Did They Have Court in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the concept of a judicial system was quite different from what we have today. While they did not have courts in the modern sense, they did have a system in place to resolve legal disputes and ensure justice.

Legal System in Ancient Greece

The legal system in Ancient Greece was based on the principles of democracy and citizen participation. The Athenian city-state, in particular, is known for its pioneering legal system that laid the foundation for modern legal systems.

Juries and Popular Courts

One of the key features of the legal system in Ancient Greece was the use of juries. In Athens, juries were made up of citizens who volunteered to serve as jurors. These citizens were selected by lot and had to be over 30 years old.

The juries played a crucial role in deciding cases and ensuring justice. They listened to arguments presented by both parties and then voted on a verdict. These juries were not bound by any specific laws or rules but relied on their own judgement and common sense.

Magistrates and Arbitration

In addition to juries, there were magistrates who held administrative positions in the legal system. These magistrates were responsible for overseeing cases, maintaining order, and ensuring that trials were conducted fairly.

Arbitration was another method used to resolve disputes in Ancient Greece. Arbitrators were chosen by both parties involved in a dispute to act as neutral third parties. Their role was to listen to both sides and make a binding decision based on their judgment.

The Process of Justice

In Ancient Greece, justice was seen as a collective responsibility of all citizens.

The process began with an individual filing a complaint or accusation against another person. The accused could either accept the charge and propose a penalty or deny the accusation and proceed to trial.

The trial itself was a public affair, held in front of an assembly of citizens.

Evidence and Witnesses

Evidence played a crucial role in the Ancient Greek legal system. Both parties were expected to present evidence to support their claims. This could include witness testimonies, physical evidence, or other forms of proof.

Witnesses were called upon to testify under oath, and their credibility was carefully evaluated by the jury.

Penalties and Punishments

If found guilty, the accused would face penalties or punishments deemed appropriate by the jury. These punishments ranged from fines and public humiliation to exile or even death in severe cases.


In conclusion, while Ancient Greece did not have courts in the modern sense, they had a well-developed legal system based on citizen participation, juries, arbitration, and magistrates. The emphasis on justice and collective decision-making set the foundation for our modern legal systems.