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PROTHE´SMIA (προθεσμία) means generally an appointed time: thus in Aeschin. c. Tim. § 39, εἴ τις ἄλλη πώποτε τοιαύτη γέγονε προθεσμία, the scholiast explains the term καταχρηστικῶς ἀντὶ τοῦ χρόνου. The term is specially applied (1) to the time which was allowed by law to a defendant for paying damages, after the expiration of which, if he had not paid them, he was called ὑπερήμερος (Harpocr. s. v.; or ὑπερπρόθεσμος, Suid. s.v. or ἐκπρόθεσμος, Schol. Dem. c. Mid. p. 540, 22); the accuser might allow the defendant a longer time than the law fixed (ἀναβάλλεσθαι τὴν ὑπερημερίαν, [Dem.] c. Everg. p. 1154.49 f., etc.).

(2) Prothesmia denotes the term limited for bringing actions and prosecutions at Athens. In all systems of jurisprudence some limitation of this sort has been prescribed for the sake of securing possession, and preventing vexatious litigation (cf. Isocr. Archid. § 26, τὰς κτήσεις καὶ τὰς ἰδίας καὶ τὰς κοινάς, ἄν ἐπιγένηται πολὺς χρόνος, κυρίας καὶ πατρῴας ἅπαντες εἰναι νουίζουσιν). The Athenian τῆς προθεσμίας ϝόμος corresponds to our Statute of Limitations. The time for commencing actions to recover debts,1 or litigation with guardians, appears to have been limited to five years at Athens (Dem. pro Phorm. p. 952.26 f., in a δίκη ἀφορμῆς--c. Nausim. p. 989.17 f.; p. 993.27; cf. Plat. Legg. xi. p. 928 C, μέχρι πέντε ἐτῶν ἐξηκούσης τῆς ἐπιτροπῆς ἔστω δίκην λαχεῖν ἐπιτροπίας). Inheritance causes stood on a peculiar footing. When an estate had been adjudged to a party, he was still liable to an action at the suit of a new claimant for the whole period of his life (Isae. Dicaeog. § § 7, 35, etc.) and his heir for five years afterwards (Isae. Pyrrh. § 58, and Schömann ad l.c. p. 257 and p. 432; cf. Dem. c. Macart. p. 1055.16, lex). We do not know the limit of time for claiming an ἐπίκληρος who had been already adjudged by the archon, but Caillemer's suggestion is very probable that she could not be claimed after having given birth to a son (Le Droit de Succession. Legit. p. 42). The liability of bail continued only for a year, according to Dem. c. Apatur p. 901.27 (τὰς ἐγγύας ἐπετείους εῖναι) Caillemer (La Prescription, etc. p. 18 ff.) limits this law to commercial transactions, and Thalheim (Rechtsaltert. p. 92, n. 2) quotes C. I. A. ii. No. 565, 1. 3, No. 1056, No. 1058, 50.20, to show that the liability of sureties for leases continued longer.2 It is doubtful whether any period was prescribed for bringing criminal prosecutions,3 at least for offences of the more serious kind, though of course there would be an indisposition in the jury to convict, if a long time had elapsed since the offence was committed. A charge of wounding with intent was brought four years after the affair (Lys. c. Sim. § § 19, 39); Lycurgus proceeded against Leocrates nearly eight years after the latter's flight; we know from Lys. pro Sacra Olea, § 17, that there was no fixed time after which the liability of one who had uprooted a moria ceased, but on the other hand Lipsius concludes from Dem. c. Aristocr. p. 646.80, that there was a limit of time in a γραφὴ φόνου. The γραφὴ παρανόμων could only be brought against the proposer of a law or psephisma within a year after the propounding of it (Dem. c. Lept. p. 501.144; cf. argum. p. 453); and the εὔθυναι against magistrates were limited to a certain period (Pollux, 8.45), viz. thirty days according to Boeckh, Sthh. i.3 p. 242. (Att. Process, ed. Lipsius, p. 963 ff., p. 838 ff.)

[C.R.K] [H.H]

1 In king Antigonus' letter to the Teians one year is fixed as limit (Dittenberger, Syll. I. Gr. No. 126, 50.38 ff.; Hicks, Manual, No. 149 A, § 7).

2 For Ephesus, see Dittenberger, Syll. Gr. No. 344, 50.42 ff.; cf. the Lebadean building contract, ibid. No. 353, 50.25 ff. In Heraclea bail is renewed every five years (C. I. G. No. 5774, 1. 140=Cauer,2 No. 40, 50.140).

3 In a Teian inscription (Dittenb. No. 349, 50.50 ff.) misappropriation of certain public moneys is put on a level with ἱεροσυλία, and consequently προθεσμιᾳ δὲ μηδὲ ἄλλῳ τρόπῳ μηθενὶ ἐξέστω τῶν δικῶν τούτων μηδεμίαν ἐγβαλεῖν.

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