Nomothesia in classical Athens: what sources should we believe?

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Abstract / Description of output

In the fifth century b.c.e. the Athenians did not make any distinction between laws (nomoi) and decrees (psêphismata). The Assembly passed both kinds of measures in the same way, and both general enactments and short-term provisions held the same legal status. At the end of the fifth century, however, the Athenians decided to make a distinction between the two kinds of measures and created the rule that no decree would be superior to a law (Andoc. 1.86; Dem. 23.86, 218; 24.18, 59, 116, 188; 46.2). The Assembly continued to pass decrees in the same way, but a new body of nomothetai was created to ratify laws (nomoi). There were also two separate procedures for rescinding the two kinds of measures: one could bring a graphê paranomôn (a public action against an illegal decree) against a psêphisma and a graphê ‘nomon mê epitêdeion theinai’ (a public action against an inexpedient law) against a nomos. This much is clear; scholars do not agree however about the procedure for passing a new law (nomothesia) in fourth-century Athens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-160
Number of pages22
JournalThe Classical Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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