejewski in which he takes as a starting-point the story of the conviction of the poet Sotades following his derogatory depiction of the royal wedding of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II in 278 BC. The author then proceeds to examine the origins and legal implications of kakegoria, i.e. verbal insult, in the context of classical Athens and the Macedonian monarchies of the early Hellenistic period.

Volume 2 contains a heretofore unpublished paper by Louis Gernet, a leading figure in the study of Greek law in the first half of the twentieth century, on the practice of eranos (a loan/informal contractual agreement; the term also designated a religious association) in archaic and classical Greece. Gernet’s article is preceded by a thorough and extremely helpful foreword by the editor of the essay, Andrea Taddei, who evaluates this paper in the context of Gernet’s work on Greek law, society and institutions. Gernet’s paper is followed by three articles on classical Athens. The first is an extensive discussion of the new grain-tax law of 374/3 BC2 by Michele Faraguna, particularly on the nature of the Athenian cleruchies in Limnos, Imbros and Skyros. Faraguna argues that at that point in time there were no distinctive communities of locals in these islands and that the dôdekate tax mentioned in the law was levied on the Athenian cleruchs. He also interprets the term meris as referring not simply to a portion of grain but also to specific land plots in the three islands, an interpretation that I find less convincing. Faraguna’s paper is followed by a stimulating paper by Christopher Faraone on curses in classical Athenian jurisprudence. Rejecting evolutionary and functionalist models of interpretation of Athenian law, Faraone is in agreement with other scholars who increasingly view law as embedded in a web of social relationships and power struggles. With particular reference to oath-curses, Faraone argues that “the increased intensity of their public performance probably reveals a proportional increase in anxiety over the ability of the legal and political system to provide adequate forms of sanction in and of themselves” (p. 102). I believe that given the frequency of practices, like perjury and curses, beyond the fringes of sanctioned legal procedure, we can take Faraone’s argument a little further and maintain that such practices are also reflections of a continuous contestation, on the part of social groups within the Greek polis, of the right to interpret and apply law in everyday life and the courts. This argument cannot be fully developed in the context of a review, but for the present purposes it will suffice to say that Faraone’s paper is a valuable contribution towards an interpretation of aspects of Greek law along interdisciplinary lines. Volume 2 also includes an article by William Harris on frivolous lawsuits and the deterrents impose by the legal system against them in classical Athens; and an edition and commentary by Adalberto Magnelli of three small fragments of fifth century laws from Gortyn.

Volume 3 opens with a perceptive essay by Paul Cartledge, who examines several aspects of the Spartan legal system, with particular emphasis on the role of the ephors in Spartan jurisprudence. Cartledge poses the question: did the Spartan judicial system operate on a basis of Realpolitik or some notion of equity? (p.11). The three examples of high-profile trials that Cartledge examines (king Pausanias in 403 and 395, Sphodrias in 378) tend to suggest the former. Moreover, Cartledge’s analysis demonstrates how different governmental bodies, social groups and individuals could at times influence the workings of the legal system. Cartledge’s essay is followed by a number of papers on classical Athens. In an extended essay Edward Harris attempts to analyze several classical Athenian trials and their outcome in the light of H.L.A. Hart’s theory of “open texture” of the rules of law. By “open texture” Hart, a legal positivist, referred to the compromise that sometimes has to be made, especially when statutes do not account for all parameters of a legal situation, between the fixed letter of the law and the particular conditions of a case that might call for flexibility, discretion or adaptation. By examining several forensic speeches in this light Harris tries “to find a via media between the formalist approach of H.J. Wolff and Meyer-Laurin … and the political approach of recent English and American scholars” (p. 34). By the latter, Harris probably refers to scholars working in critical and cultural legal studies. Overall the essay is very informative and raises several interesting points but suffers from a lack of sustained discussion of the methodological issues that crop up throughout the paper, except for a brief description of the open texture theory at the beginning. Volume 3 also includes an article by Pierre Fröhlich on accountability ( euthynai) of Athenian generals; a paper by Remo Martini on the function and powers of 4th century BC Athenian nomothetai; a paper by Eleni Volanaki on apagoge procedures in classical Athenian jurisprudence; a previously unpublished essay on law by Louis Gernet, once again (similar to volume 2) edited by Andrea Taddei; and finally a paper by David Konstan on pity and moral arguments in general in Athenian jurisprudence. Konstan demonstrates that, contrary to modern practices, arguments aiming at eliciting pity were compatible with prevalent perceptions of equity and justice in the Athenian courts.

Volume 4 begins with an examination by Klaus Tausend of the legal significance of E-U-KE-TO in two linear B tablets from Pylos, which the author contrasts with the verb euxeto in the trial scene on the shield of Achilles in the Iliad (18, 499). Tausend’s paper is followed by two articles on Sparta: an overview by Nicholas Richer of literary sources on the issue of eunomia in archaic and classical Sparta; and an article by Julia Taita reexamining, in the light of a new fifth century inscription from Olympia, the evidence for the concession of Spartan citizenship to two seers from Elis after the battle of Platea. The new inscription from Olympia attests to the existence of an Elian community ( epoikia) in Sparta, a community which apparently enjoyed a particular legal status within the territory of the Spartan state. In the next article Stephan Link returns to a topic that is familiar to him and most students of Cretan law, i.e. the terminology of slavery in Gortyn, with particular emphasis on doloi and woikeis. Turning to Athens, John Lewis looks at the extant poems of Solon and discusses the distinction between dike, which applies usually to civic justice, and moira, primarily associated with an individual’s lot in life. Eleni Volonaki’s thorough contribution sheds light on the intricacies of the workings of the boards of anagrapheis and nomothetai in Athens during the politically tumultuous period of 410-399 BC in relation to the initiative undertaken during the same period to republish Athenian statutes. Volonaki’s paper is followed by an article by Christian Koch, who reviews legal procedures against tyranny in Eresos in the early Hellenistic period.

Ultimately, the success of any journal is contingent on its long-term effect on the field. Dike is a methodologically diverse journal that publishes original work of high quality and has all the potential to become a major point of reference for scholars working on the field of Greek law. Editing and presentation of all volumes reviewed is exemplary. Indeed, the current format and nature of the journal leaves little to be desired. Perhaps Dike could assume a more assertive role in coordinating developments in the study of Greek law by commissioning special issues and continuing the publication of thematic reviews. For example, at a point when most facts have been firmly established and, one might reasonably expect, there is little fresh evidence forthcoming (with the exception perhaps of Ptolemaic Egypt), it appears that an infusion of new approaches is the only significant way to make strides forward in the field of Greek law. This is especially evident in the study of classical Athenian law, where a number of recent studies, employing a multitude of innovative approaches, have rejuvenated a subject that appeared almost exhausted twenty years ago. Along these lines Dike, being the only journal dedicated exclusively to the study of Greek law, can help articulate the debate, perhaps by commissioning a rassegna critica on recent methodological developments in the study of Greek law. In short, it is hoped that Dike will maintain its current commitment to methodological diversity and high quality scholarship and further enhance its position as a major forum in the study of Greek law.


1. For the sake of brevity in this review I will focus only on original essays.

2. Editio princeps by R. S. Stroud, The Athenian Grain-Tax Law of 374/3, Hesperia Supplement 29, Princeton 1998.