How Did Trials Work in Ancient Greece?

Trials were an essential part of the legal system in ancient Greece. The Greeks believed in the idea of justice and fairness, which they considered as a crucial aspect of their society.

Trials were conducted to resolve disputes and conflicts between individuals or groups. The legal system of ancient Greece was quite different from what we have today, and it involved several stages.

Types of Trials

There were two types of trials in ancient Greece – public and private. Public trials were conducted for serious crimes like homicide, theft, and treason, while private trials were held for civil disputes such as property rights or inheritance issues.


The judges responsible for conducting the trials were selected from the citizens’ pool by lot. These judges had to be above 30 years of age and had to be free-born Athenians. In some cases, a panel of up to 500 judges could be selected for a trial.

Legal Procedure

The legal procedure in ancient Greece began with the plaintiff filing a complaint with the archon (a government official). The archon would then review the complaint and decide whether it was worth pursuing further. If he found it valid, he would appoint a magistrate to oversee the trial.

The magistrate would then select a jury from among the citizens’ pool by lot. Once the jury was selected, both parties would present their case before them. The plaintiff would start by making an opening statement followed by witnesses’ testimonies.

Afterward, the defendant would present their defense along with any evidence they had. Once both sides had presented their cases, the jurors would deliberate among themselves privately before announcing their verdict.


In case someone was found guilty in a trial, there were several penalties that could be handed out depending on the severity of the crime. These ranged from fines to imprisonment or even exile from Athens.


Trials in ancient Greece were an essential aspect of their legal system. They were conducted to ensure justice and fairness in society.

The process involved selecting judges from among the citizens’ pool, selecting a jury by lot, and presenting cases before them. The penalties for guilty verdicts ranged from fines to imprisonment or exile.