How Did Ancient Greece Make Laws?

In ancient Greece, the process of making laws was a crucial part of their democratic society. Let’s take a closer look at how the ancient Greeks approached the creation and implementation of their laws.

The Role of Law in Ancient Greece

Law played a central role in ancient Greek society, ensuring order, justice, and stability. The Greeks believed that laws should be fair and just, serving the interests of all citizens. They also believed in the rule of law, meaning that even the most powerful individuals were subject to the same laws as everyone else.

The Assembly: A Democratic Process

The creation of laws in ancient Greece involved various steps to ensure democratic decision-making. The primary institution responsible for making laws was the Assembly. This assembly consisted of all adult male citizens who had the right to participate in debates and vote on proposed legislation.

Proposals and Debates

Proposals for new laws could be suggested by any citizen who wished to introduce changes or address specific issues within their community or city-state. These proposals were presented during assembly meetings, where they were subject to debates and discussions.

Citizens had the opportunity to express their opinions on proposed laws through speeches and open debates. This open discourse allowed for multiple perspectives to be heard before reaching a final decision.

Voting Process

Once all opinions had been aired, a vote was taken. Voting was typically done by a show of hands or by using stones or pebbles (each voter would cast either a white stone for approval or a black stone for rejection).

If a majority voted in favor of a proposed law, it would then proceed to further stages before becoming officially enacted. However, if a majority voted against it, the proposal would be rejected.

The Role of Lawmakers

Lawmakers, known as nomothetai, were responsible for drafting and refining the laws proposed by citizens. These lawmakers were elected or chosen by lot from among the citizens and had the important task of converting proposals into formal laws that could be enforced.

Reviewing and Implementing Laws

The Council of 500, another significant institution in ancient Greece, played a crucial role in reviewing and implementing laws. This council consisted of representatives from different city-states who were responsible for overseeing legislation to ensure its conformity with existing laws and principles.

The courts were also involved in interpreting and enforcing laws. Judges, chosen from among the citizens, heard cases brought before them and made decisions based on existing legal frameworks.

The Evolution of Greek Law

Over time, Greek law evolved to become more comprehensive and sophisticated. The most famous collection of Greek laws is known as the Hammurabi Code. This code consisted of several statutes covering various aspects of life, including property rights, inheritance, trade regulations, criminal offenses, and family matters.

Influence on Modern Legal Systems

The legal system of ancient Greece has had a significant influence on modern legal systems worldwide. Many concepts such as equality before the law, due process, and open democratic decision-making originated from ancient Greece.

  • Ancient Greeks believed in equality before the law.
  • Their legal process included open debates and discussions.
  • Voting was an integral part of their democratic decision-making process.
  • Courts played a crucial role in interpreting and enforcing laws.


Ancient Greece had a well-developed system for making laws that emphasized democratic decision-making, citizen participation, and equality before the law. The process involved proposals, debates, voting, and the involvement of lawmakers and courts. The influence of ancient Greek legal principles can still be seen in modern legal systems today.