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Popular attitudes to judicial activity in the age of Aristophanes

Crichton, Angus Julian Dewar; (1997) Popular attitudes to judicial activity in the age of Aristophanes. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The aim of the thesis is to understand popular attitudes in Athens to judicial activity in the late fifth and early fourth centuries, the period in which Aristophanes wrote and performed his plays. Within the Aristophanic world, characters are frequently portrayed as engaging in litigation and jury service. Moreover, this portrayal of judicial activity is decidedly ambivalent, with the comic hero often fleeing from judicial activity into a fantastical paradise within which judicial activity is consciously banished. And yet as the play continues, judicial activity often resurfaces within the fantastical paradise. These on-stage images of judicial activity are compared with portraits which litigants paint of themselves and their opponents in the Attic Orators. Litigants characteristically present themselves as inexperienced and reluctant to engage in judicial activity, while portraying their opponents as experienced to the point of sycophancy. Yet the same litigant who professes judicial reticence may in reality be a seasoned veteran of the jury courts. On the basis of evidence from the theatre and the court room, I argue that the pursuit of judicial activity is governed by an ideology of judicial reticence. On the other hand, most Athenians were in reality engaged in judicial activity on account of the democratic judicial system, which required citizens to serve as jurors and act as voluntary prosecutors. A hypothesis is advanced to explain this tension between the ideology of judicial reticence and the reality of judicial practice and its implications for our understanding of Athenian law. This tension is exacerbated by four factors specific to the late fifth century. Firstly, the central role given to the democratic judicial system in the administration of the democracy and the Athenian empire was a relative novelty in the late fifth century. Secondly it was perceived that those with access to rhetorical resources could utilise rhetoric to manipulate justice in the jury courts. Thirdly, it is possible to identify a debate on the democratic judicial system both on-stage and beyond the theatre. Fourthly, in the period 415-403, the jury courts were utilised by parties on both sides of the ideological divide to destroy their opponents. These concerns about judicial activity finally overflowed into specific programmes of judicial reform in the last decade of the fifth century. These four factors fuelled and intensified concerns about judicial activity in the age of Aristophanes.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Popular attitudes to judicial activity in the age of Aristophanes
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098848
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