How Did the Justice System Work in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the justice system played a crucial role in maintaining law and order within society. Let’s explore how this system worked and how it differed from modern legal systems.

The Role of Laws

In Ancient Greece, laws were an essential part of society. They were created to ensure fairness, maintain social order, and protect the rights of individuals. The laws were established by the city-states, which had their own independent legal systems.


The lawmakers in Ancient Greece were responsible for creating and amending laws. They were typically elected officials who represented the interests of the citizens. The most famous example of a lawmaker is Solon, who introduced significant reforms to Athenian law in the 6th century BCE.

Trial Process


If someone believed that a crime had been committed, they could file an accusation against the alleged wrongdoer. However, unlike modern legal systems where prosecutors play an active role, in Ancient Greece, it was up to the individual filing the accusation to present their case.


Before a trial could take place, both parties would present their arguments to a magistrate or archon (a high-ranking official). The magistrate would then decide whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial.

Jury Selection:

If a trial did proceed, jurors would be selected from among eligible citizens. The number of jurors varied depending on the city-state and the severity of the crime. In Athens, for example, there could be as many as 6,000 jurors for major cases.

The Trial:

Evidence and Witnesses:

During the trial, both the accuser and the accused would present their evidence and call witnesses to support their claims. The witnesses would be questioned by both parties and the jurors.

Oral Arguments:

After the presentation of evidence, both the accuser and the accused would have an opportunity to make their oral arguments. They would try to persuade the jurors of their version of events and convince them of their innocence or guilt.

Jury Deliberation:

Once all the evidence had been presented, the jurors would deliberate in private. They would discuss the case and reach a verdict based on majority rule. In some cases, if a jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, a second vote might be taken.



The most common form of punishment in Ancient Greece was a monetary fine. The amount of the fine varied depending on factors such as the severity of the crime and the financial status of the guilty party.


In some cases, individuals found guilty were sentenced to exile. This meant they were banished from their city-state for a specified period or sometimes permanently.

Death Penalty:

In extreme cases, particularly for crimes such as murder or treason, the death penalty could be imposed. The method of execution varied but often included methods like public stoning or poisoning.

In Conclusion

The justice system in Ancient Greece had its own unique characteristics that set it apart from modern legal systems. While there are similarities in terms of establishing laws and conducting trials, Ancient Greek justice relied heavily on citizen participation and lacked professional prosecutors. Nevertheless, it served as a foundation for the development of legal systems throughout history.