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Asebeias Graphé

ἀσεβείας γραφή). One of the many forms prescribed by the Attic laws for the impeachment of impiety. This crime was apparently as ill-defined at Athens, and therefore as liable to be made the pretext for persecution, as it has been in all other countries in which the civil power has attempted to reach offences so much beyond the natural limits of its jurisdiction. The occasions, however, upon which the Athenian accuser professed to come forward may be classed as, first, breaches of the ceremonial law of public worship; and, secondly, indications of that which in analogous cases of modern times would be called heterodoxy or heresy. The former comprehended encroachment upon consecrated grounds, the plunder or other injury of temples, the violation of asylums, the interruption of sacrifices and festivals, the mutilation of statues of the gods, the introduction of deities not acknowledged by the state, etc.

The heretical delinquencies may be exemplified by the expulsion of Protagoras for writing that “he could not learn whether the gods existed or not”; in the persecution of Anaxagoras—like that of Galileo, in after-times, for impugning the received opinions about the sun—and the condemnation of Socrates for not holding the objects of the public worship to be gods. Any citizen in the enjoyment of free civic rights might bring the accusation, and the Archon Basileus was the magistrate who conducted the examination. The court was the Areopagus (q.v.) or the Heliastic Court. See Dicastes.

If the accuser failed to obtain a fifth of the votes of the dicasts, he forfeited a thousand drachmas, and incurred probably a modified ἀτιμία, though not to the extent of exclusion from office (Demosth. c. Eubul. p. 1301.28). See Meier, Att. Prozess; Schömann, Antiq. i. 498.

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