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date: 29 November 2022



  • D. M. MacDowell


Thesmothetai in Athens were the six junior of the nine *archontes, appointed annually. They were instituted in the 7th cent. bce. Thesmos is an early word for ‘law’ or ‘rule’, but it is unlikely that the thesmothetai ever made laws; their original function must have been ‘laying down the law’ in the sense of pronouncing verdicts on accusations and disputes.After the establishment of juries, the main function of the thesmothetai was to receive charges in various legal actions and arrange for a trial by jury, at which one thesmothetēs was the chairman. Their trials were held in the building known as the *eliaia. The public actions for which they were responsible included *eisangelia for treason, probolē (see law and procedure, athenian), and *graphē for many offences, including *graphē paranomōn. They took trials arising from *dokimasia, and they also took some private actions, including mercantile cases held under the monthly procedure after the middle of the 4th cent. They could authorize the execution without trial of persons exiled for homicide who were afterwards found in Attica. In the 4th cent., after magistrates ceased to sit regularly in the same courts, it was the thesmothetai who arranged the dates for trials and allotted courts to magistrates each day.


  • Greek Law

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