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340 (roughly) to 322

Sometime around 340 the Athenians consolidated their court buildings. We may have references to these structures in Agora inscriptions I 1749, lines 12-13, 116-117, and I 5656, lines 12-21, where a First and a Middle “New Court” are named. To put out of the discussion for a moment the building remains under the Stoa of Attalos, what would be the architectural requirements for such a complex? The essential organization is one of at least three buildings close enough together to be enclosed by a fence of some sort. The fence need not be high or strong. It merely defines an area where unauthorized persons are not supposed to be. In the fence there are ten entrances, one for each tribe, and just outside every entrance there stand two klêrôtêria and ten boxes, each box labelled with one of the letters of the alphabet from A to K. At or inside each entrance there stands a hydria, and somewhere nearby (just inside, it would seem) a different set of boxes. The number of this second set of boxes varies with the number of courts in session on any given day. Two or three will be a usual number. The entrance itself is controlled by a gate. Would-be-dikasts assemble by tribes, each tribe before two klêrôtêria, which stand outside the one gate that is reserved for that tribe. The dikasts introduce and validate themselves as candidates by producing their pinakia. These identification tags are now made of boxwood. The information they carry is nonetheless the same as that on the earlier ones of bronze, viz. section letter, name, father's name, and demotic. A prospective dikast, on approaching his tribal entrance, threw his pinakion into that one of ten boxes which was labelled with his section letter. At the magistrate's signal, a slave picked up the boxes, each containing some dozens of pinakia, and shook them well.

The responsible magistrate now picked a single pinakion at random out of each box and summoned its owner to step forward and act as an empektês, i.e. a dikast who inserts all pinakia bearing the same section letter as his own into appropriate slots in the klêrôtêrion. These slots are cut into the stele in vertical rows and each vertical row is identified by a section letter, A to K. Ten empektai consequently are chosen in this simple form of allotment, and they are assured thereby of a place on a dikastic panel for that day. When all pinakia have been plugged in, the archon shakes up black and white dice in a cup (oxybaphos or kêtharion) and pours them into a tube, which is affixed vertically to one side of the face of the klêrôtêrion. The end of the tube has been stopped, and so the dice are now held one on top of another in chance order. The archon releases dice one by one, and matches each as it comes out with a horizontal row of five pinakia. Each die thus validates or invalidates the applications of five would-be-dikasts at a time. If a white die comes out, five dikasts, i.e. one from each one of the five section letters on that klêrôtêrion, are allotted as dikasts for the day. A black die, on the other hand, means that five would-be-dikasts will not have work that day. No one touches the invalidated pinakia: they are left in their slots until the whole allotment is over. The archon takes out the valid pinakia one by one and by calling out the names written on them, summons the dikasts one by one to the next step in their progress toward a court for the day. This step is another allotment, one that assigns them to specific panels. The allotment is performed in the following simple way. Each dikast reaches into a jar (hydria) and withdraws what Aristotle calls an “acorn” (balanos). Whatever this piece might actually be, it bears one letter of the alphabet, beginning with lambda. Aristotle says from lambda on, but one may rationally doubt whether on any given day there was need for letters beyond nu, for it seems otherwise likely that not more than three courts were normally in use on any one day.

An allotted dikast shows the letter on his acorn to the archon, and the archon throws the dikast's pinakion (marked, it will be remembered, with his section letter) into a box marked with the same letter as that on the acorn. This is one of the two or three letters, i.e. lambda, mu, nu, that identify it as one of the day's courts. The dikast then shows his acorn again to a functionary, enters the enclosure through the gate, and receives a staff whose color matches that of some easily visible part of the entrance to the court to which he has been assigned. The staff is an easily recognizable badge that will admit him to his allotted court and deny him entrance to any other court.

Each of the courts at the beginning of a court day receives a new allotted label, i.e. letter. But while letters change every day, the court colors remain constant. It is according to Aristotle the σφήκισκος of a court that carries the court's distinctive color, and modern students have more or less agreed to translate the Greek word as “lintel,” but the usage is singular. Usually the word means “beam.” A thesmothetês, himself chosen by allotment for this task, has already allotted letters to courts for that day. The procedure was simple, and Aristotle does not mention klêrôtêria or any other apparatus such as jars or boxes in connection with this allotment. We may suppose the way it was done was traditional and obvious to any Greek reader, and not worth discussing. Accordingly by the time an allotted dikast receives his staff, his court building has been suitably identified by an allotment that prevents any sort of foreknowledge of that aspect of the day's proceedings.

Once arrived in his court for the day, the dikast gives his acorn and staff to a functionary, receiving in turn a token picked at random that tells him where to sit. There were twenty-five seating areas, and so when a panel was composed of five-hundred dikasts, twenty tokens were needed for each of the twenty-five letters. The dikast in question proceeds, let us say, to area A.

An allotment of magistrates to courts is meanwhile being performed by means of two klêrôtêria that are set up in the first of the courts. Two sets of bronze dice come into play, one with names of offices painted on or incised, the other with colors of courts. Two thesmothetai, allotted to the task, shake up the dice, pour them into the tubes, release them one by one, and match the name of the office on one ball as it comes out with the color on the other, which comes out at the same time. As the magistrates in question are matched with colors, a herald announces the results, and they go off to their courts.

At about this time, the fence that surrounds the court complex is disassembled—or the gates in it are opened so that Athenians who want to watch and listen can approach the courts. Aischines (Aeschin. 3.55-56, Aeschin. 3.207) refers to this audience. Most were citizens, but there were foreigners in it as well (Dem. 25.98).

Once at their courts, the magistrates allot dikasts to tend to ballots, klepsydra, and pay-out tokens. To do this they must have the boxes into which dikasts dropped their pinakia just after entering the enclosure. These are the boxes labelled with letters that correspond to courts working that day. There are ten of them, one from each tribal entrance. Each now contains pinakia from all ten dikastic sections, i.e., pinakia stamped with section letters A to K. Functionaries have brought them to their courts. The archon has the ten boxes shaken and takes at random one pinakion out of each. He drops the ten pinakia collected this way into a single empty box, which is shaken in its turn. From this box the archon draws five pinakia. The owner of the first will tend the klepsydra, and the next four, distribution, counting, and collection of ballots. The five pinakia that remain in the box identify the dikasts who will supervise payment of dikasts at the end of the trial.

The four dikasts allotted to ballots will be responsible for 1002 bronze ballots, five hundred and one pierced and five hundred and one full. First they set them out—using what Aristotle calls a lampstand—and at the end they collect them. The man at the klepsydra stops and starts the water as required. At the end of the trial the men allotted to pay-out tokens organize the dikasts into proper groups and give tokens to those who vote. No vote, no token, no pay.

The trial is now ready to begin. It would be consistent with the seriousness of the undertaking for dikasts to swear their oath at the beginning of the trial, and for there to be an altar and a sacrifice, but these sacramental or ceremonial functions are not attested. The herald announces the names of the litigants and repeats the sworn charges and denials from the notice posted by the Eponymous Heroes. The prosecutor or plaintiff stands and gives the details of his accusation. His friends and relations, if he feels he needs them, also speak, although they do take up part of the time allowed him. He and they must decide how they can help him most. When he is through, the defendant must in his turn decide how much of the time given him he can use for his own speech, and how much to apportion to persuasive friends and relations.

When the defendant (and supporters) have finished speaking, the herald announces that any challenge of the testimony must be presented before voting begins. Such challenges continue to represent a litigant's best chance at a review of the judgement, for there was no appeal from a dikastêrion's judgement otherwise. If a panel of dikasts could be thought of as the city, and if there could be no higher tribunal than the city, then it followed that no appeal to a higher authority was possible. If, on the other hand, testimony could be shown to be perjured or wrong, then a man who had been judged as culpable had access to a whole new set of legal manoeuvres. After the announcement concerning challenges, the herald enunciates a convention, venerable by now, that a pierced ballot represents a vote for the prosecutor or plaintiff, a full ballot, a vote for the defendant. There is no summation by a presiding officer nor is there any officially designated time for dikasts to confer among themselves. They stand up from their benches and walk to a “lampstand” (λυχνεῖον to receive their two ballots, one of each sort, and then proceed to the voting urns. Note, however, that in the time it takes five-hundred men to do all of the foregoing, there is time for talk.

In the course of receiving ballots they give up the bronze token that designated their seating area. They drop a single ballot into an urn that holds valid ballots, and the remaining ballot into an urn that takes discards. The one urn is bronze, can be disassembled, and has a fitting on the top that allows only one ballot to go through at a time. The other urn, the one that takes discards, is of wood. As each dikast votes, he receives a bronze token marked with a gamma or some other sign for three obols. This is his pay-token. When all the dikasts have voted, a functionary empties out the bronze urn, and all the ballots are displayed for counting. An abacus, a board with five-hundred holes in it, receives the ballots, whose axles, hollow or full, fit them to be plugged into the board. A magistrate counts them through, and a simple majority determines the outcome. A tie favors the defendant.

If the defendant was found innocent, he went free. If he was found guilty, and the charge was of a sort where the dikastêrion had to decide upon a penalty, then each dikast received his staff back again (presumably because the act of voting took him out of the court area and he needed a badge to return) and went back into the court to hear arguments about a penalty. Prosecutor (first) and defendant (second) propose their notions of a suitable punishment and justify their proposals as far as they can in the time it takes a half-chous of water to run out of the klepsydra. After hearing these arguments, the dikasts voted again, using the same ballots and amphoras as before. The pay-token, when a second balloting was in view, would not be handed out until there had been a vote on the penalty.

Again upon voting they receive pay-tokens, and this time they will be able to turn the token in for their day's pay. Those five dikasts who at the beginning of the day had been allotted to the task of paying now go to work: each takes charge of two boxes of pinakia. There were ten of these boxes in all, one from each tribal entrance, and they had been brought to the court at the beginning of the trial. The dikast in charge reaches in at random, picks out a pinakion, calls the owner's name, and the owner collects both pinakion and pay. This is in fact the last allotment of the day, for the random selection of pinakia from the boxes constitutes yet another allotment, that which determines the order in which the dikasts were paid.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon, 207
    • Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon, 55
    • Demosthenes, Against Aristogiton 1, 98
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