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26.1.Bers

At least in the United States, most courses on ancient law are taught in translation. This paper describes a different approach: treating Attic law in a one-term Greek course designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. In my paper I would describe the rationale and outcome for various choices I have made in assembling the syllabus.

The typical student has come to the course having read Lysias 1 and 12, and perhaps the Wasps, but too little Athenian history. Accordingly, I always open with a very quick sketch of principal trends and specific events, starting with Draco’s code and the Solonian reforms; turning the corner into the fifth century, we come to Miltiades in court, Ephialtes and the Areopagus, the introduction of jury pay, and on to Antiphon and relevant constitutional developments in the fourth-century democracy. Breaking with chronology, we look next at the very important remarks on the status of the juror in Aristotle’s Politics, and then sidle over to the detailed account of court procedure in the Athenaion Politeia. I make strenuous efforts to acknowledge the difficulties inherent in retrojecting a rather late fourth-century document into earlier times, as well as the uncertainties we can blame on the late appearance of courts speeches, the uneven chronological distribution of public and private cases, and the pervasive anti-democratic prejudice of nearly all our discursive sources. At each iteration, I have selected different court speeches, varying the mix of logographers and of public and private cases in the modern sense, which of course often contradicts the Athenians’ own Palamedes and Plato’s Apology. This course easily accommodates the combining of verse and prose in my mind a significant desideratum since many of our students give what I see as disproportionate attention to poetry and profit from being lured to read oratory and history. In the past I have allotted about one month in a twelve-week term to reading Aristophanes’ Wasps adding about a week if the particular class is overwhelmingly more literary than historical in its interests. Students soon notice and appreciate the exceptional richness of our sources both in variety and sheer mass and see the advantage to attending simultaneously to matters of law and social and political history as well as the more usual concerns of rhetoric and dramatic presentation.

For class discussion student presentations and term papers topics have included: “procedural vs. substantive law ” litigiousness stylistic and rhetorical analysis slave evidence, citizenship arbitration the economic status of the jurors “open texture” of Athenian law homicide courts the interplay of real litigation and dramatic fiction comparisons of Athenian law with other ancient or “traditional” systems of dispute resolution and comparisons with contemporary Common Law and Civil Law systems.

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