Now among the Athenians each citizen was required to write on a potsherd
) the name of the man who, in his opinion, was most able through his
influence to tyrannize over his fellow citizens; but among the Syracusans the name of the most
influential citizen had to be written on an olive leaf, and when the leaves were counted, the
man who received the largest number of leaves had to go into exile for five years.
For by this means they thought that they would humble the arrogance of
the most powerful men in these two cities; for, speaking generally, they were not exacting from
violators of the law a punishment for a crime committed, but were effecting a diminution of the
influence and growing power of the men in question. Now while the Athenians called this kind of
legislation ostracism, from the way it was done, the Syracusans used the name petalism.1
This law remained in force among the Athenians for a long
time, but among the Syracusans it was soon repealed for the following reasons.
Since the most influential men were being sent into exile, the most
respectable citizens and such as had it in their power, by reason of their personal high
character, to effect many reforms in the affairs of the commonwealth were taking no part in
public affairs, but consistently remained in private life because of their fear of the law,
attending to their personal fortunes and leaning towards a life of luxury; whereas it was the
basest citizens and such as excelled in effrontery who were giving their attention to public
affairs and inciting the masses to disorder and revolution.
Consequently, since factional quarrels were again arising and the masses were turning to
wrangling, the city fell back into continuous and serious disorders. For a multitude of
demagogues and sycophants was arising, the youth were cultivating cleverness in oratory, and,
in a word, many were exchanging the ancient and sober way of life for the ignoble pursuits;
wealth was increasing because of the peace, but there was little if any concern for concord and
As a result the Syracusans changed their minds
and repealed the law of petalism, having used it only a short while.
Such, then, was the state of affairs in Sicily