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The Laws of Zaleucus

Two young men had a dispute about the ownership of
The laws of Zaleucus, and an incident in their working at Locri (for which he legislated, see Arist. Pol. 2, 12).
a slave. This slave had been in the possession of one of them for a long time; but two days before, as he was going to the farm without his master, the other laid violent hands upon him and dragged him to his house. When the first young man heard of this, he came to the house, seized the slave, and taking him before the magistrate asserted his ownership and offered sureties. For the law of Zaleucus ordained that the party from whom the abduction was made should have possession of the property in dispute, pending the decision of the suit. But the other man in accordance with the same law, alleged that he was the party from whom the abduction had been made, for the slave had been brought before the magistrate from his house. The magistrates who were trying the case were in doubt, and calling in the Cosmopolis1 referred the point to him. He interpreted the law as meaning that "the abduction was always from that party in whose possession the property in dispute had last been for a certain period unquestioned; but that if another abducted this property from a holder, and then the original holder repossessed himself of it from the abductor, this was not abduction in the sense of the law." The young man, who thus lost his case, was not satisfied, and alleged that such was not the intention of the legislator. Thereupon the Cosmopolis summoned him to discuss the interpretation in accordance with the law of Zaleucus; that is, to argue on the interpretation of the law with him before the court of the one thousand, and with a halter round the neck of each: whichever should be shown to be wrong in his interpretation was to lose his life in the sight of the thousand. But the young man asserted that the compact was not a fair one, for the Cosmopolis, who happened to be nearly ninety, had only two or three years of life left, while in all reasonable probability he had not yet lived half his life. By this adroit rejoinder the young man turned off the affair as a jest: but the magistrates adjudged the question of abduction in accordance with the interpretation of the Cosmopolis.

1 For this title see on 22, 19. It is found in inscriptions in Thasos, Crete, and Cibyra. C. I. G. 2163, c; 2583; 4380, b.

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  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), COLO´NIA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NOMOS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NOMO´THETES
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), OI´KIAS DIKE
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