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arbitration, Greek

The submission of disputes to a neutral person or body, whose verdict the disputants agreed in advance to accept, was recognized among Greeks from earliest times. Many states (e.g. Sparta, Gortyn, Ephesus, Lampsacus) had public arbitrators, but we know details only about Athens. There private διαιτηταί‎ (arbitrators), not necessarily citizens, were often used to settle claims on an equitable rather than legal basis (Arist. Rh. 1. 13); public arbitrators, appointed from citizens in their sixtieth year, settled private claims involving more than ten drachmas: Ath. pol. 53. Such cases were referred to arbitrators by the ‘Forty’ (four magistrates from each of the ten phylai or tribes). Once accepted by both parties, the arbitration was binding, but appeal to the dikastēria (lawcourts) was still possible, so to that extent the διαιτηταί‎ were strictly mediators, not arbitrators.

Hellenistic states often invited friendly neighbour-states to send a ‘foreign tribunal’ or ‘sent-for judges’ (ξενικὸν δικαστήριον, δικασταὶ μετάπεμπτοι‎, usually numbering three or five), to judge civil and sometimes criminal cases affecting their citizens. The visiting judges first tried to settle disputes ‘out of court’, but pronounced judgement if conciliation (σύλλυσις‎) failed. Rhodian judges (see rhodes) were particularly sought after (cf. Polyb. 28. 7. 8–10 with M. Holleaux, Études 1. 441 ff.), but inscriptions show that the institution, hardly mentioned in literary sources, was enormously widespread. The great French epigraphist Louis Robert (1904–85) threw light on very many such texts. Foreign judges became a regular, not just an emergency, procedure, and are not necessarily a sign that Greek society was in acute stress. It is noticeable that central and southern Greece, perhaps because of their traditions of independence, resorted to foreign judges later than e.g. Asia Minor and the islands.

Interstate arbitration was important and is found early. Periander arbitrated between Athens and Mytilene over Sigeum (Hdt. 5. 95). The Persian settlement of western Asia Minor after the Ionian Revolt (494) included a provision for arbitration, Hdt. 6. 42, cf. RO no. 16 of c.390 bce. In c.450 bceArgos (1) tried to reconcile Cnossus and Tylissus (ML 42 = Fornara 89). Thucydides (2) records treaties binding the parties to accept arbitration (4. 118; 5. 18. 4, 79. 4, and see thirty years peace), but such clauses were neglected because it was hard to find suitable arbitrators. (Delphi was sometimes specified, Thuc. 1. 28. 1; but not often; perhaps because of whimsical procedures like that at Diod. Sic. 15. 18. Olympia might have been more suitable). Athens may have arbitrated between members of its empire (Plut. Per. 25), like some later leagues, though it is disputed whether the arbitration in e.g. RO no. 82 (4th-cent. Argive arbitration between Melos and Cimolos, in accordance with a decision of the League of Corinth (see corinth, league of)) was optional or compulsory. Boundary-disagreements were always a prime cause of attested disputes. Again, inscriptions are the chief source of knowledge for all aspects; see e.g. the attempts by Lysimachus and later Rhodes to arbitrate between Samos and Priene (OGI 13, Syll.3 599, 688); see also Syll.3 471, 546b, 588, 674, 679, 683, 685; IDélos 1513; A. Wilhelm, Akademieschriften zur griechischen Inschriftenkunde 3 (1974), 391–506, (1951), 60–74; SEG 29. 1130 bis, 30. 1119, 35. 665; and the collection by L. Piccirilli, Gli arbitrati interstatali greci 1 (1973).


On διαιτηταί‎ (private)

A. R. W. Harrison, Law of Athens (1971), 2. 64 ff.Find this resource:


    P. J. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia on ch. 53.Find this resource:

      Foreign judges arbitration

      M. N. Tod, International Arbitration amongst the Greeks (1913).Find this resource:

        M. N. Tod, Sidelights on Greek History (1932), 37 ff.Find this resource:

          L. Robert, Epigraphik der klassischen Welt (1970), 26 ff.Find this resource:

            L. Robert, Opera Minora Selecta 5 (1989), 137–154.Find this resource:

              A. J. Marshall, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2. 13 (1980), 626–661.Find this resource:

                J. K. Davies, Cambridge Ancient History 72/1 (1984), 313.Find this resource:

                  S. Ager, Interstate Arbitrations in the Greek World (1996).Find this resource:

                    A. Giovannini, Les relations entre États dans la Grèce antique (2007), 177–184.Find this resource:

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