Law, violence, and community in classical Athens


Law, violence, and community in classical Athens

David Cohen

(Key themes in ancient history)

Cambridge University Press, 1995

  • : hard
  • : pbk

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Bibliography: p. 199-211

Includes index



The theme of this book is the legal regulation of violence and the role of litigation in Athenian society. Using comparative anthropological and historical perspectives, David Cohen challenges traditional evolutionary and functionalist accounts of the development of legal process. Examining Athenian theories of social conflict and the rule of law, as well as actual litigation involving the regulation of violence, he emphasises the way in which the judicial process operates in an agonistic social field. This perspective illuminates the social dimensions of litigation and the legal regulation of violence, and helps to explain otherwise puzzling features of Athenian litigation.


  • Preface
  • Part I. The Realm of Theory: 1. Law and order
  • 2. Theorising Athenian society: the problem of stability
  • 3. Theorising Athenian society: the rule of law
  • Part II. The Realm of the Courts: 4. Rhetoric, litigation and the values of an agonistic society
  • 5. Litigation as feud
  • 6. Violence and litigation
  • 7. Hubris and the legal regulation of sexual violence
  • 8. Litigation and the family
  • Conclusion: litigation, democracy and the courts
  • Bibliographical essay
  • Bibliography
  • Index.

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