previous next

DICASTES

DICASTES (δικαστής), in its broadest acceptation a judge, more particularly denotes the Athenian functionary of the democratic period, commonly rendered “juryman.” Except, however, in the circumstance that they were sworn “well and truly” to discharge the duties intrusted to them, there was little resemblance between an Attic dicasterion and an English jury. As distinguished from the district judges (οἱ κατὰ δήμους δικασταί, better known by their later name of οἱ τετταράκοντα), and from the Nautodicae or judges in commercial cases, the Dicastae are frequently styled Heliastae, and their courts the Heliastic courts. The name comes from ἡλιαία, a word which, like ἀγορά, denotes both the assembly and the place in which it was held; and the court of the Heliaea, as the most strongly manned and the first in dignity, being taken as a representative of the rest, both names were used indiscriminately. Their jurisdiction extended to matters of every kind without exception. In private causes it is highly probable that they acted originally as judges of the second instance, i. e. of appeal; but in public matters they acted as the primary and sole judicial authority. The Heliastae were instituted by Solon; but what was their original number, and how they were nominated at first, we do not know. At the time when democracy was fully developed, when the causes even of the subject allies were brought before the Athenian courts, there were 6000 dicasts or heliasts, 600 for each tribe, chosen by lot. Previously the number cannot have been very small; and divisions of the whole body into sections, such as we find afterwards, may without hesitation be assumed to have existed in the earlier times also. The ballot (κληροῦν, ἐπικληροῦν τὰ δικαστήρια, Dem. c. Everg. p. 1144.17; c. Pantaen. p. 978.39 ; sometimes also πληροῦν, after the analogy of “manning” a ship, c. Timocr. p. 729.92) was conducted annually by the nine archons: according to some authorities their secretary (γραμματεύς) made the tenth [ARCHON p. 167 a]. The lots were drawn, and the persons chosen were sworn, in the earlier ages at a place called Ardettos, without the city, on the banks of the Ilissus; but in after-times at some other spot, of which we are not informed (Harpocrat. s. v. Ἀρδηττός, quoting Theophrastus). The formula of the Heliastic oath, preserved in Demosthenes (c. Timocr. p. 746, § § 149-151), passed until lately as genuine, and was accepted as such by Schömann in his early writings (Att. Process, &c.) as well as by other recent scholars. The first hint that, like most of the documents embodied in the Demosthenic speeches, it was the patchwork of a late grammarian, seems to have been given by Schömann in his Antiquities (1855): and the point was completely proved in a special dissertation by Westermann in 1859. Some possibly genuine clauses are mingled with inconsistencies and improbabilities, and on the whole it seems beyond the reach of criticism to sift the old from the new (Perrot, Essai sur le Droit Public d'Athènes, p. 240). The whole number of 6000 was divided into ten sections of 500 each, so that 1000 remained over, in order, when necessary, to serve for the filling of vacancies in the sections. These sections, as well as the places of meeting, were called Dicasteria, and in each section members of all the tribes were mingled together. Each Heliast received, as a certificate of his appointment, a bronze tablet (πινάκιον, σύμβολον) with his name and the number or letter of the section to which he belonged (from A to K). Three of these σύμβολα have been found, inscribed as follows:--Β. ΑΝΤΙΧΑΠΜΟΣ ΛΑΜΠ[ΤΠΕΥΣ], Δ. ΔΙΟΔΘΠΟΣ ΦΠΕΑ[ΠΠΙΟΣ], Ε. ΔΕΙΝΙΑΣ ΑΛΑΙΕΥΣ and bear besides representations of owls and Gorgon heads, and other devices symbolic of the Athenian people (Boeckh, C. I. G. Nos. 207-209; and the monographs mentioned under BOULÉ, p. 313 b). As often as courts were to be held the Heliastae assembled in the Agora, and the courts in which each section had to sit for the day were there assigned by the Thesmothetae by lot. But it did not happen always, or in every suit, that whole sections sat; on the contrary, sometimes cases were tried only by parts of a section, sometimes by several sections combined, according to the importance of the issues. Provision, however, was made that the number should be always an uneven one, in order to avoid an equality of the votes; and if we find the number of 200 or 2000 dicasts mentioned, we are to assume that the round numbers only are [p. 1.628]given instead of 201 or 2001. For examples of the actual figures, we have in Demosthenes a court of 1001 dicasts taken from two sections (δικαστηρίοιν δυοῖν εἰς ἕνα καὶ χιλίους ἐψηφισμένων, c. Timocr. p. 702.9); and one of 1501 from three sections in Lex Seguer. s. v. ἡλιαία (Bekker's Anecd. p. 262, where ἐκ τριῶν φυλῶν is an incorrect expression for ἐκ τριῶν δικαστηρίων). The usual number in the Heliaea appears to have been 501: the case mentioned by Andocides (de Myst. § 17) of the whole 6000 dicasts sitting at once in a γραφὴ παρανόμων is accepted without question by Schömann (Antiq. 1.474, n.), doubted by Perrot (Essai, p. 246). Andocides is habitually loose in his statements; and if the Athenian constitution had provided for such a monster dicastery in the most important cases, it is likely that some mention of it would occur elsewhere in the orators and grammarians.

For the trial of certain classes of cases Heliastae of a peculiar qualification were required: as, for instance, in the case of profaners of the mysteries, when the initiated only were allowed to judge; and in that of military offenders, who were left to the justice of those only whose comrades they were, or should have been at the time when the offence was alleged to have been committed. After this ballot on the day of the trial each member of the section received a staff with the colour and number of the court in which he had to sit: this might serve both as a ticket to procure admittance, and also to distinguish him from any loiterer who might endeavour clandestinely to obtain a seat after business had begun. That the dicasts were not sworn afresh before every case seems certain; the oath originally taken at the annual election sufficed. The legal age of the Heliastae was at least thirty, and of course the full franchise (ἐπιτιμία) was another condition of eligibility. No perquisite was ever more jealously guarded. For an atimos to attempt to earn the dicast's fee was a capital offence; and a case is mentioned in which this law was actually carried out. (Dem. c. Mid. p. 573.182.) It would appear that they were only balloted for from among those who voluntarily offered themselves: we have no information on this point, but after the custom of payment was introduced there would be no lack of candidates. We might rather expect that the lot would be modified by some system of rotation with a view of giving every one an equal number of turns; but of this also there is no trace.

This payment (μισθὸς δικαστικός, more usually τὸ δικαστικόν) is said to have been first instituted by Pericles. It is generally supposed from Aristophanes (Aristoph. Cl. 863), who makes Strepsiades say that with the first obolus he ever received as a dicast he bought a toy for his son, that it was at first only one obolus. According to the Scholiast (on Ran. 140) the pay was subsequently augmented to two oboli, but this seems to be merely an erroneous inference from the passage of his author. There is no sufficient proof that the pay of the dicasts was ever two oboli, but it increased rapidly under the influence of the demagogues (Aristot. ap. Schol. Aristoph. Wasps 682; Schol. Ran. 140; Pollux, 8.113; Hesych. sub voce δικαστικόν: Suid. s. v. ἡλιασταί). Three oboli or the triobolon (τριώβολον) occurs as early as B.C. 425 in the comedies of Aristophanes, and is afterwards mentioned frequently (Aristoph. Kn. 51, 255; Vesp. 300, 663, 684). The payment was made at the end of the day's work by the COLACRETAE (q.v.), in exchange for the staff (βακτηρία) and ticket (σύμβολον) with which, as we have seen, each dicast was already provided on entering the court. (Schol. ad Aristoph. Pl. 277; Suid. s. v. βακτηρία: Etym. M. s. v. σύμβολον: Pollux, 8.16.) No doubt the staves only were given up, to be redistributed on another trial; the bronze σύμβολα merely shown, and retained by the dicast, as they were inscribed with his name and had to serve him throughout the year: unless we are to suppose that two different kinds of σύμβολα were used. Demosthenes certainly speaks of the βακτηρία and σύμβολον as delivered together to the dicast (de Cor. p. 298.210). Those who had come too late had no claim to the triobolon (cf. BOULÉ, p. 313 b). The annual amount of these fees is reckoned by Aristophanes (Aristoph. Wasps 663, with the Schol.) at 150 talents, implying 300 days' pay for every dicast (6000 at half a drachma would require exactly half a talent a day) : the sum is a high one, but it refers to a period when the total revenue of the state was as much as 2000 talents. (Boeckh, P. E. p. 227; Att. Process, p. 125 ff. = 145 ff. Lips.; Schömann, Antiq. 1.474 ff., E. T.; Perrot, Essai sur le Droit Public d'Athènes, ch. 3. § § 4-9.)

[J.S.M] [W.W]

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 255
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 51
    • Aristophanes, Plutus, 277
    • Aristophanes, Wasps, 663
    • Aristophanes, Wasps, 682
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 863
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: