What Were the Laws in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece is known for its rich history and culture, and one of the most interesting aspects of this civilization is its legal system. The laws in ancient Greece were quite different from what we have today, but they were highly influential in shaping the modern legal systems that we have today. In this article, we will explore what the laws in ancient Greece were like.

The Origins of Greek Law

The origins of Greek law can be traced back to the 8th century BCE when written laws first started to appear. These laws were created by individual city-states and were designed to govern various aspects of life such as property rights, marriage, and crime.

Solon’s Reforms

One of the most significant legal reforms in ancient Greece was introduced by Solon in Athens during the 6th century BCE. Solon created a set of laws that aimed to reduce social inequality by limiting the power of aristocrats and creating a more democratic society.

Some of Solon’s reforms included canceling debts, freeing people who had been sold into slavery due to debt, and allowing all male citizens to participate in government regardless of their wealth or social status.

The Athenian Legal System

The Athenian legal system was one of the most sophisticated in ancient Greece. It was made up of several different courts that dealt with different types of cases. For example, there was a court for civil cases, a court for criminal cases, and a court for appeals.

The Athenian legal system also recognized the right to a fair trial. Defendants were given the opportunity to defend themselves against any accusations made against them and were allowed to call witnesses on their behalf.

Penalties for Crimes

Penalties for crimes varied depending on the severity of the offense and the city-state where it occurred. In Athens, some common penalties included fines, imprisonment, and even death.

One of the most famous legal cases in ancient Greece was the trial of Socrates, who was accused of corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods. Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock.


The laws in ancient Greece were complex and varied depending on the city-state where they were created. However, they were highly influential in shaping modern legal systems around the world.

From Solon’s reforms to the Athenian legal system, ancient Greece left a lasting legacy on how we govern ourselves today. Understanding the laws of this civilization gives us a glimpse into their values and beliefs, which continue to shape our world today.