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Transferts culturels et droits dans le monde grec et hellénistique

Bernard Legras

Transferts culturels et construction des droits durant l’époque archaïque et classique

The laws of Crete

Michael Gagarin

Texte intégral

1The island of Crete is well known for the many laws that were inscribed on stone in the archaic and classical periods. The most famous of these – the Gortyn Law Code – is unique among Greek inscriptions in its size and breadth of subjects, but we also have many other laws from Gortyn, as well as one or more laws from this period from eight other cities in Crete. These laws raise two questions with regard to cultural influence: first, in view of the close resemblance between the Gortyn Code and the large collections of laws known from the ancient Near East, was the Gortynian lawgiver influenced directly or indirectly by knowledge of these Near-Eastern codes? Second, can we trace any influence from the laws of one Cretan city to another during this period?

  • 1 The strongest proponent of Near-Eastern influence on Greek law in general is Mühl 1933; Westbrook h (...)

2The question of possible Near-Eastern influence on Cretan legislation has interested scholars ever since the two main texts – the Gortyn Code and the Laws of Hammurabi – were discovered more than a century ago. Even though no specific provision is precisely the same in these two collections, there is considerable overlap in subject matter (borh treat family law extensively) and some scholars have seen a similarity in fundamental juridical principles, such as the concept of the lex talionis1 But probably the strongest reason why scholars have argued for Near-Eastern influence is simply the existence of large-scale codes or collections of inscribed laws in the Near East that are certainly older than the Gortyn Code. Since there are no other Greek Codes of similar size and scope, and since the idea for such a collection must have come from somewhere – so the argument goes – and since some Near-Eastern influence, specifically Phoenician, is clear in archaic Cretan art and perhaps in the use of the verb poinikazein to refer to “writing” it is easy to conclude that the Gortynian legislator took at least the idea of inscribing a large collection of laws together in one place from the Near East.

  • 2 The issues are discussed in Gagarin 2008: 148-51, with reference to earlier works; note esp. Westbr (...)
  • 3 See Gagarin 2006.

3Although this argument has a certain degree of plausibility, it ignores at least two crucial factors: first, the substantial difference in nature and purpose between Gortynian and other Greek laws and the Near-Eastern collections, and second, the long history of earlier legislation at Gortyn. On the first point, although there is still some disagreement among scholars of Near-Eastern law, the majority have concluded that, unlike Greek laws, the laws of Elammurabi are not true legislation meant to be applied to real judicial proceedings, but rather an academic text meant to illustrate the justice of the lawgiver.2 This is an oversimplification, but even those who think Hammurabi’s laws were used in actual litigation must acknowledge that at least one purpose of this great inscription, as is made explicit in the Prologue and Epilogue to the text, was to promote the image of Hammurabi as the Just King. The contrast with the Gortyn Code, with its one-word introduction thioi (“gods”), its unnamed legislator or legislators, and its practical orientation (as evidenced, for example, in its many procedural regulations)3 could not be clearer. If this anonymous Gortynian legislator did somehow see or hear about Hammurabi’s laws or one of the other Near-Eastern codes, then he put the idea of inscribing a collection of laws to very different use.

4Just as important as these and other differences between laws in the two areas, however, is that the author of the Gortyn Code had no need to look beyond his own city for the idea of inscribing together a large collection of laws on different topics. The Gortynians began to inscribe laws on stone for display in public around 600 BCE, some 150 years before the Code was inscribed. The earliest laws were inscribed on the walls of the temple of Apollo Pythion, either singly or in groups of several together. These early laws were written in rows that were often quite long and sometimes even turned back again in the manner called boustrophedon – back and forth as the ox plows. This method of inscribing laws was maintained throughout the sixth century, but in the early fifth century, although the boustrophedon method of writing became standard, the overall layout and display of the laws changed in two important ways. First, laws were no longer inscribed on the walls of the Pythion, but in the agora, some distance away, on free-standing blocks or walls. Second, in the fifth century the lines of writing became shorter and the texts began to be shaped into narrower columns.

5Among the fifth-century laws from Gortyn (ICIV.41-140), fourteen in addition to the Code show at least two columns of text (41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 52, 53, 54, 73, 75, 77, 90). Of these multi-column inscriptions, 77 shows traces of three columns, four partial columns of text survive on 75, and in 41, the so-called Little Code, parts of seven columns of text survive, and originally there must have been at least one more column on either side, for a total of at least nine columns (and of course there may have been more). About seventeen lines of text currently survives in each of the columns of 41, and it is a reasonable guess that about the same amount of text is missing above these lines. If this is the case, then the Little Code originally had about one-half as much text as the Great Code, perhaps more.

6All this means that within the context of inscribed legislation at Gortyn, the Great Code is not in fact unique, but is rather the culmination of a process of inscribing laws that had been developing at Gortyn over the course of 150 years from single laws to larger and larger groups of laws. Thus, there is no need to look beyond the legislative history of Gortyn itself in order to account for this extraordinary piece of legislation. Writing a collection of laws on different subjects in a multi-column inscription was the natural result of a long process of development of legislation at Gortyn, not the result of external influence.

  • 4 For two recent views on the unity of Greek law, see Gagarin 2005, Thür 2006.
  • 5 Perlman 2005 argues that this picture of a unified Cretan constitution, which is best known from Pl (...)

7The second question, whether the legislation of one Cretan city influenced that of another, is more complex. In a sense, it amounts to asking whether one can speak of “Cretan Law” as a unity in any useful sense – a question resembling the long debated question about the unity of Greek Law.4 For Crete, however, we have the additional consideration that beginning in the fourth century the Greeks themselves present a picture of Crete as having a single set of political and social institutions.5 Thus we might expect to find many similarities among the laws of different cities in Crete, which would indicate borrowing among these cities. As we will see, however, the laws do not bear out this expectation.

  • 6 For references see Perlman 2005: 325 n. 7; no early kosmos is attested for Phaistos, but only one e (...)

8The collapse of Minoan civilization in Crete at the end of the Bronze Age left many small communities scattered around the island. During the Sub-Mycenean and Protogeometric periods these communities seem to have lived in fairly primitive conditions and despite their shared common heritage, there is little evidence of contact among them. Thus, during the eighth and seventh centuries, as some of these communities began to expand their influence over their neighbors and later began to write laws, they developed their own customs and institutions, despite their common background. As a result, we find both similarities and differences in the institutions of different cities. For example, the position of kosmos is attested as the chief magistrate in nine of the ten cities from which we have legal inscriptions from the seventh to the fifth century,6 but almost all the other magistrates in the archaic and classical inscriptions are known from only one city. This suggests that the kosmos as leading magistrate may be a common Cretan heritage, but that the rest of the administrative structures of these communities, including the names for the various offices, evolved independently from one another.

9If we now turn to early legislation, setting it against this overall background of diversity within a common heritage, we may begin by observing that the historical development we discussed above of writing in columns at Gortyn is not found anywhere else in Crete. What we do find in other Cretan cities are steles inscribed on two sides – three from Axos (IC II.5.10, 12, SEG 23.565), two from Lyktos (ICI.18.3, SEG 35.991), and one from Eleutherna (SEG41.740). We do not, however, find any such steles among the 140 inscriptions from the archaic and classical period at Gortyn. Using two sides of the stele is a perfectly natural development, as is writing in columns at Gortyn, and so each city apparently developed the technique on its own, though it is also possible that the cities with two-sided steles influenced one another in this respect (Axos and Eleutherna are located quite close to one another, though Lyktos is some distance away from both). In any case, Gortyn went its separate way.

  • 7 For the dates of these and other inscriptions I rely primarily on Jeffery 1990.

10More suggestive of influence are some similarities in content. The most obvious case of similarity are the laws from Dreros and Gortyn prohibiting someone from holding a specific office twice in succession. The Dreros law is generally agreed to be the oldest surviving Greek law, dating from the seventh century.7

1. ← ἆδ 'Ƒαδε | πόλι | ἐπεί κα κοσμήσει, | δέκα Ƒετίον | τòν -

2. → Ƒτòν | μὴ κόσμεν | αἰ δὲ κοσμησίε | ὁπε δικαχκσίε, | Ƒτòν ὀπῆλεν | διπλεῖ | κἀƑτόν

3. ← ἄκρηστον | ἦμεν | ἆς δόοι | κὄτι κοσμησίε | μηδέν | μην. vacat

4. ← X ὀμόται δὲ | κόσμος | κοἰ δάμιοι | κοἰ ἴκατι | οἰ τᾶς πόλιος. vacat

  • 8 SEG 27.620 (ML 2, Nomima 1.81, IGT90, Bile 1988: 29-30, no. 2). I omit the possible invocation (thi (...)

The polis has decided: when someone has been kosmos, within ten years the same person is not to be kosmos again. But if he does become kosmos, whenever he gives judgment, he himself will owe a fine of twice the amount, and he is to be without rights as long as he lives, and whatever he does as kosmos shall be void. And oath-swearers (are) the kosmos and the damioi and the twenty of the polis”.8

11Sometime in the sixth century, a similar provision was inscribed at Gortyn as part of a longer text with several different rules concerning magistrates. The final provision of this law reads as follows:

  • 9 ICIV 14. p-g2 (Nomima 1.82, IGT 121).

τρι[ô]ṿ Ƒετίον τòν Ƒτòν μὴοσμεν, | δέκα μὲν γνόμονας, | πέντε̣ [δὲ κσ]ενίος | vacat
“The same person is not to be kosmos again for three years, the gnomones for ten years, and the foreigners’ magistrate for five years”.9

12Both these laws impose an interval – ten years in the former, three years in the latter – between the periods in which one person can be kosmos. Is the similarity the result of direct influence or are the two laws separate developments? Or should we think of some sort of indirect or partial influence?

  • 10 The Dreros law begins with an enactment provision obviously marking the beginning and there is a lo (...)
  • 11 The overall theme of ICIV. 14 may have been rules concerning officials.

13Clearly the Gortyn law, which scholars unanimously date later than the Dreros law, is not an exact copy. The time period is significantly different in the two laws; in the Gortyn law time periods of different lengths are imposed on two other positions, the gnomones and the xenios, that are not mentioned at Dreros (or anywhere else); and the Gortyn law does not specify any consequences for violating its restrictions or say anything about oath-swearers. Both laws are complete,10 but the Dreros law stands alone and would thus have stood out in a way that the Gortyn law, which comes at the end of two long rows of provisions on other subjects, would not.11

14On the other hand, even if the Gortyn law is not an exact copy, the fact that, as far as we know, no other archaic Greek city imposed a similar restriction on any of their magistrates suggests that the Gortyn law may not have been a completely independent development. It is possible, then, perhaps even likely, that the Gortynian legislator took the idea of prohibiting successive terms in office for certain magistrates from Dreros. He may have actually seen the Dreros law. But even if he was influenced, he then wrote his own law, preserving the main idea of the Dreros law but otherwise writing new provisions.

15Besides this example, can we find other signs of influence among the laws of different cities in Crete? A search through the laws from all the Cretan poleis during this period turns up surprisingly little. The only subject on which we can be certain that laws were written by more than one city is sacrifice, which is the subject of laws from Dreros, Gortyn, and Axos. I begin with the laws from Dreros and Gortyn, because they are the most similar.

16First Dreros (Bile 1988: 31, no. 8):

1 [---] ἐν τε Πυτίοι | πεν[τ---]
2 [
---] ἐν Άγ[ο]ραίοι | μήρος Ρ̣ [---]

[---] in the Pythion five? [---] in (the) Agoraion thighs [---]”

17Now Gortyn (IC IV.3):

1a-d-- ἰα]ρὰ | τετελημέ[να - c. 6-] υι | τõι [F]ελκα̣νίι --]αι |
ἐν τᾶι πένπτα[ι--
a-d --]ν | τέληον | καὶ αἶγα | ṿ [τᾶι -- ] ὄιṿ θήλε[ι]α̣ν | τõι
Ἀπ[έλλονι -- ]ε [ ·]ς | ταƑῦρος | ἐσ · [ --
a-c -- τᾶιΉραι | ὄις | θή[λ]ε[ια | τᾶι Δάμ]ατρι | ὄις | ἐπίτεκ[ς --
a-c -- αἰ μὲν δύο | θήλει[αι, οἰ δὲ δύ]ο ἔρσενες | καὶ τρ[άγος --

1 “(These) sacred rites have been performed... in the month Welkanios... on the fifth day
2... a grown (bull?) and a goat on (the? day?), a female sheep to Apollo... a bull
3.... to Hera a female sheep, to Demeter a ewe about to give birth
4.... the two females and the two males and a goat (?)”.

18Despite their fragmentary nature, it is clear that both inscriptions are part of a list of sacrifices. Two differences are evident: first, the Dreros law speaks of “thighs” whereas the Gortyn law names several different animals but no parts of animals; second, the Dreros law names the places where the sacrifices are to take place – the temples of Apollo Pythion and Zeus Agoraios (both designated by the god’s epithet not his name) – whereas the Gortyn law names the gods to whom each sacrifice is to be made – Apollo, Hera, Demeter. It is possible, of course, that if both inscriptions were complete, they might appear more similar (or they might not); but it is clear from even this small amount of text that the later Gortyn law could not have been copied directly from the Dreros law.

  • 12 A typical entry in a sacrificial calendar includes the month, the recipient, and the type of victi (...)

19As with the laws on iteration of office-holding, however, indirect influence is not impossible: a Gortynian might have seen the Dreros text and then returned to Gortyn with the idea of writing up a list of Gortynian sacrifices. But this seems less likely in the case of these sacrifice laws. Unlike laws imposing an interval between the terms of certain magistrates, lists of sacrifices are common in the Greek world, and the Gortyn text is typical of such lists elsewhere.12 Moreover, we have a later inscription about sacrifices at Gortyn (IC IV.65) which is the same as ICIV.3 in the two aspects I have noted – naming animals (a cow and sheep) but not parts of animals, and naming the gods (Zeus and Helios in this case), not the places of sacrifice. The Dreros law, on the other hand, is anomalous in these two respects, and thus is less likely to have influenced the Gortyn law, which follows the typical format. It is likely, therefore, that the Gortynians drew up their list of sacrifices independently.

  • 13 IC II.5.9. The stone was lost in the nineteenth century and so we can only guess at a date, but it (...)

20The other archaic law relating to sacrifices comes from Axos and is quite different from the two we have been considering:13

ον ἀποδόμεν η[ --
συνγνοίη αὐτός, τοῖς δ' ἰαροῦσ-
ι, τι κα πέρονται πὰρ τὰ ἠγ-
ραμένα, αἰ μ τις αὐτòς δοίη μ-
ύπ' ἀνάνκας, τιτουƑέσθο σ- 5

τατῆρα κατὰν θυσίαν Ƒεκάστ-
αν καὶ τõ κρίος τὰν διπλεία-
ν πορτιπονε͂ν δ' αἶπερ τõν ἄλ-
ον. αἰ δ' κοσμίον μὴ ἀποδοίη τ-
ἐπιβάλοντα Ƒίσανς τιτου- 10

Ƒέσθο. κατὰ τὰ αὐτά τοῖς
Κυδαντείοις διδόμεν τρίτο-
ι Ƒέτει τὰν βολὰν ἰς τὰ θύ-
ματα δυόδεκα στατῆρανς.

1 “pay back
2-9... (if) he himself should agree. As for the priests, whatever they carry off contrary to what is written, unless someone himself should give (it to them?) willingly, let him pay a fine of one stater for each sacrifice and twice the value of meat. One shall bring a charge against (him) in the same way as for the others (offenses?).
9-11 If the kosmos does not give back what is owed, he shall pay equal.
11-14 In the same way, the Council shall give twelve staters for the sacrifices for the Kydanteia (?) every third year”.

  • 14 One law from Gortyn that records sacrifices (IC IV.65) does mention a priest, and so it is possible (...)

21The fact that the first provision that survives from this law speaks of acting “contrary to what is written” implies that the law began with rules about how much meat priests could take from a sacrifice and then (lines 2-9) prescribes fines for violating these rules. The law also prescribes that the Council (Boule) should pay for sacrifices (11-14). Neither of these issues – a priest’s share of the sacrifice or payment by the Boule – is included in the Dreros and Gortyn laws we just considered.14 Thus, it appears that each of these Cretan cities – Gortyn, Dreros, and Axos – wrote a different kind of rule concerning sacrifices; and the likelihood that one of these cities influenced another appears small.

  • 15 ICIV.63 (Nomima 1.59).

22Another possible area of influence is in rules about agricultural produce, where we have two fragmentary texts, both dating to the late sixth or early fifth century. The first is from Gortyn:15

]νανα · · πέρεν εκορμιοκεσλυ[· · ·]α[--

τᾶ]γ [κρι]θᾶν μεδίμνονς δυόδεκα [--

κ]ατὰ τõ Γορτυνίο κατὰ δὲ τõ Λεβενα[ίο] ὀ̣ γ[--
ιο[··] τõι Λεβεναίοι καρτερòς μαῖτ[υς--
]ρτον κατ' ἀμέραν πέντε στατε͂ραν[ς] αἰ [-- 5

to carry
twelve medimnoi of barley
[the Lebenian] against the Gortynian and against the Lebenian [the Gortynian]
for the Lebenian the witness [is to (?)] prevail
bread (?), five staters per day if...” 5

23Compare this to the following text from Eleutherna (ICII.12.13):

δε]κ̣α(?): [με]δίμνος: κριθ[ᾶν --
π̣[έ]ντε στατῆρας: ὀπὴλ[εν --
καρπõ: τὰν διπλοίαν ὀπήλε[ν]. αί δ[έ κα --
μ]αιτυραμένο: πέροι παρόντο: δ[--
δέ]κα μεδίμνος ἀποτίνεν -- 5
μμον δ' αἰ νικαθείη: καταδ[ικ --
τν καρπòν κατ' γέγραπτ[αι --

ten? medimnoi of barley
he shall owe five staters
he shall owe twice (the value of?) the produce. But if
(If) when the object testified to is present --- he carries away (?)
he shall pay ten? Medimnoi 5
but if he should be defeated, let (the judge?) condemn (him)
the produce in accordance with what is written”

24In the Gortyn text, the expressions “twelve medimnoi of barley” in line 2 and “five staters” in line 5 are quite certain. The Eleutherna text, however, is more difficult: “five staters” in line 2 is clear, and lines 1 and 5 give a certain number of medimnoi, which is specified as barley in line 1. As for the number, [de]ka (“ten”) seems an obvious restoration at the beginning of lines 1 and 5, but this could just as easily be duodeka (“twelve”). Thus these two inscriptions may or may not have shared two expressions. But even if they did, “five staters” and “twelve medimnoi of barley” are common expressions, and the texts do not appear to have anything else in common. Thus, it may be more likely that the repetition of these two expressions is a coincidence and not a result of influence one way or the other.

  • 16 SEG 32.908; Nomima II.39; first published by Di vita and Cantarella 1978.

25Even more tenuous is the suggested connection between a sixth-century inscription from Phaistos16 and the section on adoption in the Gortyn Code (10.33-11.23).

Ƒ]εῖπαι ἐν ἀγορ[ᾶι --
μα αἰ λείοι σ --
τὰ δὲ ματρõ[ια-
δια]κατιόνς σ[τατερανς --
αλ μὴ διδο[ι -- 5
ς ἀναιρέ[σται --

speak in the agora
if he wishes
maternal property
two hundred (?) staters
should not give 5
is to receive”

  • 17 This is the sense in Homer and very likely also in its one other occurrence in the Code (9.37-38). (...)
  • 18 IC IV.21 mentions an adopted son and also paternal property. Inheritance is also the subject of IC (...)

26Van Effenterre and Ruzé restore the first word in line 1 as ἀποƑ]εῖπαι; they refer to a passage in the Gortyn Code allowing someone to renounce an adoption in the agora: ἀποƑειπάθθο κατ' ἀγοράν (11.11-12). In addition, the verb ἀναιρέω (“receive” line 6) is used five times in the Code in connection with receiving an inheritance, including twice in the section on adoption; and ματρõ[ια (“maternal property” line 3) is used several times in the Code and elsewhere at Gortyn, though not in the section on adoption. All of this is suggestive, but highly speculative. The first word could be simply weipai (“speak”), or some compound of this verb, such as proweipai (“announce beforehand”); and even if apoweipai is correctly restored, this word may also mean “speak out, declare”.17 It is certainly possible that this text from Phaistos concerns inheritance, and perhaps even adoption, but even if van Effenterre and Ruzé’s initial supplement is correct, it is highly unlikely that this text influenced the provisions of the Code. Early fragments show that Gortyn was already writing its own legislation on both inheritance and adoption in the sixth century,18 and these earlier laws were undoubtedly the largest influence on the later Code.

27We have now considered four subjects that are addressed by laws from different Cretan cities – intervals between holding office, sacrifices, agricultural produce, and inheritance – and despite some similarities, in none of the four areas is direct influence from one city to another likely. Cretan cities wrote their own laws; they did not copy texts from another city. They may have been influenced in general by legislation from other cities, but even indirect influence finds little support in the inscriptions. Indeed, apart from the few similarities discussed above, the archaic and classical laws in one city have no parallel in the laws of any other city. There may, of course, have been more similarities than we see today, but enough legislation survives that if there was a significant amount of direct influence among the laws of different Cretan cities, we would see clearer evidence of this in the texts that have survived. Instead, we find completely different laws from different cities.

  • 19 SEG 41.739; 45.1236; Nomima II.98.

28Two of these laws, both from cities other than Gortyn, are particularly interesting; neither has a counterpart at Gortyn. The first is from Eleutherna:19

μὴ ἰνπίνεν ά[--
μὲ<ν> δρομέα <>σ-
ς Δῖον Ἄκρον σ-
πίνεν. vacat 5
ἰαρέα δὲ μή αἰ δ'
ἰαρόƑƑοι τõι θ-
ιõι αιμ[..]Ι τεκν-
] Ƒστεν ἀρκαῖ-
ον ἐστι σστι[ς] 10

1-5 “Drunkenness is prohibited,... [but] a dromeus (adult) at Dios Akron may drink until intoxicated in the company of his comrades, vacat
6-10 But a priest may not. If someone offers a sacrifice to the god for whom it is not traditional to do so...”

  • 20 In line 4 we can read en andrèioi pi–·, the third word may be pinen.
  • 21 In both texts other letters are visible immediately before the simple verb.

29No other text from this period mentions drunkenness. An early law from Gortyn (ICIV.4.4) may speak of “drinking in the andreion20 and a later text (ICIV.62.9) has the word pinen (“drink”) by itself; but neither text mentions drunkenness, and the compound verb for being drunk, inpinen (Attic empinein), cannot be restored in either text.21 This text from Eleutherna is without parallel in Crete.

  • 22 ICI. 10.2; Nomima II.80; IGT94.

30So too is an archaic text from Eltynia:22

]ι[.]o | αἰ δέ κα | κηρὶ | τροόσει | ἀποτ[ει]σεῖ | πέντε | δαρκν[άς]·| αἰ
δέ κὴ ῤινòς | αἶμα ῤυῆι --
τοῖς Ἐλτυνιοῦσι· | αἴ κ' ἄρκσει μάκας | άποτεισεῖ | δέκα δαρκνὰς |
πε κ' ἄρκσε[ι --
ἀμερᾶν | ἆι κ' ἀνƑείπηι | ὔστερον δὲ μή · | κόσμον δέ πράδεν | τὰν ἐς
πόλιν | τιμὰν | ὄτερος --
τòν Ƒερημένον | Ƒòv Ƒειπόν | αἰ δέ κ' ἀλεκσόμενος π[α]ίηι | ἄνατον
μεν | τõι ἀλεκσο[μένοι --
τιμ]ὰν | κατιστάμεν | τõν τρōōσ[άν]τōν. | [αἰ] δέ κ' ἀνὴρ | τòν πηΐσκον
παίηι | μὴ --
τον | ἢν ἀνδρηίōι | ἢν ἀγ[έ]λα[ι] | συν[β]ολήτραι | πὶ κορõι |
πὶ [.]νηο[…..] | η --
αί δέ Ќ ἀγέ[λ]α[ος] | τòν πηῒσκον | ὀνη[δῆι] ᾔγραται | αἰ ἐς καιρòν
κόσμος | [ι]γνόσκεν | ὄμνυντας | τòν ἐπὶ πόλεος | τòν τ'ἀν[ --
τρō]ō[σ]ηι | ἀποτεισεῖ | [πέ]ντε δαρκνὰς | [πε ν]ίν κα παίσεν | α[] και[ --
10 ]
ι | παίσει ἀποτει[σ]εῖ | [πέ]ντε δαρκνάς | θά[κι]ς [κα π]αίσε[ι] | η[--
ς | πέντε δαρκνὰς | [δō]σε[]· | αἰ δὲ | ό παθòν | πανσα[--

If someone injures (another) with his hand, he shall pay five drachmas.
If blood flows from the nose...
[Gods! The following pleased] the Eltyneis. If someone begins a fight
he shall pay ten drachmas at the place where the fight began...
[if] he lodges his complaint within [x-number] of days, but otherwise not. The kosmos shall exact the fine that is the city’s, whichever...
he declared that the one accused was his own (?). If someone strikes an other in self-defense he will not be liable for damages...
5 pay the fine of those who wounded. But if a man strikes the child, not... or in the andreion, or in the agela, or in the symboletra, or at the chores, or...
If an agelaos (does something to?) the paiskos as is written, if it be in time...
the kosmoi having sworn an oath shall decide, the one for the city, and the one...
wounds, he shall pay five drachmas where he struck him? If...
10 or strikes, he shall pay five drachmas whenever he strikes him... he shall give five drachmas. But if the victim”.

31The law lists fines and other regulations concerning fighting, wounding, and assault. The provisions concerning starting a fight and self-defense are somewhat similar to provisions in Athenian law, but nothing at all like this is known from any other Cretan city. One text at Gortyn (ICIV.41, col. 6) addresses the situation “if someone wrongs (adikesei) an indentured man” and the same expression is used in ICIV.47 of wronging an indentured slave. In both cases “doing wrong” could, of course, include striking or wounding (though many other offenses must also be included). But both of these Gortyn laws are concerned with the procedure to be followed if a wrong is done, an issue not mentioned in the Eltynia text, and none of the specific provisions at Eltynia is found in the Gortyn texts.

  • 23 Maffi 1997: 446.
  • 24 Chaniotis 2005.

32As I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, historians and philosophers beginning with Plato and Aristotle, drew a picture of classical Cretan cities as having common laws and institutions. This brief survey of possible similarities among the surviving laws of Cretan cities tends to confirm the view of some scholars that, as Alberto Maffi has stated it, “le témoignage des historiens n’est pas confirmé par les inscriptions”.23 This conclusion has been challenged recently by Chaniotis,24 but most of the evidence he cites comes from the third century and later, and even in this later period, some of his arguments are questionable. But whatever happened later, in the archaic and classical periods, the inscriptions indicate that each Cretan city wrote its own legislation with very little influence, if any, from other cities on the island.

  • 25 Gagarin 2008: 146 n. 5.
  • 26 For expressions for “law” in archaic Greek law, see Gagarin 2008: 91. Reference to a law as “what i (...)

33This does not mean that the cities of Crete existed in complete isolation. As noted above, they shared a common Bronze-Age heritage, and some contact among cites is evident in the material record from the archaic and classical periods. Such contact probably accounts for one common feature of Cretan legislation that I have not yet mentioned – the use of expressions with the verb grapho (“write”), especially (but not only) the perfect passive participle, to designate a legal text or law (ta egrammena, ta gegrammena). Common forms of this expression are found in three of the inscriptions cited above: “contrary to what is written” in the text from Axos on sacrifice, “in accordance with what is written” in the text from Eleutherna on agricultural produce, and “as is written” in the text from Eltynia on wounding. Similar expressions occur in two inscriptions from Lyktos (IC I.18.4, 6) and in many inscriptions at Gortyn, including thirty-four times in the Code.25 Such expressions are not unknown in archaic laws from other parts of Greece, but the fact that they are so common in Crete, together with the fact that none of the other archaic expressions for “law” occur in Crete,26 may suggest that Cretan cities, which seem to have written more early laws than most other Greek cities, shared certain common ways of thinking about law, even if they developed the content of their legislation independently of one another.



Bile 1988: Bile M., Le dialecte crétois ancien. Étude de la langue des inscriptions. Recueil des inscriptions postérieures aux IC Paris, 1988 (Études Cretoises, 27).

Chaniotis 2005: Chaniotis A., «The Great Inscription, its Political and Social Institutions and the Common Institutions of the Cretans», in E. Greco and M. Lombardo (ed.), La Grande Iscrizione di Gortyna, centoventi anni dopo la scoperta. Atti del I Convegno Internazionale di Studi sulla Messarà (Atene-Haghii Deka, 25-28 maggio 2004), Athens, 2005, p. 175-194.

Di Vita and Cantarella 1978: Di Vita A. and Cantarella E., «Iscrizione arcaica giuridica da Festòs», Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene, 56 (1978), p. 429-435.

Gagarin 2005: Gagarin M., «The Unity of Greek Law», in M. Gagarin and D. Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Law, Cambridge, 2005, p. 29-40.

Gagarin 2006: Gagarin M., «Inscribing Laws in Greece and the Near East», in H.-A. Rupprecht (ed.), Symposion 2003. Vorträge zur griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte (Rauischholzhausen, 30 sept.-3 oct. 2003), Vienna, 2006, p. 9-20.

Gagarin 2008: Gagarin M., Writing Greek Law, Cambridge, 2008.

IC = Guarducci M., Inscriptiones Creticae, 4 vol., Rome, 1935-1950.

IGT = Koerner R., Inschriftliche Gesetzestexte der frühen griechischen Polis, Köln, 1993.

Jeffery 1990: Jeffery L. H., The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece: a Study of the Origin of the Greek Alphabet and its Development from the eighth to the fifth Centuries B.C., rev. ed. with a supplement by A. W. Johnston, Oxford, 1990 (previous ed. 1961).

Link 2003: Link S., «Kosmoi, Startoi und Iterationsverbote: Zum Kampf um das Amt des Kosmos auf Kreta», Dike, 6 (2003), p. 139-149.

Lupu 2005: Lupu E., Greek Sacred Law: A Collection of New Documents, Leiden, 2005.

Maffi 1997: Maffi A., «Droit et épigraphie dans la Grèce archaïque», Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 75 (1997), p. 435-446.

Mühl 1933: Mühl M., Untersuchungen zur altorientalischen und althellenischen Gesetzgebung, Leipzig, 1933.

Nomima = Van Effenterre H. and Ruzé F., Nomima. Recueil d'inscriptions politiques et juridiques de l'archaïsme grec, 2 vol., Rome-Paris, 1994-1995.

Perlman 2002: Perlman P, «Gortyn. The First Seven Hundred Years (Part II): The Laws from the Temple of Apollo Pythios», in T. Heine Nielsen (ed.), Even More Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis, Stuttgart, 2002 (Papers of the Copenhagen Polis Centre, 6; Historia Einzelschriften, 162), p. 187-227.

Perlman 2005: Perlman R, «Imagining Crete», in Μ. H. Hansen (ed.), The Imaginary Polis, Copenhagen, 2005 (Acts of the Copenhagen Polis Centre, 7), p. 282-334.

SEG = Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, Leiden, Amsterdam, 1923–

Thür 2006: Thür G., «Die Einheit des ‘Griechischen Rechts’ Gedanken zum Prozessrecht in den griechischen Poleis», Dike, 9 (2006), p. 23-62.

Westbrook 1988: Westbrook R., «The Nature and Origins of the Twelve Tables», Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte. Römische Abteilung, 105 (1988), p. 74-121.

Westbrook 1989: Westbrook R., «Cuneiform Law Codes and the Origins of Legislation», Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vordasiatische Archäologie, 79 (1989), p. 201-222.


1 The strongest proponent of Near-Eastern influence on Greek law in general is Mühl 1933; Westbrook has also made this argument frequently and has even attributed the Roman laws of the Twelve lables to Near-Eastern influence (Westbrook 1988).

2 The issues are discussed in Gagarin 2008: 148-51, with reference to earlier works; note esp. Westbrook 1989 on the significance of retroactivity for Greek but not Near-Eastern laws.

3 See Gagarin 2006.

4 For two recent views on the unity of Greek law, see Gagarin 2005, Thür 2006.

5 Perlman 2005 argues that this picture of a unified Cretan constitution, which is best known from Plato’s Laws and Aristotle’s Politics, originated in the Spartan tradition that their social and political institutions were derived from Crete.

6 For references see Perlman 2005: 325 n. 7; no early kosmos is attested for Phaistos, but only one early inscription from this city has been published. Perlman warns that the fact that officials in different cities had the same name does not mean they had the same function. Moreover, there may have been significant differences among these communities in the number of kosmoi, the length of their term in office, their method of selection, etc. See further Perlman 2002: 207-11, Link 2003.

7 For the dates of these and other inscriptions I rely primarily on Jeffery 1990.

8 SEG 27.620 (ML 2, Nomima 1.81, IGT90, Bile 1988: 29-30, no. 2). I omit the possible invocation (thiosoloion) squeezed between lines 1 and 2.

9 ICIV 14. p-g2 (Nomima 1.82, IGT 121).

10 The Dreros law begins with an enactment provision obviously marking the beginning and there is a long empty space after the last word. The Gortyn law follows a provision that imposed a fine of a number of cauldrons on someone, but the fact that it begins with asyndeton indicates that it was considered a separate provision; it too is followed by an empty space marking the end.

11 The overall theme of ICIV. 14 may have been rules concerning officials.

12 A typical entry in a sacrificial calendar includes the month, the recipient, and the type of victim to be offered; the date within the month may or may not be indicated” (Lupu 2005: 65).

13 IC II.5.9. The stone was lost in the nineteenth century and so we can only guess at a date, but it is clearly early.

14 One law from Gortyn that records sacrifices (IC IV.65) does mention a priest, and so it is possible that it may have prescribed what part of the sacrifice he was entitled to. But even if it did contain such a regulation, the rest of the text is a list of sacrifices similar to IC IV.3 (discussed above) – nothing like the Axos law.

15 ICIV.63 (Nomima 1.59).

16 SEG 32.908; Nomima II.39; first published by Di vita and Cantarella 1978.

17 This is the sense in Homer and very likely also in its one other occurrence in the Code (9.37-38). In ICIV.73.4 it apparently means “refuse” or “deny permission”.

18 IC IV.21 mentions an adopted son and also paternal property. Inheritance is also the subject of IC IV.20.

19 SEG 41.739; 45.1236; Nomima II.98.

20 In line 4 we can read en andrèioi pi–·, the third word may be pinen.

21 In both texts other letters are visible immediately before the simple verb.

22 ICI. 10.2; Nomima II.80; IGT94.

23 Maffi 1997: 446.

24 Chaniotis 2005.

25 Gagarin 2008: 146 n. 5.

26 For expressions for “law” in archaic Greek law, see Gagarin 2008: 91. Reference to a law as “what is written” is almost certainly not part of the Cretans’ Minoan heritage, since to our knowledge no laws were written in the Bronze Age.

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