previous next


AMNE´STIA (ἀμνηστεία) 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 or apagoge 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 Myst. § 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. 42, Anton. 14), Herodian (3.4.17; 5.4.18; 8.12.6), and still later writers.

The better authors use only the phrase μὴ μνησικακεῖν (Xen. Andoc. ll. cc.): ἄδεια 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 μνησικακεῖν, as Westermann supposes (ap. Pauly, i.2 870).

[P.S] [W.W]

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: