Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens

By James P. Sickinger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

Thesmothetai, Drakon, and Solon

The origins of public record keeping at Athens are obscure. Some Athenians were familiar with the newly created Greek alphabet by the middle of the eighth century, and from that time the number of examples of Attic writing on pottery, stone, and other materials increases markedly. Conspicuously absent, however, from the corpus of early inscriptions are any texts that might be characterized as documentary in character; financial records, official lists, legislative texts are not represented. The earliest Athenian laws or decrees on stone date from the late sixth century and take the form of regulations concerning the Eleusinian Mysteries and a decree of the Athenian dēmos concerning settlers on Salamis. But even then the quantity of official texts remains small until around 450, at which time the Athenians began to inscribe decrees, financial records, and other state documents on stone with greater frequency. 1

In the absence of contemporary epigraphical material we are forced to reconstruct the early development of public writing at Athens from literary sources of later date. These suggest that writing was first introduced into the official life of the city to record laws. Traditions of the classical period spoke of two early lawgivers, Drakon and Solon, who were responsible for Athens' earliest written laws. Drakon lived in the late seventh century, and his laws originally covered many subjects. Later generations knew them for their severity, but only his laws on homicide remained in force into the classical period. Solon was active about a generation after Drakon. He repealed all of Drakon's laws, except for those on homicide, and issued new ones touching on many areas of public and private life. The Athenians often referred to laws of Drakon and Solon, which they believed provided the foundation of the laws still used by them in the fifth and fourth centuries.

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Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in the History of Greece and Rome *
  • Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Introduction *
  • Chapter One - Thesmothetai, Drakon, and Solon *
  • Chapter Two - Documents and Records in the Sixth Century *
  • Chapter Three - Records and Archives in the Fifth Century *
  • Chapter Four - The Athenian Law Code and the Foundation of the Metroon *
  • Chapter Five - The Archives in the Metroon *
  • Chapter Six - Personnel and Organization *
  • Chapter Seven - Consultation *
  • Conclusion *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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