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date: 31 January 2023


, 'equality of law'


, 'equality of law'
  • P. J. Rhodes


  • Greek Law

Seems, along with other compounds of iso-, to have been a prominent term in Greek political discourse in the late 6th and early 5th cents. bce. Herodotus(1) uses isonomia in his Persian debate to refer to democracy (3. 80. 6, 83. 1), and elsewhere to refer to constitutional government as opposed to tyranny (3. 142. 3, 5. 37. 2); in the second sense he also uses isegoria (‘equality of speech’) and isokratia (‘equality of power’) (5. 78, 92. α‎ 1). For Thucydides(2)isonomia is a term which can be applied to a respectable and broadly based oligarchy (3. 62. 3, 4. 78. 3) as well as to a democracy. The scolia (‘drinking-songs’) celebrating Harmodius and Aristogiton praise them both for killing a tyrant and for giving Athens isonomia (Page, PMG893–6): the word was probably used at first to advertise Athens' freedom from tyranny, but may have been taken over by Cleisthenes(2) as a slogan for his reforms.


  • M. Ostwald, Nomos and the Beginnings of the Athenian Democracy (1969).