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The law courts in classical Athensmarker (4th and 5th centuries BC) were a fundamental organ of democratic governance. According to Aristotle, whoever controls the courts, controls the state.

These courts were jury courts and very large ones: the smallest possible had 200 members (+1 to avoid ties) and then 500, 1000 or 1500. The annual pool of jurors, whose official name was Heliaia comprised 6000 members. At least on one known occasion the whole six thousand sat together to judge a single case (plenary session of Heliaia). This was very different from Romemarker's laws which was a republic and therefore representatives were voted for (from Jung Min Lee). The jurors were chosen randomly by lot, which meant that juries would consist, in theory, of a wide range of members from all walks of life. Jurors were chosen on an annual basis, as were all other offices within the state (with the exception of the generals, known as strategoi).After the reforms of Solon in 594/3 BC, anyone from each of the four classes (the pentacosiomedimni, hippeis, zeugites and thetes) could become a juror, which made the system much fairer to the poorer members of society, who had previously been discriminated against by the elitist aristocrats.

The magistrates who convened the courts had a purely administrative function and gave no legal direction or advice to the jurors: there was no judge but the jurors themselves.

From the time of Pericles onwards, jury pay was introduced of two obols a day, which, despite not being a substantial amount of money, was enough to encourage even the poorest to become a juror. This was later increased to three obols a day.


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