The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens examines how the Athenians attempted to enforce and apply the law when judging disputes in court. Recent scholarship has paid considerable attention to the practice and execution of Greek law. However, much of this work has left several flawed assumptions unchallenged, such as that Athenian law was primarily concerned with procedure; that the main task of enforcement lay in the hands of private citizens; that the Athenians used the courts not to uphold the law but to pursue personal feuds; and that the Athenian courts rendered ad hoc judgments and paid little attention to the letter of the law. Drawing on modern legal theory, the author examines the nature of "open texture" in Athenian law and reveals that the Athenians were much more sophisticated in their approach to law than many modern scholars have assumed, and thus breaks considerable new ground in the field. At the same time, the book studies the weaknesses of the Athenian legal system and how they contributed to Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War. By reexamining the available evidence, Edward Harris provides a much needed corrective to long-held views and places the Athenian administration of justice in its broad political and social context.
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