previous next


ὀστρακισμός, i. e. vote by potsherd, ὄστρακον). A mode of judgment by the people practised in various Greek States (Argos, Megara, Miletus), and especially at Athens, by which persons whose presence appeared dangerous to liberty were banished for a certain period, without, however, thereby suffering any loss in reputation or property. Ostracism was introduced at Athens in B.C. 509. It was applied (among others) to Themistocles, Aristides, Cimon, and Alcibiades, and was last exercised in 417 against a demagogue, one Hyberbolus, whose insignificance made the measure ridiculous, and so brought about its abolition (Thuc.viii. 73; Nicias, 11, Alcibiades, 13). Every year the question was put to the people, whether the measure appeared necessary: if they so decided (and it was only exceptionally that there was occasion for it), the citizens who possessed the franchise assembled in the marketplace, and each wrote upon a sherd (ὄστρακον) the name of the person whose banishment he deemed desirable. The man whose name was found upon not less than 6000 sherds had to leave the country in ten days at latest, for ten or (later) five years. He could, however, at any time be recalled by a decree of the people; and the question, as before, was decided by not less than 6000 votes. (See Arist. Pol. iii. 13 § 15 Pol., 17 § 7 Pol., v. 3 3; Plut. Arist. 7; cf. Grote's History of Greece, chap. xxxi.).

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 3.1284a
    • Aristotle, Politics, 3.1288a
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5.1302b
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.73
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 7
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: