What Was the Court System in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the court system played a crucial role in maintaining law and order. The judicial system was characterized by a unique blend of democracy and justice that set it apart from other ancient civilizations. Let’s delve deeper into how the court system in Ancient Greece worked.

The Types of Courts in Ancient Greece

There were two main types of courts in Ancient Greece: Civil Courts and Criminal Courts. Civil Courts dealt with private disputes between individuals, while Criminal Courts were responsible for investigating crimes against the state.

The Athenian Court System

The Athenian court system was one of the most democratic judicial systems in Ancient Greece. The jurors were selected from a pool of male citizens who were over 30 years old. The number of jurors varied depending on the severity of the case, but usually ranged from 201 to 501.

The cases were presented before the jury, and both parties had an opportunity to present their arguments. The jurors then voted on a verdict, which was determined by a simple majority.

The Spartan Court System

The Spartan court system was less democratic than that of Athens. In Sparta, there were five ephors who acted as judges and presided over all cases. These ephors were appointed by the Spartan Assembly, which consisted of all Spartan citizens.

The ephors heard cases brought before them and made decisions based on their interpretation of Spartan law. Unlike Athens, there was no jury system in Sparta.

Legal Procedures in Ancient Greece

In both Athens and Sparta, legal procedures followed strict guidelines. Before a case could be heard, both parties had to submit written statements outlining their arguments to the court.

During the trial itself, both parties had an opportunity to present their evidence and argue their case before the judges or jury. Witnesses could be called upon to testify, and evidence such as documents or physical objects could be presented.

The Role of Punishment in Ancient Greece

Punishment in Ancient Greece was often severe and could include fines, imprisonment, or even death. In Athens, the severity of the punishment was based on the severity of the crime committed. The death penalty was reserved for crimes such as murder or treason.

In Sparta, punishment was also severe. Crimes such as theft or disobedience were punished with flogging, while serious crimes such as murder were punished by execution.


The court system in Ancient Greece played a crucial role in maintaining law and order. While there were some differences between the two major city-states of Athens and Sparta, both systems were characterized by a commitment to justice and democracy. Today, we can see echoes of this ancient legal system in modern legal systems around the world.