is a word used by the later Greek writers, and from them borrowed by the
Romans, to describe the act or arrangement by which offences were forgotten,
or regarded as if they had not been
committed, so that the offender could not be called to account for them. The
word is chiefly used with reference to the offences committed, or alleged to
have been committed, against the laws, during those conflicts of opposing
factions which so often occurred in the Greek republics, and in which the
victorious party usually took a sanguinary vengeance upon its opponents. So
rare indeed were the exceptions to this course of vengeance, that there is
only one case of amnesty in Greek history which requires any particular
notice. This was the amnesty which terminated the struggle between the
democratical and oligarchical parties at Athens, and completed the
revolution by which the power of the Thirty was overthrown, B.C. 403. It was
arranged by the mediation of the Spartan king Pausanias, and extended to all
the citizens who had committed illegal acts during the recent troubles, with
the exception of the Thirty and the Eleven, and the Ten who had ruled in
Peiraeus; and even they were only to be excepted in case of their refusal to
give an account of their government. Their children were included in the
amnesty, and were permitted to reside at Athens. An addition was made to the
oath of the senators, binding them not to receive any endeixis
on account of anything
done before the amnesty, the strict observance of which was also imposed by
an oath upon the dicastae.
(Xen. Hell. 2.4
, § § 38-43; Andoc. de
§ 90 ff.; Demosth. Boeot. de Dot.
p. 1018.32; Nepos, Thrasybul. 3
who makes a confusion between the Ten Tyrants of Peiraeus and the Ten who
succeeded the Thirty in the city; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth.
i. pp. 473, 646-7, new edit.; K. F. Hermann, Staatsalterth.
§ § 71, 76, 168, 169; Grote, ch. lxvi. init.
The form of the word is incorrectly given in some modern works as ἀμνηστεία.
But even the genuine form only
belongs to later Greek; being used only by Plutarch (Cic.
14), Herodian (3.4.17; 5.4.18; 8.12.6), and still
The better authors use only the phrase μὴ
(Xen. Andoc. ll. cc.
is sometimes said to be
equivalent, but wrongly. [ADEIA
Respecting the supposed allusion to the word in Cicero (Cic. Phil. 1.1
), see Long's note: it is
however at least as likely that he was thinking of μὴ
as Westermann supposes (ap. Pauly, i.2 870).