How Were Magistrates Chosen in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the magistrates were individuals appointed to serve as public officials and carry out various administrative duties. These magistrates were selected through a rigorous process that aimed to ensure impartiality and fairness in the administration of justice.

The Selection Process

The selection process for magistrates varied from city-state to city-state, but it typically involved a combination of appointment and election. In most cases, the magistrates were chosen by lot, which meant that they were selected randomly from a pool of eligible candidates.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the position of magistrate, an individual had to meet certain criteria. Firstly, they had to be a citizen of the city-state in which they wished to serve.

Secondly, they had to be male and over 30 years old. Thirdly, they could not have any outstanding debts or criminal convictions.

Term Limits

Magistrates served for a limited term, usually one year. After their term ended, they could not be re-elected for at least ten years. This helped to prevent corruption and abuse of power.

Duties of Magistrates

The duties of magistrates varied depending on their specific role and the needs of their city-state. Some common duties included:

  • Holding court sessions and presiding over trials
  • Enforcing laws and regulations
  • Collecting taxes
  • Maintaining public order
  • Supervising public works projects
  • Overseeing religious festivals and ceremonies

The Importance of Impartiality

One of the most important aspects of the selection process for magistrates was ensuring impartiality. This was achieved through a number of measures:

  • Selection by lot: as mentioned earlier, magistrates were chosen randomly to prevent any bias or favoritism.
  • Rotation: magistrates were typically not allowed to serve in the same position for more than one year, which prevented them from becoming too powerful or entrenched in their role.
  • Public scrutiny: magistrates were subject to public scrutiny and could be held accountable for any abuses of power or corruption.


In summary, the selection of magistrates in ancient Greece was a complex process that aimed to ensure impartiality and fairness. By selecting individuals through a combination of appointment and election, and by imposing strict eligibility criteria and term limits, the ancient Greeks sought to prevent corruption and abuse of power. The role of magistrates was crucial in maintaining order and administering justice in the city-states, and their legacy can still be seen today in modern legal systems around the world.