The three foregoing sketches of court days show consistency in the principal elements that establish the identity of classical Athenian court procedure. For as far back as our evidence goes, the judging panels were composed of many citizens. All the dikasts who sat in judgement could therefore be thought to constitute an assembly that was in some sense the city itself. In having been chosen by allotment, they had been chosen by chance, possibly thought of as Pythian Apollo. Litigants were supposed to speak their own minds in their own words, but they had to know how to do so within a certain span of time measured out by the time-keeping device. A degree of expertise was therefore almost a necessity whether one acquired it by training or had it made accessible by friends or political allies. The citizens, who acted as judge and jury alike, registered by means of a secret ballot judicial decisions each was considered to have reached essentially by himself.
The observable changes in procedure were technical refinements, better ways to protect the integrity of the characterizing principles. The ways by which secrecy in voting was first maintained needed improvement. Pebbles made a sound as they went into the voting urns, and despite the fact that sounds are hard to locate, some Athenians thought they were hearing which urn the pebble entered. And so someone designed two distinct bronze “pebbles” and a validating urn with a special cover. The waxed tablets on which a dikast scratched a line to signal his vote for one penalty or another seem not to have been in service for long. One reason for this may have been that such records could easily be altered after they had left a dikast's hands.
Allotment procedures showed need again and again to be refined, and Athenians may have found the study of such problems congenial. In any case a basic rearrangement of the topography of the courts was at last found practicable. At first, so far as we can tell, there was only an allotment by which a citizen gained the right to serve as heliast. In that capacity, he was assigned to a court and was thereby assured of work possibly half the days of the year. Since, however, his appearance at that court was predictable, litigants could identify him and try to influence him before their trial. Another thing that made this sort of manipulation easy was the known association between magistrates, the kinds of litigation they supervised, and certain courts. Furthermore, if assignment to courts was originally effected by tribe, members of the same tribe could arrange themselves in seating blocs of like-minded dikasts. This sort of abuse at least can be inferred from the nature of a reform, by which the whole body of Athenian dikasts was divided into ten sections. Dikasts thereafter were allotted to courts by section, and the sections were allotted to courts by the day on the very day they were to judge.
But not even these precautionary measures turned out to be fully effective. The Athenians next enclosed their courts within a fenced area and multiplied the number of allotments it took to get magistrate, dikastic panel, and litigants to a resolution of justice in a formal context. If we do not hear of any further important changes after the time Aristotle describes, it can be because the city had undergone a transformation. Some of the old forms, to be sure, survived, but Athenians did not use the courts for the same variety of business and with the same unrelenting passion.