Politics and society

Western democracies often trace their political roots back to Ancient Greece. While politics today may seem the dusty domain of lawmakers and pundits, in the classical era virtually no aspect of life was beyond its reach. Political life was not limited to acts of a legislature, magistrates, and the courts but routinely included the activities of social clubs, the patronage system, and expression through literature, art, and architecture. Through these varied means, even non-enfranchised groups (such as women and non-citizens) gained entry into a wider democratic process.

Beyond the citizen world of traditional politics, there existed multiple layers of Greek political life-reflecting many aspects of our own modern political landscape. Religious cults served as venues for female office-holders; private clubs and drinking parties served significant social functions. 

Popular athletes capitalized on their fame to run for elected office. Military veterans struggled to bring back the good old days much to the dismay of the forward-thinking ambitions of naive twenty-somethings. Liberals and conservatives of all classes battled over important issues of the day. Scandal and intrigue made or ended many a political career. 

Taken collectively, these aspects of political life serve as a lens for viewing the whole of Greek civilization in some of its characteristic and distinctive dimensions.

Ancient Greece consisted of several hundred relatively independent city-states (poleis). This was a situation unlike that in most other contemporary societies, which were either tribal or kingdoms ruling over relatively large territories. Undoubtedly the geography of Greece—divided and sub-divided by hills, mountains, and rivers—contributed to the fragmentary nature of ancient Greece. On the one hand, the ancient Greeks had no doubt that they were "one people"; they had the same religion, same basic culture, and same language. Furthermore, the Greeks were very aware of their tribal origins; Herodotus was able to extensively categorise the city-states by tribe. Yet, although these higher-level relationships existed, they seem to have rarely had a major role in Greek politics. The independence of the poleis was fiercely defended; unification was something rarely contemplated by the ancient Greeks. Even when, during the second Persian invasion of Greece, a group of city-states allied themselves to defend Greece, the vast majority of poleis remained neutral, and after the Persian defeat, the allies quickly returned to infighting.

Thus, the major peculiarities of the ancient Greek political system were firstly, its fragmentary nature, and that this does not particularly seem to have tribal origin, and secondly, the particular focus on urban centers within otherwise tiny states. The peculiarities of the Greek system are further evidenced by the colonies that they set up throughout the Mediterranean Sea, which, though they might count a certain Greek polis as their 'mother' (and remain sympathetic to her), were completely independent of the founding city.

Inevitably smaller poleis might be dominated by larger neighbors, but conquest or direct rule by another city-state appears to have been quite rare. Instead the poleis grouped themselves into leagues, membership of which was in a constant state of flux. Later in the Classical period, the leagues would become fewer and larger, be dominated by one city (particularly Athens, Sparta and Thebes); and often poleis would be compelled to join under threat of war (or as part of a peace treaty). Even after Philip II of Macedon "conquered" the heartlands of ancient Greece, he did not attempt to annex the territory, or unify it into a new province, but simply compelled most of the poleis to join his own Corinthian League.

Polis citizenship
There is more widespread agreement that the first real instances of citizenship began in ancient Greece. And while there were precursors of the relation in societies before then, it emerged in readily discernible form in the Greek city-states which began to dot the shores of the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and elsewhere around the Mediterranean perhaps around the 8th century BCE. The modern day distinction sometimes termed consent versus descent distinction—that is, citizenship by choice versus birthright citizenship, has been traced back to ancient Greece. And thinkers such as J.G.A. Pocock have suggested that the modern-day ideal of citizenship was first articulated by the ancient Athenians and Romans, although he suggested that the "transmission" of the sense of citizenship over two millennia was essentially a myth enshrouding western civilization. One writer suggests that despite the long history of China, there never was a political entity within China similar to the Greek polis.

To the ancients, citizenship was a bond between a person and the city-state. Before Greek times, a person was generally connected to a tribe or kin-group such as an extended family, but citizenship added a layer to these ties—a non-kinship bond between the person and the state.:p.152 Historian Geoffrey Hosking in his 2005 Modern Scholar lecture course suggested that citizenship in ancient Greece arose from an appreciation for the importance of freedom. Hosking explained:

It can be argued that this growth of slavery was what made Greeks particularly conscious of the value of freedom. After all, any Greek farmer might fall into debt and therefore might become a slave, at almost any time ... When the Greeks fought together, they fought in order to avoid being enslaved by warfare, to avoid being defeated by those who might take them into slavery. And they also arranged their political institutions so as to remain free men.

— Geoffrey Hosking, 2005

Slaves working in a mine. The sustenance provided by slaves meant that citizens had free time to participate in politics.

Geoffrey Hosking suggests that fear of being enslaved was a central motivating force for the development of the Greek sense of citizenship. Sculpture: a Greek woman being served by a slave-child.
The Greek sense of the polis, in which citizenship and the rule of law prevailed, was an important strategic advantage for the Greeks during their wars with Persia.

The polis was grounded in nomos, the rule of law, which meant that no man—no matter who he might be—was master, and all men were subject to the same rules. Any leader who set himself above the law was reckoned to be a tyrannos—a tyrant. It was also grounded in the notion of citizenship—the idea that every man born from the blood of the community has a share in power and responsibility. This notion that ... the proper way for us to live is as citizens in communities under the rule of law ... is an idea originated by the Greeks and bequeathed by them as their greatest contribution to the rest of mankind and history. It meant that Greeks were willing to live, fight, and die for their poleis...

— Robert L. Dise, Jr., 2009
Greeks could see the benefits of having slaves, since their labor permitted slaveowners to have substantial free time, enabling participation in public life.[9] While Greeks were spread out in many separate city-states, they had many things in common in addition to shared ideas about citizenship: the Mediterranean trading world, kinship ties, the common Greek language, a shared hostility to the so-called non-Greek-speaking or barbarian peoples, belief in the prescience of the oracle at Delphi, and later on the early Olympic Games which involved generally peaceful athletic competitions between city-states.[9] City-states often feuded with each other; one view was that regular wars were necessary to perpetuate citizenship, since the seized goods and slaves helped make the city-state rich, and that a long peaceful period meant ruin for citizenship.

An important aspect of polis citizenship was exclusivity. Polis meant both the political assembly as well as the entire society. Inequality of status was widely accepted. Citizens had a higher status than non-citizens, such as women, slaves or barbarians. For example, women were believed to be irrational and incapable of political participation, although a few writers, most notably Plato, disagreed. Methods used to determine whether someone could be a citizen or not could be based on wealth, identified by the amount of taxes one paid, or political participation, or heritage if both parents had been born in the polis. The first form of citizenship was based on the way people lived in the ancient Greek times, in small-scale organic communities of the polis. Citizenship was not seen as a separate activity from the private life of the individual person, in the sense that there was not a distinction between public and private life. The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected into one’s everyday life in the polis.

The Greek-style phalanx required close cohesion, since each soldier's shield protected the soldier to his left. Many thinkers link the phalanx to the development of citizenship.
The Greek sense of citizenship may have arisen from military necessity, since a key military formation demanded cohesion and commitment by each particular soldier. The phalanx formation had hoplite soldiers ranked shoulder-to-shoulder in a "compact mass" with each soldier's shield guarding the soldier to his left. If a single fighter failed to keep his position, then the entire formation could fall apart. Individual soldiers were generally protected provided that the entire mass stayed together.This technique called for large numbers of soldiers, sometimes involving most of the adult male population of a city-state, who supplied weapons at their own expense. The idea of citizenship, then, was that if each man had a say in whether the entire city-state should fight an adversary, and if each man was bound to the will of the group, then battlefield loyalty was much more likely. Political participation was thus linked with military effectiveness. In addition, the Greek city-states were the first instances in which judicial functions were separated from legislative functions in the law courts.Selected citizens served as jurors, and they were often paid a modest sum for their service. Greeks often despised tyrannical governments. In a tyrannical arrangement, there was no possibility of citizenship since political life was totally engineered to benefit the ruler.

Polis (/ˈpɒlᵻs/; Greek: πόλις [pólis]), plural poleis (/ˈpɒleɪz/, πόλεις [póleːs]) literally means city in Greek. It can also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography, polis is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, and thus is often translated as "city-state".
Slaves working in a mine. The sustenance provided by slaves meant that citizens had free time to participate in politics.

The Ancient Greek city-state developed during the Archaic period as the ancestor of city, state, and citizenship and persisted (though with decreasing influence) well into Roman times, when the equivalent Latin word was civitas, also meaning "citizenhood", while municipium applied to a non-sovereign local entity. The term "city-state", which originated in English (alongside the German Stadtstaat), does not fully translate the Greek term. The poleis were not like other primordial ancient city-states like Tyre or Sidon, which were ruled by a king or a small oligarchy, but rather political entities ruled by their bodies of citizens. The traditional view of archaeologists—that the appearance of urbanization at excavation sites could be read as a sufficient index for the development of a polis—was criticised by François Polignac in 1984and has not been taken for granted in recent decades: the polis of Sparta, for example, was established in a network of villages. The term polis, which in archaic Greece meant "city", changed with the development of the governance center in the city to signify "state" (which included its surrounding villages). Finally, with the emergence of a notion of citizenship among landowners, it came to describe the entire body of citizens. The ancient Greeks did not always refer to Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and other poleis as such; they often spoke instead of the Athenians, Lacedaemonians, Thebans and so on. The body of citizens came to be the most important meaning of the term polis in ancient Greece.

The Greek term that specifically meant the totality of urban buildings and spaces is ἄστυ (pronounced [ásty]).

Plato analyzes the polis in The Republic, whose Greek title, Πολιτεία (Politeia), itself derives from the word polis. The best form of government of the polis for Plato is the one that leads to the common good. The philosopher king is the best ruler because, as a philosopher, he is acquainted with the Form of the Good. In Plato's analogy of the ship of state, the philosopher king steers the polis, as if it were a ship, in the best direction.
Geoffrey Hosking suggests that fear of being enslaved was a central motivating force for the development of the Greek sense of citizenship. Sculpture: a Greek woman being served by a slave-child.

Books II–IV of The Republic are concerned with Plato addressing the makeup of an ideal polis. In The Republic, Socrates is concerned with the two underlying principles of any society: mutual needs and differences in aptitude. Starting from these two principles, Socrates deals with the economic structure of an ideal polis. According to Plato, there are five main economic classes of any polis: producers, merchants, sailors/shipowners, retail traders, and wage earners. Along with the two principles and five economic classes, there are four virtues. The four virtues of a "just city" include, wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. With all of these principles, classes, and virtues, it was believed that a "just city" (polis) would exist.
The Greek-style phalanx required close cohesion, since each soldier's shield protected the soldier to his left. Many thinkers link the phalanx to the development of citizenship.

The basic and indicating elements of a polis are:

Self-governance, autonomy, and independence (city-state)
Agora: the social hub and financial marketplace, on and around a centrally located, large open space
Acropolis: the citadel, inside which a temple had replaced the erstwhile Mycenaean anáktoron (palace) or mégaron (hall)
Greek urban planning and architecture, public, religious, and private (see Hippodamian plan)
Temples, altars, and sacred precincts: one or more are dedicated to the poliouchos, the patron deity of the city; each polis kept its own particular festivals and customs (Political religion, as opposed to the individualized religion of later antiquity). Priests and priestesses, although often drawn from certain families by tradition, did not form a separate collegiality or class; they were ordinary citizens who on certain occasions were called to perform certain functions.
Walls: used for protection from invaders
Coins: minted by the city, and bearing its symbols
Colonies being founded by the oikistes of the metropolis
Political life: it revolved around the sovereign Ekklesia (the assembly of all adult male citizens for deliberation and voting), the standing boule and other civic or judicial councils, the archons and other officials or magistrates elected either by vote or by lot, clubs, etc., and sometimes punctuated by stasis (civil strife between parties, factions or socioeconomic classes, e.g., aristocrats, oligarchs, democrats, tyrants, the wealthy, the poor, large, or small landowners, etc.). They practised direct democracy.
Publication of state functions: laws, decrees, and major fiscal accounts were published, and criminal and civil trials were also held in public.
Synoecism, conurbation: Absorption of nearby villages and countryside, and the incorporation of their tribes into the substructure of the polis. Many of a polis' citizens lived in the suburbs or countryside. The Greeks regarded the polis less as a territorial grouping than as a religious and political association: while the polis would control territory and colonies beyond the city itself, the polis would not simply consist of a geographical area. Most cities were composed of several tribes or phylai, which were in turn composed of phratries (common-ancestry lineages), and finally génea (extended families).
Social classes and citizenship: Dwellers of the polis were generally divided into four types of inhabitants, with status typically determined by birth:
Citizens with full legal and political rights—that is, free adult men born legitimately of citizen parents. They had the right to vote, be elected into office, and bear arms, and the obligation to serve when at war.
Citizens without formal political rights but with full legal rights: the citizens' female relatives and underage children, whose political rights and interests were meant to be represented by their adult male relatives.
Citizens of other poleis who chose to reside elsewhere (the metics, μέτοικοι, métoikoi, literally "transdwellers"): though free-born and possessing full rights in their place of origin, they had full legal rights but no political rights in their place of residence. Metics could not vote, be elected to office, bear arms, or serve in war. They otherwise had full personal and property rights, albeit subject to taxation.
Slaves: chattel in full possession of their owner, and with no privileges other than those that their owner would grant (or revoke) at will.

Acropolis of Athens, a noted polis of classical Greece.

During the Hellenistic period, which marks the decline of the classical polis, the following cities remained independent: Sparta until 195 BC after the War against Nabis. Achaean League is the last example of original Greek city-state federations (dissolved after the Battle of Corinth (146 BC)). The Cretan city-states continued to be independent (except Itanus and Arsinoe, which lay under Ptolemaic influence) until the conquest of Crete in 69 BC by Rome. The cities of Magna Graecia, with the notable examples of Syracuse and Tarentum, were conquered by Rome in the late 3rd century BC. There are also some cities with recurring independence like Samos, Priene, Miletus, and Athens.A remarkable example of a city-state that flourished during this era is Rhodes, through its merchant navy, until 43 BC and the Roman conquest.

The Hellenistic colonies and cities of the era retain some basic characteristics of a polis, except the status of independence (city-state) and the political life. There is self-governance (like the new Macedonian title politarch), but under a ruler and king. The political life of the classical era was transformed into an individualized religious and philosophical view of life (see Hellenistic philosophy and religion). Demographic decline forced the cities to abolish the status of metic and bestow citizenship; in 228 BC, Miletus enfranchised over 1,000 Cretans. Dyme sold its citizenship for one talent, payable in two installments. The foreign residents in a city are now called paroikoi. In an age when most political establishments in Asia are kingdoms, the Chrysaorian League in Caria was a Hellenistic federation of poleis.

During the Roman era, some cities were granted the status of a polis, or free city, self-governed under the Roman Empire. The last institution commemorating the old Greek poleis was the Panhellenion, established by Hadrian.

Spartan citizenship
Several thinkers suggest that ancient Sparta, not Athens, was the originator of the concept of citizenship. Spartan citizenship was based on the principle of equality among a ruling military elite called Spartiates. They were "full Spartan citizens"—men who graduated from a rigorous regimen of military training and at age 30 received a land allotment called a kleros, although they had to keep paying dues to pay for food and drink as was required to maintain citizenship. In the Spartan approach to phalanx warfare, virtues such as courage and loyalty were particularly emphasized relative to other Greek city-states.:p.10 Each Spartan citizen owned at least a minimum portion of the public land which was sufficient to provide food for a family, although the size of these plots varied. The Spartan citizens relied on the labor of captured slaves called helots to do the everyday drudgework of farming and maintenance, while the Spartan men underwent a rigorous military regimen, and in a sense it was the labor of the helots which permitted Spartans to engage in extensive military training and citizenship.Citizenship was viewed as incompatible with manual labor.[Citizens ate meals together in a "communal mess". They were "frugally fed, ferociously disciplined, and kept in constant training through martial games and communal exercises," according to Hosking. As young men, they served in the military. It was seen as virtuous to participate in government when men grew older.Participation was required; failure to appear could entail a loss of citizenship.:p.11 But the philosopher Aristotle viewed the Spartan model of citizenship as "artificial and strained", according to one account.:p.12 While Spartans were expected to learn music and poetry, serious study was discouraged. Historian Ian Worthington described a "Spartan mirage" in the sense that the mystique about military invincibility tended to obscure weaknesses within the Spartan system, particularly their dependence on helots. In contrast with Athenian women, Spartan women could own property, and owned at one point up to 40% of the land according to Aristotle, and they had greater independence and rights, although their main task was not to rule the homes or participate in governance but rather to produce strong and healthy babies.

Athenian citizenship
Aristotle, according to J. G. A. Pocock, suggested that ancient Greeks thought that being a citizen was a natural state.It was an elitist notion, according to Peter Riesenberg, in which small scale communities had generally similar ideas of how people should behave in society and what constituted appropriate conduct. Geoffrey Hosking described a possible Athenian logic leading to participatory democracy:

If you've got a lot of soldiers of rather modest means, and you want them to enthusiastically participate in war, then you've got to have a political and economic system which doesn't allow too many of them to fall into debt, because debt ultimately means slavery, and slaves cannot fight in the army. And it needs a political system which gives them a say on matters that concern their lives.

— Geoffrey Hosking, 2005
As a consequence, the original Athenian aristocratic constitution gradually became more inappropriate, and gave way to a more inclusive arrangement. In the early 6th century BCE, the reformer Solon canceled all existing land debts, and enabled free Athenian males to participate in the assembly or ecclesia. In addition, he encouraged foreign craftsmen, particularly skilled in pottery, to move to Athens and offered citizenship by naturalization as an incentive.

Solon expected that aristocratic Athenians would continue running affairs but nevertheless citizens had a "political voice in the Assembly."
Subsequent reformers moved Athens even more towards direct democracy. The Greek reformer Cleisthenes in 508 BC re-engineered Athenian society from organizations based on family-style groupings, or phratries, to larger mixed structures which combined people from different types of geographic areas—coastal areas and cities, hinterlands, and plains—into the same group. Cleisthenes abolished the tribes by "redistributing their identity so radically" so they ceased to exist. The result was that farmers, sailors and sheepherders came together in the same political unit, in effect lessening kinship ties as a basis for citizenship. In this sense, Athenian citizenship extended beyond basic bonds such as ties of family, descent, religion, race, or tribal membership, and reached towards the idea of a civic multiethnic state built on democratic principles.

Cleisthenes took democracy to the masses in a way that Solon didn't. ... Cleisthenes gave these same people the opportunity to participate in a political system in which all citizens—noble and non-noble—were in theory equal, and regardless of where they lived in Attica, could take part in some form of state administration.

— Ian Worthington, 2009
According to Feliks Gross, such an arrangement can succeed if people from different backgrounds can form constructive associations. The Athenian practice of ostracism, in which citizens could vote anonymously for a fellow citizen to be expelled from Athens for up to ten years, was seen as a way to pre-emptively remove a possible threat to the state, without having to go through legal proceedings. It was intended to promote internal harmony.

Athenian citizenship was based on obligations of citizens towards the community rather than rights given to its members. This was not a problem because people had a strong affinity with the polis; their personal destiny and the destiny of the entire community were strongly linked. Also, citizens of the polis saw obligations to the community as an opportunity to be virtuous. It was a source of honour and respect. According to one view, the citizenry was "its own master". The people were sovereign; there was no sovereignty outside of the people themselves. In Athens, citizens were both ruler and ruled. Further, important political and judicial offices were rotated to widen participation and prevent corruption, and all citizens had the right to speak and vote in the political assembly. Pocock explained:

... what makes the citizen the highest order of being is his capacity to rule, and it follows that rule over one's equal is possible only where one's equal rules over one. Therefore the citizen rules and is ruled; citizens join each other in making decisions where each decider respects the authority of the others, and all join in obeying the decisions (now known as "laws") they have made.

— J. G. A. Pocock
The Athenian conception was that "laws that should govern everybody," in the sense of equality under the law or the Greek term isonomia. Citizens had certain rights and duties: the rights included the chance to speak and vote in the common assembly, to stand for public office, to serve as jurors, to be protected by the law, to own land, and to participate in public worship; duties included an obligation to obey the law, and to serve in the armed forces which could be "costly" in terms of buying or making expensive war equipment or in risking one's own life, according to Hosking.

This balance of participation, obligations and rights constituted the essence of citizenship, together with the feeling that there was a common interest which imposed its obligations on everyone.

— Geoffrey Hosking, 2005
Hosking noticed that citizenship was "relatively narrowly distributed" and excluded all women, all minors, all slaves, all immigrants, and most colonials, that is, citizens who left their city to start another usually lost their rights from their city-state of origin. Many historians felt this exclusiveness was a weakness in Athenian society, according to Hosking, but he noted that there were perhaps 50,000 Athenian citizens overall, and that at most, a tenth of these ever took part in an actual assembly at any one time. Hosking argued that if citizenship had been spread more widely, it would have hurt solidarity. Pocock expresses a similar sentiment and noted that citizenship requires a certain distance from the day-to-day drudgery of daily living.Greek males solved this problem to some extent with the subjugation of women as well as the institution of slavery which freed their schedules so they could participate in the assembly. Pocock asked: for citizenship to happen, was it necessary to prevent free people from becoming "too much involved in the world of things"? Or, could citizenship be extended to working class persons, and if so, what does this mean for the nature of citizenship itself?

Plato on citizenship
The philosopher Plato envisioned a warrior class similar to the Spartan conception in that these persons did not engage in farming, business, or handicrafts, but their main duty was to prepare for war: to train, to exercise, to train, to exercise, constantly.:pp.14–15 Like the Spartan practice, Plato's idealized community was one of citizens who kept common meals to build common bonds.:pp.14–15 Citizenship status, in Plato's ideal view, was inherited. There were four separate classes.:pp.14–15 There were penalties for failing to vote.:p.15 A key part of citizenship was obeying the law and being "deferent to the social and political system" and having internal self-control.
The Republic

The most comprehensive statement of Plato's mature philosophical views appears in Πολιτεια (The Republic), an extended treatment of the most fundamental principles for the conduct of human life. Using the character "Socrates" as a fictional spokesman, Plato considers the nature and value of justice and the other virtues as they appear both in the structure of society as a whole and in the personality of an individual human being. This naturally leads to discussions of human nature, the achievement of knowledge, the distinction between appearance and reality, the components of an effective education, and the foundations of morality.

Because it covers so many issues, The Republic can be read in several different ways: as a treatise on political theory and practice, as a pedagogical handbook, or as a defence of ethical conduct, for example. Although we'll take notice of each of these features along the way, our primary focus in what follows will be on the basic metaphysical and epistemological issues, foundational questions about who we are, what is real, and about how we know it. Read in this fashion, the dialogue as a whole invites us to share in Plato's vision of our place within the ultimate structure of reality. 

What is Justice?

Book I of The Republic appears to be a Socratic dialogue on the nature of justice (Gk. δικαιωσυνη [dikaiôsunê]). As always, the goal of the discussion is to discover the genuine nature of the subject at hand, but the process involves the proposal, criticism, and rejection of several inadequate attempts at defining what justice really is.

The elderly, wealthy Cephalus suggests that justice involves nothing more than telling the truth and repaying one's debts. But Socrates points out that in certain (admittedly unusual) circumstances, following these simple rules without exception could produce disastrous results. (Republic 331c) Returning a borrowed weapon to an insane friend, for example, would be an instance of following the rule but would not seem to be an instance of just action. The presentation of a counter-example of this sort tends to show that the proposed definition of justice is incorrect, since its application does not correspond with our ordinary notion of justice.

In an effort to avoid such difficulties, Polemarchus offers a refinement of the definition by proposing that justice means "giving to each what is owed." The new definition codifies formally our deeply-entrenched practice of seeking always to help our friends and harm our enemies. This evades the earlier counter-example, since the just act of refusing to return the borrowed weapon would clearly benefit one's friend. But Socrates points out that harsh treatment of our enemies is only likely to render them even more unjust than they already are. (Republic 335d) Since, as we saw in the Phaedo, opposites invariably exclude each other, the production of injustice could never be an element within the character of true justice; so this definition, too, must be mistaken.

The Privilege of Power

At this point in the dialogue, Plato introduces Thrasymachus the sophist, another fictionalized portrait of an historical personality. After impatiently dismissing what has gone before, Thrasymachus recommends that we regard justice as the advantage of the stronger; those in positions of power simply use their might to decree what shall be right. This, too, expresses a fairly common (if somewhat pessimistic) view of the facts about social organization.

But of course Socrates has other ideas. For one thing, if the ruling party mistakenly legislates to its own disadvantage, justice will require the rest of us to perform the (apparently) contradictory feat of both doing what they decree and also doing what is best for them. More significantly, Socrates argues that the best ruler must always be someone who knows how to rule, someone who understands ruling as a craft. But since crafts of any sort invariably aim to produce some external goal (Gk. τελος [télos]), good practitioners of each craft always act for the sake of that goal, never in their own interest alone. Thus, good rulers, like good shepherds, must try to do what is best for those who have been entrusted to them, rather than seeking their own welfare. (Republic 342e)

Beaten down by the force of Socratic questioning, Thrasymachus lashes out bitterly and then shifts the focus of the debate completely. If Socrates does happen to be right about the nature of justice, he declares, then it follows that a life devoted to injustice is be more to one's advantage than a life devoted to justice. Surely anyone would prefer to profit by committing an act of injustice against another than to suffer as the victim of an act of injustice committed by someone else. ("Do unto others before they do unto you.") Thus, according to Thrasymachus, injustice is better than justice.

Some preliminary answers come immediately to mind: the personal rewards to be gained from performing a job well are commonly distinct from its intrinsic aims; just people are rightly regarded as superior to unjust people in intelligence and character; every society believes that justice (as conceived in that society) is morally obligatory; and justice is the proper virtue (Gk. αρετη [aretê]) of the human soul. But if Socrates himself might have been satisfied with responses of this sort, Plato the philosophical writer was not. There must be an answer that derives more fundamentally from the nature of reality.

Is Justice Better than Injustice?

When Thrasymachus falls silent, other characters from the dialogue continue to pursue the central questions: what is justice, how can we achieve it, and what is its value? Not everyone will agree that justice should be defended as worthwhile for its own sake, rather than for the extrinsic advantages that may result from its practice.

It helps to have a concrete example in mind. So Glaucon recounts the story of Gyges, the shepherd who discovered a ring that rendered him invisible and immediately embarked on a life of crime with perfect impunity. The point is to suggest that human beings—given an opportunity to do so without being caught and therefore without suffering any punishment or loss of good reputation—would naturally choose a life of injustice, in order to maximize their own interests.

Adeimantus narrows the discussion even further by pointing out that the personal benefits of having a good reputation are often acquired by anyone who merely appears to act justly, whether or not that person really does so. (Republic 363a) This suggests the possibility of achieving the greatest possible advantage by having it both ways: act unjustly while preserving the outward appearance of being just, instead of acting justly while risking the outward appearance of injustice. In order to demonstrate once and for all that justice really is valuable for its own sake alone, Plato must show that a life of the second sort is superior to a life of the first sort.

Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Adeimantus have given voice to a fundamental issue at the heart of any effort to improve human conduct by appealing to the principles of moral philosophy. If what I am morally required to do can (in some circumstances) be different from what I would choose do for my own benefit, then why should I be moral? Plato wrote the remainder of The Republic in an attempt to provide an adequate, satisfying answer to this question.

After Book I, the entire dialogue is pervaded by an extended analogy between the justice of individual human beings and the that of an entire society or city-state. Since the crucial elements of justice may be easier to observe on the larger scale (Republic 369a), Plato began with a detailed analysis of the formation, structure, and organization of an ideal state before applying its results to a description of personal life.

Why We Form a Society

Imagining their likely origins in the prehistorical past, Plato argued that societies are invariably formed for a particular purpose. Individual human beings are not self-sufficient; no one working alone can acquire all of the genuine necessities of life. In order to resolve this difficulty, we gather together into communities for the mutual achievement of our common goals. This succeeds because we can work more efficiently if each of us specializes in the practice of a specific craft: I make all of the shoes; you grow all of the vegetables; she does all of the carpentry; etc. Thus, Plato held that separation of functions and specialization of labor are the keys to the establishment of a worthwhile society.

The result of this original impulse is a society composed of many individuals, organized into distinct classes (clothiers, farmers, builders, etc.) according to the value of their role in providing some component part of the common good. But the smooth operation of the whole society will require some additional services that become necessary only because of the creation of the social organization itself—the adjudication of disputes among members and the defense of the city against external attacks, for example. Therefore, carrying the principle of specialization one step further, Plato proposed the establishment of an additional class of citizens, the guardians who are responsible for management of the society itself.

In fact, Plato held that effective social life requires guardians of two distinct sorts: there must be both soldiers whose function is to defend the state against external enemies and to enforce its laws, and rulers who resolve disagreements among citizens and make decisions about public policy. The guardians collectively, then, are those individuals whose special craft is just the task of governance itself.

Training the Guardians

In order to fulfill their proper functions, these people will have to be special human beings indeed. Plato hinted early on that one of their most evident characteristics will be a temperamental inclination toward philosophical thinking. As we've already seen in the Apology and in the Phaedo, it is the philosopher above all others who excels at investigating serious questions about human life and at judging what is true and best. But how are personal qualities of this sort to be fostered and developed in an appropriate number of individual citizens? (Republic 376d)

The answer, Plato believed, was to rely upon the value of a good education. (Remember, he operated his own school at Athens!) We'll have an opportunity to consider his notions about higher education later, but his plan for the elementary education of guardians for the ideal state appears in Book III. Its central concern is an emphasis on achieving the proper balance of many disparate components—physical training and musical performance along with basic intellectual development.

One notable feature of this method of raising children is Plato's demand for strict censorship of literary materials, especially poetry and drama. He argued that early absorption in fictional accounts can dull an person's ability to make accurate judgments regarding matters of fact and that excessive participation in dramatic recitations might encourage some people to emulate the worst behavior of the tragic heros. (Republic 395c) Worst of all, excessive attention to fictional contexts may lead to a kind of self-deception, in which individuals are ignorant of the truth about their own natures as human beings. (Republic 382b) Thus, on Plato's view, it is vital for a society to exercise strict control over the content of everything that children read, see, or hear. As we will later notice, Aristotle had very different ideas.

Training of the sort described here (and later) is intended only for those children who will eventually become the guardians of the state. Their performance at this level of education properly determines both whether they are qualified to do so and, if so, whether each of them deserves to be a ruler or a soldier. A society should design its educational system as a means to distinguish among future citizens whose functions will differ and to provide training appropriate to the abilities of each.

Divisions of the State

The principle of specialization thus leads to a stratified society. Plato believed that the ideal state comprises members of three distinct classes: rulers, soldiers, and the people. Although he officially maintained that membership in the guardian classes should be based solely upon the possession of appropriate skills, Plato presumed that future guardians will typically be the offspring of those who presently hold similar positions of honor. If citizens express any dissatisfaction with the roles to which they are assigned, he proposed that they be told the "useful falsehood" that human beings (like the metals gold, silver, and bronze) possess different natures that fit each of them to a particular function within the operation of the society as a whole. (Republic 415a)

Notice that this myth (Gk. μυθος [mythos]) cuts both ways. It can certainly be used as a method of social control, by encouraging ordinary people to accept their position at the bottom of the heap, subject to governance by the higher classes. But Plato also held that the myth justifies severe restrictions on the life of the guardians: since they are already gifted with superior natures, they have no need for wealth or other external rewards. In fact, Plato held that guardians should own no private property, should live and eat together at government expense, and should earn no salary greater than necessary to supply their most basic needs. Under this regime, no one will have any venal motive for seeking a position of leadership, and those who are chosen to be guardians will govern solely from a concern to seek the welfare of the state in what is best for all of its citizens.

Having developed a general description of the structure of an ideal society, Plato maintained that the proper functions performed by its disparate classes, working together for the common good, provide a ready account of the need to develop significant social qualities or virtues.

Since the rulers are responsible for making decisions according to which the entire city will be governed, they must have the virtue of wisdom (Gk. σοφια [sophía]), the capacity to comprehend reality and to make impartial judgments about it.
Soldiers charged with the defense of the city against external and internal enemies, on the other hand, need the virtue of courage (Gk. ανδρεια [andreia]), the willingness to carry out their orders in the face of danger without regard for personal risk.
The rest of the people in the city must follow its leaders instead of pursuing their private interests, so they must exhibit the virtue of moderation (Gk. σωφρσυνη [sophrosúnê]), the subordination of personal desires to a higher purpose.
When each of these classes performs its own role appropriately and does not try to take over the function of any other class, Plato held, the entire city as a whole will operate smoothly, exhibiting the harmony that is genuine justice. (Republic 433e)
We can therefore understand all of the cardinal virtues by considering how each is embodied in the organization of an ideal city.

Aristotle on citizenship
Writing a generation after Plato, and in contrast with his teacher, Aristotle did not like Sparta's commune-oriented approach.:p.16 He felt Sparta's land allocation system as well as the communal meals led to a world in which rich and poor were polarized.:p.16 He recognized differences in citizenship patterns based on age: the young were "underdeveloped" citizens, while the elderly were "superannuated" citizens.:p.17 And he noted that it was hard to classify the citizenship status of some persons, such as resident aliens who still had access to courts, or citizens who had lost their citizenship franchise.:p.17

Still, Aristotle's conception of citizenship was that it was a legally guaranteed role in creating and running government.:p.151 It reflected the division of labor which he believed was a good thing; citizenship, in his view, was a commanding role in society with citizens ruling over non-citizens. At the same time, there could not be a permanent barrier between the rulers and the ruled, according to Aristotle's conception, and if there was such a barrier, citizenship could not exist.:p.151 Aristotle's sense of citizenship depended on a "rigorous separation of public from private, of polis from oikos, of persons and actions from things" which allowed people to interact politically with equals. To be truly human, one had to be an active citizen to the community:

To take no part in the running of the community's affairs is to be either a beast or a god!

— Aristotle:p.17
In Aristotle's view, "man is a political animal".:p.17 Isolated men were not truly free, in his view.:p.17 A beast was animal-like without self-control over passions and unable to coordinate with other beasts, and therefore could not be a citizen.:p.17 And a god was so powerful and immortal that he or she did not need help from others.:p.17 In Aristotle's conception, citizenship was possible generally in a small city-state since it required direct participation in public affairs:p.18 with people knowing "one another's characters".:p.18 What mattered, according to Pocock's interpretation of Aristotle, was that citizens had the freedom to take part in political discussions if they chose to do so. And citizenship was not merely a means to being free, but was freedom itself, a valued escape from the home-world of the oikos to the political world of the polis. It meant active sharing in civic life, meaning that all men rule, and are ruled, alternatively.:p.18:p.151And citizens were those who shared in deliberative and judicial office, and in that sense, attained the status of citizenship.:p.18 What citizens do should benefit not just a segment of society, but be in the interest of everybody.:p.18 Unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that women were incapable of citizenship since it did not suit their natures.:p.128 In Aristotle's conception, humans are destined "by nature" to live in a political association and take short turns at ruling, inclusively, participating in making legislative, judicial and executive decisions. But Aristotle's sense of "inclusiveness" was limited to adult Greek males born in the polity: women, children, slaves, and foreigners (that is, resident aliens), were generally excluded from political participation.

In order to answer the question, “What is a State?” Aristotle begins by asking, “Who is the citizen, and what is the meaning of the term?” This he does because the state is a composite whole made up of many parts—the citizens who compose it. The citizen whom Aristotle is seeking to define is the citizen in the strictest sense, against whom no exception can be made, so that “a citizen is not a citizen because he lives in a certain place; nor is he a citizen who has no legal right except that of suing and being sued; for this right may be enjoyed under the provisions of a treaty.”[1] This latter class are citizens only in a qualified sense, in the same way that children and old men are said to be citizens imperfectly, and not simply. In practice a citizen is defined as one who is born of parents who are citizens, but this is not a satisfactory definition because it cannot apply to the first inhabitants or founders of a state, nor to those who have had the franchise conferred on them by the state. A citizen in the proper sense of the term, then, is one who shares in the administration of justice, and in offices. The most comprehensive definition is one who shares in an “indefinite” office. This term includes the office of “discast” (juryman and judge in one) and the office of “ecclesiast” (member of the ecclesia or assembly of citizens). But since the citizen of necessity differs under each form of government, this definition is best adapted to the citizen of a democracy. In other states, such as Sparta and Carthage, it is the holder of a definite, and not of an indefinite, office who legislates and judges. Here the citizen would be one who shares in a definite office.

“Aristotle’s conception of a citizen is widely different from the modern conception because it is not representative but primary government that he has in view. His citizen is not content to have a say in the choosing of his rulers; every citizen is actually to rule in turn, and not merely in the sense of being a member of the executive, but in the sense, a more important one for Aristotle, of helping to make the laws of his state; for to the executive is assigned the comparatively small function supplementing the laws when they are inadequate owing to their generality. It is owing to this lofty conception of a citizen’s duties that he so closely narrows the citizen body.” This is one of the reasons why Aristotle excludes the mechanic class from citizenship. He says they have not the leisure time to sit in the assembly and so share in the ruling of the government. The best forms of government also exclude this class because no man (according to Aristotle) can practice virtue who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer. No Christian would agree with Aristotle on this last point, though it is undeniable that excessive manual labor does tend to deliberalize the soul. After all, if a man has to spend practically all of his waking hours working so as to eke out a bare existence for himself and family, he certainly cannot develop himself fully as a man by the cultivation of his mind, which demands leisure and relaxation

Aristotle’s conception of the citizen would not be valid today. He failed to see the possibilities of representative government. Today we would say that the minimum requirement for citizenship is the power of voting for the representatives of the people who do the actual ruling in a democracy.

The state is defined by Aristotle as “a body of citizens sufficing for the purposes of life.” In order to determine what is and what is not the act of a state, Aristotle first enquires into the question of what determines the identity of the state. Clearly it does not consist in the identity of place and inhabitants. “It is true that as the essence of a thing consists in general not in its  matter but in its form, the essence of the state must be sought for in its form or constitution. “We speak of every union or composition of elements as different when the form of their composition alters; for example, a scale containing the same sounds is said to be different, according as the Dorian or Phrygian mode is employed. And if this is true it is evident that the sameness of the state consists chiefly in the sameness of the constitution, and it may be called or not called by the same name, whether the inhabitants are the same or entirely different.” I think it is safe to say that this analysis of the identity of the state is a good one and about as accurate a one as it is possible to get. Certainly, a sudden change of constitution in a state does change its identity; e.g., France before and after the Revolution.

A constitution is defined by Aristotle as “the arrangement of magistracies in a state, especially the highest of all. He identifies the constitution with the government: “The government is everywhere sovereign in the state, and the constitution is in fact the government. For example, in democracies the people are supreme, but in oligarchies, the few; and therefore, we say that these two forms of government also are different: and so in other cases.” What Aristotle means by his definition of a constitution is that the arrangement of offices, and especially of the highest offices, determines the form of the constitution governing the state, and also determines the form of government. For example, in a state where the offices (and especially the highest) are in the hands of a few, there we find an oligarchical form of constitution and government.

“We are accustomed to understand by the term ‘constitution’ only the general form of government of a particular State—the sum of the arrangements which regulate the distribution within it of political functions. Aristotle meant far more by it. He comprehends under the corresponding word ‘Polity,’ not only all this, but also the substantial character of the community in question, as that expresses itself in the accepted theory of the state and in the spirit of its government. He has thus the advantage of exhibiting more clearly than is commonly done by modern writers the connection of the political institutions of a people with its life as a whole, and is less exposed to the danger of treating these as something independent and equally applicable to all communities. Here as elsewhere in the ‘Politics’ the leading characteristic of his method is the care he takes to scientifically trace everything back to its real source, and to find the principle of its explanation in its own peculiar nature.

Roman conceptions
Roman citizenship was similar to the Greek model but differed in substantive ways. Geoffrey Hosking argued that Greek ideas of citizenship in the city-state, such as the principles of equality under the law, civic participation in government, and notions that "no one citizen should have too much power for too long", were carried forth into the Roman world. But unlike the Greek city-states which enslaved captured peoples following a war, Rome offered relatively generous terms to its captives, including chances for captives to have a "second category of Roman citizenship". Conquered peoples could not vote in the Roman assembly but had full protections of the law, and could make economic contracts and could marry Roman citizens. They blended together with Romans in a culture sometimes described as Romanitas—ceremonies, public baths, games, and a common culture helped unite diverse groups within the empire.

One view was that the Greek sense of citizenship was an "emancipation from the world of things" in which citizens essentially acted upon other citizens; material things were left back in the private domestic world of the oikos. But the Roman sensibility took into account to a greater extent that citizens could act upon material things as well as other citizens, in the sense of buying or selling property, possessions, titles, goods. Accordingly, citizens often encountered other citizens on the basis of commerce which often required regulation. It introduced a new level of complexity regarding the concept of citizenship. Pocock explained:

The person was defined and represented through his actions upon things; in the course of time, the term property came to mean, first, the defining characteristic of a human or other being; second, the relation which a person had with a thing; and third, the thing defined as the possession of some person.
— J. G. A. Pocock, 1988

Government and law

Initially many Greek city-states seem to have been petty kingdoms; there was often a city official carrying some residual, ceremonial functions of the king (basileus), e.g. the archon basileus in Athens. However, by the Archaic period and the first historical consciousness, most had already become aristocratic oligarchies. It is unclear exactly how this change occurred. For instance, in Athens, the kingship had been reduced to a hereditary, lifelong chief magistracy (archon) by c. 1050 BC; by 753 BC this had become a decennial, elected archonship; and finally by 683 BC an annually elected archonship. Through each stage more power would have been transferred to the aristocracy as a whole, and away from a single individual.

Inevitably, the domination of politics and concomitant aggregation of wealth by small groups of families was apt to cause social unrest in many poleis. In many cities a tyrant (not in the modern sense of repressive autocracies), would at some point seize control and govern according to their own will; often a populist agenda would help sustain them in power. In a system racked with class conflict, government by a 'strongman' was often the best solution.

Athens fell under a tyranny in the second half of the 6th century. When this tyranny was ended, the Athenians founded the world's first democracy as a radical solution to prevent the aristocracy regaining power. A citizens' assembly (the Ecclesia), for the discussion of city policy, had existed since the reforms of Draco in 621 BC; all citizens were permitted to attend after the reforms of Solon (early 6th century), but the poorest citizens could not address the assembly or run for office. With the establishment of the democracy, the assembly became the de jure mechanism of government; all citizens had equal privileges in the assembly. However, non-citizens, such as metics (foreigners living in Athens) or slaves, had no political rights at all.

After the rise of the democracy in Athens, other city-states founded democracies. However, many retained more traditional forms of government. As so often in other matters, Sparta was a notable exception to the rest of Greece, ruled through the whole period by not one, but two hereditary monarchs. This was a form of diarchy. The Kings of Sparta belonged to the Agiads and the Eurypontids, descendants respectively of Eurysthenes and Procles. Both dynasty founders were believed to be twin sons of Aristodemus, a Heraclid ruler. However, the powers of these kings was trammeled by both a council of elders (the Gerousia) and magistrates specifically appointed to watch over the kings (the Ephors).

Ancient Greek law
Ancient Greek law consists of the laws and legal institutions of Ancient Greece.

Scholars in the discipline of comparative law have compared Greek law with both Roman law and with the primitive institutions of the Germanic nations. It may now be studied in its earlier stages in the laws of Gortyn; its influence may be traced in legal documents preserved in Egyptian papyri; and it may be recognized as a consistent whole in its ultimate relations to Roman law in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire.

The existence of certain general principles of law is implied by the custom of settling a difference between two Greek states, or between members of a single state, by resorting to external arbitration. The general unity of Greek law shows mainly in the laws of inheritance and adoption, in laws of commerce and contract, and in the publicity uniformly given to legal agreement.

No systematic collection of Greek laws has come down to us. Our knowledge of some of the earliest notions of the subject is derived from the Homeric poems. For the details of Attic law we have to depend on ex parte statements in the speeches of the Attic orators, and we are sometimes able to check those statements by the trustworthy, but often imperfect, aid of inscriptions. Incidental illustrations of the laws of Athens may be found in the Laws of Plato, who deals with the theory of the subject without exercising any influence on actual practice. The Laws of Plato are criticized in the Politics of Aristotle, who, besides discussing laws in their relation to constitutions, reviews the work of certain early Greek lawgivers. The treatise on the Constitution of Athens includes an account of the jurisdiction of the various public officials and of the machinery of the law courts, and thus enables us to dispense with the second-hand testimony of grammarians and scholiasts who derived their information from that treatise (see Constitution of Athens). The works of Theophrastus On the Laws, which included a recapitulation of the laws of various barbaric as well as Grecian states, are now represented by only a few fragments (Nos. 97-106, ed. Winner).

In general, historians consider that Athenian law was broadly procedural (i.e. concerned with the administration of justice) rather than substantive (i.e. concerned with rights, obligations, and offences). Athenian laws are typically written in the form "if someone does A, then B is to result", and are more concerned with the legal actions which should be undertaken by the prosecutor, rather than strictly defining which acts are prosecutable. Often, this would have resulted in juries having to decide whether the offence said to have been committed was in fact a violation of the law in question.

One of the earliest datable events in Athenian history is the creation of the Draconian law code, probably in 621-620 BC.We know little about Draco and his code, with his homicide law, which survived the Solonian reforms, being the best understood part of his code. It seems to have distinguished between premeditated and involuntary homicide, and provided for the reconciliation of the killer with the family of the dead man. The homicide law of Draco was still in force in the fourth century. Though the rest of Draco's code does not survive, it was by Athenian tradition thought to have been very harsh.

The Athenian law codes set forth by Draco were completely reformed by Solon, who was the archon for the year 594-593 BC. Solon's reforms included the cancellation of debts and reforms to land ownership, as well as the abolition of slavery for those who were born Athenian. However, attributing specific legal innovations and reforms to Solon and his successors is notoriously difficult because there was a tendency in ancient Athens "to ascribe laws to Solon irrespective of the date of enactment".

Ancient Greek courts were cheap and run by laypeople. Court officials were paid little, if anything, and most trials were completed in the same day, private cases even more quickly. There were no "professional" court officials, no lawyers, and no official judges. A normal case consisted of two litigants, one arguing that an unlawful act had been committed, and the other arguing either that it had not been unlawful, or that it had not happened. The jury would decide both whether the accused was guilty, and, in the case that they were, what the punishment should be. In Athenian courts, the jury tended to be made up of the mass of the common people, whereas litigants came mostly from the elites of society.

In the Athenian legal system, the courts have been seen as a system for settling disputes and resolving arguments, rather than enforcing "a coherent system of rules, rights and obligations". One court, the Prytaneion, was responsible for trying unknown people, animals, and inanimate objects for homicide, probably in order to ensure that Athens was free of blood-guilt for the crime.

The Athenian court system was dominated by men. The jury was all-male and as Simon Goldhill has argued, "The Athenian court seems to have been remarkably unwilling to allow any female presence in the civic space of the lawcourt itself".

Along with the official enforcement of the law in the courts, in Ancient Athens – and other Ancient Greek cities – justice and social cohesion were collectively enforced by society at large. Informal collective justice was often targeted at elite offenders.

In Ancient Athens, there were two types of lawsuit. Public prosecutions, or graphai, were heard by juries of 501 or more, increasing in increments of 500 jurors, while private suits, or dikai, were heard by 201 or 401 jurors, depending on the amount of money at stake.Juries were made up of men selected from a panel of 6,000 volunteers, who were selected annually and were required to be full citizens, aged over 30.[16] Juries were paid a small fee from the time of Pericles, which may have led to disproportionate numbers of poor and elderly citizens working on juries.

Michael Gagarin has argued that the "rhetorical and performative features" evident in surviving Classical Athenian law court speeches are evidence that Athenian trials were "essentially rhetorical struggles" which were "generally unconcerned with the strict applicability of the law". According to Gagarin, orators constructing stories played a much more significant role in Athenian court cases than those of the modern day, due to the lack of modern forensic and investigatory techniques which might provide other sources of evidence in the Athenian courtroom.

In the Athenian legal system, there were no professional lawyers, though well-known speechwriters such as Demosthenes composed speeches which were delivered by (or, as in the case of Against Leptines, on the behalf of) others. These speechwriters have been described as being "as near the function of a modern lawyer as the Athenian legal system would permit".

Byzantine law
Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with increased Christian influence. Most sources define Byzantine Law as the Roman legal traditions starting after the reign of Justinian I in the 6th century and ending with Fall of Constantinople in the 15th century.

Though during and after the European Renaissance Western legal practices were heavily influenced by Justinian's Code (the Corpus Juris Civilis) and Roman law during classical times, Byzantine Law nevertheless had substantial influence on Western traditions during the Middle Ages and after.

The most important work of Byzantine Law was the Ecloga, issued by Leo III, the first major Roman/Byzantine legal code issued in Greek rather than Latin. Soon after the Farmer's Law was established regulating legal standards outside the cities. While the Ecloga was influential throughout the Mediterranean (and Europe) because of the importance of Constantinople as a trading center, the Farmer's Law was a seminal influence on Slavic legal traditions including those of Russia.

Byzantine Law was effectively devolved into two spheres, Ecclesiastical Law and Secular Law.

Byzantium inherited its main political, cultural and social institutions from Rome. Similarly, Roman law constituted the basis for the Byzantine legal system. For many centuries, the two great codifications of Roman law, carried out by Theodosius II and Justinian respectively, were the cornerstones of Byzantine legislation. Of course, over the years these Roman codes were adjusted to the current circumstances, and then replaced by new codifications, written in Greek. However, the influence of Roman law persisted, and it is obvious in codifications, such as Basilika, which was based on Corpus Juris Civilis. In the 11th century, Michael Psellos prides himself for being acquainted with the Roman legal legacy ("Ἰταλῶν σοφία").

In accordance with the late Roman legal tradition, the main source of law (fons legum) in Byzantium remained the enactments of the emperors. The latter initiated some major codifications of the Roman law, but they also issued their own "new laws", the Novels ("Novellae", "Νεαραὶ"). In early Byzantine (late Roman) era the legislative interest of the emperors intensified, and laws were now regulating the main aspects of public, private, economic and social life. For example, Constantine I was the first to regulate divorce and Theodosius I intervened in faith issues, imposing a specific version of the Creed. From Diocletian to Theodosius I, namely during approximately 100 years, more than 2,000 laws were issued. Justinian alone promulgated approximately 600 laws. Gradually, the legislative enthusiasm receded, but still some of the laws of later emperors, such as Leo III's Novels, are of particular importance. Custom continued to play a limited role as a secondary source of law, but written legislation had a precedence.

There is no definitively established date for when the so-called Byzantine period of Roman history begins. During the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries the Empire was split and united administratively more than once. But it was during this period that Constantinople was first established and the East gained its own identity administratively; thus, it is often considered the early Byzantine period. Despite this, though, the legal developments during this period are typically considered part of Roman Law, as opposed to Byzantine Law, in part because legal documents during this period were still written in Latin. These developments, nevertheless, were key steps in the formation of Byzantine Law.

Soon after his accession in 518, Justinian appointed a commission to collect and codify existing Roman law. A second commission, headed by the jurist Tribonian, was appointed in 530 to select matter of permanent value from the works of the jurists, to edit it and to arrange it into 50 books. In 533 this commission produced the Digesta.

Although Law as practiced in Rome had grown up as a type of case law, this was not the "Roman Law" known to the Medieval, or modern world. Now Roman law claims to be based on abstract principles of justice that were made into actual rules of law by legislative authority of the emperor or the Roman people. These ideas were transmitted to the Middle Ages in the great codification of Roman law carried throughout by the emperor Justinian. The Corpus Iuris Civilis was issued in Latin in three parts: the Institutes, the Digest (Pandects), and the Code (Codex). It was the last major legal document written in Latin.

Three of the world's most widespread legal systems are Anglo-American common law, Sharia, and civil law based on the Corpus (in, for instance, most of Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, Scotland, Quebec and Louisiana).

Following Justinian's reign the Empire entered a period of rapid decline partially enabling the Arab conquests which would further weaken the Empire. Knowledge of Latin, which had been in decline since the fall of the West, virtually disappeared causing making many of the old legal codices almost inaccessible. These developments contributed to a dramatic weakening of legal standards in the Empire and a substantial drop in the standards of legal scholarship.Legal practice would become much more pragmatic and, as knowledge of Latin in the Empire waned, direct use of Justinian's "Corpus Juris Civilis" would be abandoned in favor of summaries, commentaries, and new compilations written in Greek.

The changes in the internal life of the empire which occurred in the years following the publication of Justinian's code called for a review of the legislation, so as for the requirements of the times should be met. Within the framework of the reforms Leo III the Isaurian, (the first Isaurian emperor), introduced, he provided also for the modification of current laws. In 726 he issued the "Ecloga", that bore his name as well as the name of his son Constantine. "Ecloga", referring to both the civil and criminal law, constituted, as was declared in the title a "rectification (of the Justinian legislation) towards a more philanthropic version". The membership of the editing committee is not known, but its primary mission, however, was, on the one hand, to modify those dispositions not in step with the times and, on the other, to provide judges with a concise legal handbook to help them dispense justice properly.

The dispositions of "Ecloga", influenced by the Christian spirit, as well as by the common law, protected and supported the institution of marriage, increased the rights of wives and legal children, and introduced the equality of all citizens before the law. On the other hand, the penalties of amputation and blindness were introduced, reflecting the Byzantine concept in this period of changes[citation needed]. By means of his "Ecloga" Leo addressed the judges also, inviting them "neither the poor to despise nor the ones unjust to let uncontrolled". Besides, in his effort to deter bribery in the execution of their duties he made their payment local and payable by the imperial treasury. "Ecloga" constituted the basic handbook of justice dispensation up to the days of the Macedonian emperors, that also assumed legislative activity, whereas later it influenced the ecclesiastic law of the Russian Orthodox Church. Formerly the researchers attributed the juridical collections "Farmer's Law", "Rhodian Sea Law" and "Military Laws" to Leo III the Isaurian. These views, however, are no longer valid.

With the exception of a few cities, and especially Constantinople, where other types of urban economic activities were also developed, Byzantine society remained at its heart agricultural. An important source regarding law, which reflects in a particularly characteristic way the internal life of the Byzantine villages during the Middle Byzantine Era (7th – end of 12th century) is the Nomos Georgikos, also known as the Lex Rustica or Farmer's Law. Due to its importance, the Farmer's Law roused the interest of researchers from a very early stage. Ever since it has been one of the most discussed texts concerning the internal history of Byzantium. It has been suggested that, because of the major influences caused by the influx of Slavs into the Empire at the time the Farmer's Law was established, Slavic traditions were in fact an important influence of the Farmer's Law, both in terms of why it was developed and its content.

It is a private collection, continuously enriched, and refers to specific cases relevant to rural property within the framework of the Byzantine rural "community". As evident by the dispositions of the "Law", peasants were organized in "communities" and collectively responsible for the payment of the total tax the "community" was liable for, being obliged to pay as well the amounts corresponding to indebted members of the community. As for the chronology of its writing, since the text itself bears no specific date, it is placed somewhere in between the second half of the 6th century and the middle of the 14th. Very early on, it was acknowledged as a legal handbook of great importance and greatly influenced much of the law of the Slavic countries and especially Serbia, Bulgaria and Russia.

Dating problems, similar to the ones of the "Farmer's Law", presents a code of equal character, the "Rhodian Sea Law" (Nomos Rhodion Nautikos). Written probably between 600 and 800, it is a collection of maritime law regulations divided into three parts. The first part refers to the ratification of the "Naval Law" by the Roman emperors. The second specifies the participation of the crew in maritime profits and the regulations valid on the ship, while the third and largest refers to maritime law, as for example to the apportionment of responsibility in case of theft or damage to the cargo or the ship. The "Naval Law" was included in the Basilika of Leo VI the Wise as a complement to book 53.

In accordance with the model of the secular legal associations, the canons of the ecclesiastic councils concerned ecclesiastic issues and regulated the conduct of the clergy, as well as of the secular as concerned matters of belief. The "In Trullo" or "Fifth-Sixth Council", known for its canons, was convened in the years of Justinian II (691-692) and occupied itself exclusively with matters of discipline. The aim of the synod was to cover the gaps left in canon law by the previous Fifth (553)and Sixth Ecumenical Councils.

This collection of canons was divided into four parts:

a) The canons ratifying the doctrinal decisions of the first six ecumenical councils along with the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

b) The canons specifying the obligations of the ministrational clergy.

c) The canons referring to the monks.

d) The canons referring to the secular. The influence of these canons carried on in the future and they were extensively annotated by Balsamon, Zonaras and Aristenos, the three great ecclesiastic jurists of the 12th century.

The following legal texts were prepared in the later Byzantine Empire:
The Prochiron of Basil the Macedonian, c. 870 or 872,[9] which invalidates parts of the Ecloga and restores Justinians Laws, as well as Hellenising arcane Latin expressions.
The Epanagoge (repetita proelectio legis),[8] also of Basil the Macedonian, together with his sons, a second edition of the Prochiron, c.879 - 886[8]
The Eisagoge of Photios, which includes novel law, c.880
The Basilicae (repurgatio veterum legum) or Basilics of Leo the Philosopher, together with his brother Alexander and Constantine VII, c.900[9] or 906-11, which attempts to synthesise 6th century commentaries and glosses on Justinians laws by headings, and remove contradictions. By the 11th century, the Basilics had replaced Justinian's laws as the primary source of Roman law. An abridged version, the Synopsis Basilicorum, was also prepared in the 10th century.
The Epitome Legum, later known as the Epitome ad Prochiron mutata, a synthesis of Justinian and the Epanagoge, c. 920-1
The Epanagoge aucta, a revision of the 9th century Epanagogue from c.11th century.
The Prochiron aucta, a revision of the 9th century Prochiron from c.13th century.
Other jurists (including at least one Emperor) prepared private collections of cases and commentaries,[8] but these did not form the body of law used by jurists at large. It is held that the 113 Novels of Leo the Wise fall into this category.

Lokin argues that while later legal texts tended to rearrange or explain the 6th century work of Justinian, rather than create new law, they did alter the locus of authority for law (legis vigor) from the Emperor to God. In Justinian's work, Mosaïc Law and God's authority support the Emperor, and are consultative, but do not temper his absolute authority. This process has already begun in the Ecloga, which states law is God-given by way of Isiah 8:20, and is made explicit first in the Prochiron. There was, however, 'legislative creep' over this period, where the redaction of old laws and case law created new laws in effect, although not explicitly cited as such.

During the early Middle Ages Roman/Byzantine Law played a major role throughout the Mediterranean region and much of Europe because of the economic and military importance of the Empire.

After the Islamic conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Islamic caliphates gradually codified their legal systems using Roman/Byzantine Law as an important model. It has been suggested in fact that it was the publication of the Ecloga that spurred the first major codification of Islamic imperial law.

Slavic legal traditions, including countries ranging from Bulgaria to Russia, were substantially influenced by the Farmer's Law. To a lesser extent the Ecloga and other Byzantine codices influenced these areas as well. During the 18th and 19th centuries, as Russia increased its contact with the West, Justinian's Code began to be studied thus bringing in this influence.

In Western Europe, following the fall of the Roman Empire, the influence of Roman/Byzantine law became more indirect though always significant during much of the Middle Ages. During the European Renaissance, Western scholars embraced Justinian's Code as a basis for jurisprudence, shunning many of the later legal developments of the Byzantine Empire such as the Ecloga. This was to a great extent affected by the East/West (Roman Catholic vs. Eastern Orthodox) split in the Church. The perception in the West was that Roman law that was recorded in Latin was truly Roman whereas later laws written in Greek was distinct and foreign.

Social structure
Only free, land owning, native-born men could be citizens entitled to the full protection of the law in a city-state (later Pericles introduced exceptions to the native-born restriction). In most city-states, unlike the situation in Rome, social prominence did not allow special rights. Sometimes families controlled public religious functions, but this ordinarily did not give any extra power in the government. In Athens, the population was divided into four social classes based on wealth. People could change classes if they made more money. In Sparta, all male citizens were given the title of equal if they finished their education. However, Spartan kings, who served as the city-state's dual military and religious leaders, came from two families.

Slaves had no power or status. They had the right to have a family and own property, subject to their master's goodwill and permission, but they had no political rights. By 600 BC chattel slavery had spread in Greece. By the 5th century BC slaves made up one-third of the total population in some city-states. Between forty and eighty per cent of the population of Classical Athens were slaves. Slaves outside of Sparta almost never revolted because they were made up of too many nationalities and were too scattered to organize. However, unlike Western culture, the Ancient Greeks did not think in terms of race.

Most families owned slaves as household servants and laborers, and even poor families might have owned a few slaves. Owners were not allowed to beat or kill their slaves. Owners often promised to free slaves in the future to encourage slaves to work hard. Unlike in Rome, freedmen did not become citizens. Instead, they were mixed into the population of metics, which included people from foreign countries or other city-states who were officially allowed to live in the state.

City-states legally owned slaves. These public slaves had a larger measure of independence than slaves owned by families, living on their own and performing specialized tasks. In Athens, public slaves were trained to look out for counterfeit coinage, while temple slaves acted as servants of the temple's deity and Scythian slaves were employed in Athens as a police force corralling citizens to political functions.

Sparta had a special type of slaves called helots. Helots were Messenians enslaved during the Messenian Wars by the state and assigned to families where they were forced to stay. Helots raised food and did household chores so that women could concentrate on raising strong children while men could devote their time to training as hoplites. Their masters treated them harshly (every Spartiate male had to kill a helot as a rite of passage), and helots often resorted to slave rebellions.

For most of Greek history, education was private, except in Sparta. During the Hellenistic period, some city-states established public schools. Only wealthy families could afford a teacher. Boys learned how to read, write and quote literature. They also learned to sing and play one musical instrument and were trained as athletes for military service. They studied not for a job but to become an effective citizen. Girls also learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic so they could manage the household. They almost never received education after childhood.

Boys went to school at the age of seven, or went to the barracks, if they lived in Sparta. The three types of teachings were: grammatistes for arithmetic, kitharistes for music and dancing, and Paedotribae for sports.

Boys from wealthy families attending the private school lessons were taken care of by a paidagogos, a household slave selected for this task who accompanied the boy during the day. Classes were held in teachers' private houses and included reading, writing, mathematics, singing, and playing the lyre and flute. When the boy became 12 years old the schooling started to include sports such as wrestling, running, and throwing discus and javelin. In Athens some older youths attended academy for the finer disciplines such as culture, sciences, music, and the arts. The schooling ended at age 18, followed by military training in the army usually for one or two years.

A small number of boys continued their education after childhood, as in the Spartan agoge. A crucial part of a wealthy teenager's education was a mentorship with an elder, which in a few places and times may have included pederastic love. The teenager learned by watching his mentor talking about politics in the agora, helping him perform his public duties, exercising with him in the gymnasium and attending symposia with him. The richest students continued their education by studying with famous teachers. Some of Athens' greatest such schools included the Lyceum (the so-called Peripatetic school founded by Aristotle of Stageira) and the Platonic Academy (founded by Plato of Athens). The education system of the wealthy ancient Greeks is also called Paideia

At its economic height, in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, ancient Greece was the most advanced economy in the world. According to some economic historians, it was one of the most advanced preindustrial economies. This is demonstrated by the average daily wage of the Greek worker which was, in terms of wheat, about 12 kg. This was more than 3 times the average daily wage of an Egyptian worker during the Roman period, about 3.75 kg

At least in the Archaic Period, the fragmentary nature of ancient Greece, with many competing city-states, increased the frequency of conflict but conversely limited the scale of warfare. Unable to maintain professional armies, the city-states relied on their own citizens to fight. This inevitably reduced the potential duration of campaigns, as citizens would need to return to their own professions (especially in the case of, for example, farmers). Campaigns would therefore often be restricted to summer. When battles occurred, they were usually set piece and intended to be decisive. Casualties were slight compared to later battles, rarely amounting to more than 5% of the losing side, but the slain often included the most prominent citizens and generals who led from the front.

The scale and scope of warfare in ancient Greece changed dramatically as a result of the Greco-Persian Wars. To fight the enormous armies of the Achaemenid Empire was effectively beyond the capabilities of a single city-state. The eventual triumph of the Greeks was achieved by alliances of city-states (the exact composition changing over time), allowing the pooling of resources and division of labor. Although alliances between city-states occurred before this time, nothing on this scale had been seen before. The rise of Athens and Sparta as pre-eminent powers during this conflict led directly to the Peloponnesian War, which saw further development of the nature of warfare, strategy and tactics. Fought between leagues of cities dominated by Athens and Sparta, the increased manpower and financial resources increased the scale, and allowed the diversification of warfare. Set-piece battles during the Peloponnesian war proved indecisive and instead there was increased reliance on attritionary strategies, naval battle and blockades and sieges. These changes greatly increased the number of casualties and the disruption of Greek society. Athens owned one of the largest war fleets in ancient Greece. It had over 200 triremes each powered by 170 oarsmen who were seated in 3 rows on each side of the ship. The city could afford such a large fleet-it had over 34,000 oars men-because it owned a lot of silver mines that were worked by slaves.

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