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date: 27 November 2022



  • Stephen Todd


  • Greek Law

To propose or demand the recall of exiles was common throughout the Greek world, and attempts by such exiles to recover confiscated property frequently provoked further strife (e.g. Xen. Hell. 5. 3. 10–17). Far less common was an amnesty in the formal sense of an act of state, though cf. Ptolemy (1) VIII's indulgences in 118 bce (PTeb. 5. 1–9) and perhaps also the so-called amnesty law of Solon (Plut. Sol.19). The most famous ancient ‘amnesty’ was not a legislative act (despite Plutarch's use of the word amnēstia to suggest a Roman parallel, Cic.42) but part of an agreement at Athens in 403 bce between opponents and former supporters of the Thirty Tyrants; the (incomplete) text at Ath. pol. 39 prohibits mnēsikakein (‘remembering wrongs’, sc. in a lawcourt) against all except specified oligarchic officials. Narrative sources present this agreement as the successful achievement of democratic magnanimity, though it was evidently imposed by the Spartan king Pausanias (2). Several forensic speeches suggest that fear of Spartan retaliation may have persuaded prosecutors to dress up attacks on the amnesty as calls for it to be reinterpreted against their opponents.


  • T. C. Loening, The Reconciliation Agreement of 403/402 bce in Athens, Hermes Einzelschr. 53 (1987).
  • A. Wolpert, Remembering Defeat. Civil War and Civic Memory in Ancient Athens (2002).