Early Greek Law

Early Greek Law

Early Greek Law

Early Greek Law


Drawing on the evidence of anthropology as well as ancient literature and inscriptions, Gagarin examines the emergence of law in Greece from the 8th through the 6th centuries B.C., that is, from the oral culture of Homer and Hesiod to the written enactment of codes of law in most major cities.


The following study owes more than I can express to the help and guidance of others. I have tried to acknowledge their published work in my notes, though I have frequently, I am sure, failed to cite every source for an idea. The bibliography contains only those items referred to in the notes, although numerous other works not cited, especially of legal history and anthropology, have influenced my thinking.

The work was read in an earlier version by Eric Havelock, Martin Ostwald, and Ronald Stroud. Alan Boegehold and Douglas MacDowell read the book for the University of California Press and made a number of helpful suggestions. At the final stage Mogens Hansen gave the work an extensive and thoughtful critique. I am grateful to all these scholars for their helpful advice and criticism. The work benefited greatly from two careful readings by Dr. Mark Damen, whose assigned task was to check the accuracy of citations, Greek quotations, and so forth, but who also helped me clarify both my writing and my thinking at numerous points. I also thank the staff of the University of California Press, especially Doris Kretschmer and Mary Lamprech, for their friendly and helpful treatment of the work.

The main work on this book was completed during 1980—81, while I held a Research Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies supplemented by a grant from the University Research Institute of the University of Texas. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of these grants, without which I could never have undertaken a project such as this.

Finally, I dedicate the book to my son, Daniel, whose infant presence during that year not only provided a refreshing contrast to the rarefied atmosphere of my library study, but also inspired me to frequent reflection on the nature of human beings and the need for order in human society.

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