Public Records and Archives in Classical Athens

By James P. Sickinger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

Documents and Records in the Sixth Century

Solon's promulgation of a large body of written laws leads naturally to a consideration of what other types of documents Athenian officials were using at the start of the sixth century. But if our sources offer few definitive answers about the nature and contents of Solon's legislation, they have even less to say about other official uses of writing in his day. One example will illustrate the difficulties. According to Diodorus, a historian of the first century B.C., one of Solon's laws was borrowed from an Egyptian law that required individuals to list to the authorities the sources of their income. The verb used by Diodorus to describe this list, apographesthai, was the same verb used by the Athenians to describe written lists and inventories drawn up for submission in a variety of legal proceedings in the fifth and fourth centuries. If Diodorus is reproducing the precise wording of a Solonian law, we would have good evidence that Solon's legislation actually required a further use of writing. Herodotus, however, writing centuries before Diodorus and only a century or so after Solon, seems to refer to the same law but uses two different verbs, apophainein and apodeiknynai, to denote the property statement made by citizens. These verbs mean simply "to show” or "to point out, ” and neither necessitates a use of writing. Thus, even if we accept that the Solonian law cited by Herodotus and Diodorus is authentic, that law may have required only that citizens declare orally, perhaps in the presence of witnesses, the sources of their livelihood. We certainly cannot exclude the possibility that Solon's laws included provisions encouraging or requiring the use of written documents by Athenian citizens and magistrates. But our sources for his work are too incomplete to pursue the question any further. 1

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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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