Monday, March 12, 2012


Mark Sundahl, David Mirhady, Ilias Arnaoutoglou, A New Working Bibliography of Ancient Greek Law (7th-4th centuries BC). Yearbook of the Research Centre for the History of Greek Law, volume 42. Supplement, 11. Athens: Academy of Athens, 2011. Pp. 657. ISBN 9789604041985.

Reviewed by Judith Fletcher, Wilfrid Laurier University (

Version at BMCR home site

Sundahl, Mark, David Mirhady and Ilias Arnaoutoglou. A New Working Bibliography of Ancient Greek Law (7th-4th centuries BC). Yearbook of the Research Centre for the History of Greek Law, volume 42. Supplement, 11. Athens: Academy of Athens, 2011. 657 p. (pb). ISBN 9789604041985

Reviewed by Judith Fletcher, Wilfrid Laurier University (

This volume is the child of the online and ongoing bibliography project NOMOI, created by the same triumvirate of scholars, and currently hosted by Simon Fraser University, where it is updated twice yearly. The intent of both the electronic and paper bibliographies is to collect and catalogue scholarship on ancient Greek law between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE; this version is, however, more than a printout of the web site. The bibliographers have used the opportunity to re-edit, and re- categorize their material in a volume that is a boon to any scholar working on the topic of Greek law or ancient Greek legal history: expansive and multi-limbed topics that grow increasingly more sophisticated with each passing year.

As the introduction explains, the project took its inspiration and impetus from G. Calhoun and Delamere's 1927 bibliography (cited only as Calhoun in the introduction, but correctly in the bibliography itself). The introduction (given both in English and Greek) sets out the parameters and rationale of the project. I advise consulting this brief introduction first, since it not only explains the logic behind the different categories, but also defines and defends the limits of the bibliography. For example, researchers will not find articles on different aspects of law in Hellenistic Egypt, but we are directed to sources that will provide useful material.

In the interests of concision, companions and edited volumes cited more than once are given in abbreviated forms listed at the beginning of the volume. There are a few omissions from this directory, which can lead to a bit of confusion. For example, we find articles from (2005) The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Law, ed. M. Gagarin and D. Cohen, cited simply as The Cambridge Companion at various points, but the full citation is missing from the list of abbreviations. Nonetheless such lapses are rare, and problems can usually be resolved by an online search. They certainly do not compromise the value of this useful tool.

The aim of the bibliographers is to collect articles and books "in as many languages as we have access to" (p. 30). The results are impressively comprehensive, and welcomingly accessible for specialists and non-specialists (especially if they consult the organizing principles laid out in the introduction). Material is set forth according to different topic headings, and the entire catalogue is presented again alphabetically by author in the second half of the volume. Modern Greek titles are transliterated into the Latin alphabet; titles of some foreign language articles (e.g. Serbian) are translated into English. The same material may be cited more than once under different headings, which adds to the utility of the volume. Occasionally the notation of page numbers is inconsistent: e.g., Saripolos, N.I. (1860) is Solon 1, 3 ff., while most entries give inclusive pages. This is a quibble, but it makes ordering arcane material through inter-library loan a bit more challenging.

The first section deals with source material on Greek legal history, and includes general sourcebooks on Greek law, material on the orators, references to legal issues in literature, philosophy and historiography. Researchers in the ever-burgeoning Law and Literature movement will be grateful for the inclusion of material on poetry and drama, although perhaps Rogers, R.S. (1985) "The Wasps in court: Argument and audience in the Athenian dicasteries," American Journal of Legal History 28: 147-163, should be listed under the Aristophanes heading (with the full page span, rather than 147ff.), in addition to its appearance in "Legal redress" (p. 341).

Section II is a comprehensive list of auxiliary material including methodological and interdisciplinary approaches to Greek law. This is an excellent departure point for students and scholars in the preliminary phases of research. Section III sets out the resources for "Fundamental Principles." This includes articles on legal thought (e.g., the rule of law), litigation, codification, the different lawgivers, the relationship between law and justice, and legal terminology (e.g. nomos, psephisma).

Section IV is devoted to the Polis (or public law), and lists scholarship on constitutions, magistrates, legislation, and finance. Section V, entitled "Individuals, status, and law," comprises entries on different legal aspects of identity including age (e.g., ephebes), status (e.g., metics, slaves and freedmen), and women. The latter category is especially welcome in light of the temporary curatorial hiatus of the website Diotima: Women and Gender in the Ancient World. Researchers on issues of women and law will find further resources in Section VI, "Family and inheritance," which includes sub-headings on marriage, divorce, illegitimacy, and the epicleros (or brotherless heiress).

Section VII covers "Contractual and property relations," and Section VIII "Trade and commerce." Section IX, "Crime and punishment," includes sub-divisions on homicide, hybris (criminal violence), and theft, as well as penalties. This is followed logically by Section X, "Legal redress," which covers arbitration, the Areopagus, regular procedures (dikai and graphai), extraordinary procedures (e.g. antidosis),famous trials, personel (sic) and equipment, proofs, torture (the basanos), and witnesses.

Section XI deals with "Law and religion." Material on suppliants and the law (which might deserve its own sub- heading) are listed in the general list at the beginning of the section. Otherwise, the sub-headings are: Asebeia (impiety), Asylia (inviolability), Defixiones (curses), and Leges sacrae (sacred laws). The final section (XII) is "Inter-poleis relations" which includes diplomacy, international arbitration, and treaties.

In conclusion, this bibliography is a superb research tool, thanks to its comprehensive scope – no archival stone seems to have been unturned – its logical organization and attempts to avoid ambiguity. I recommend it as a resource for anyone researching or teaching ancient Greek law, social history (including women and the family), or even ancient Greek history in general. It deserves a spot in every serious research library.

1 comment:

  1. The printing in dead-tree format of an already existing on-line resource seems absurd to me.

    A library spending €47.93 (the price I found on-line) is worse than that, especially when the problems that exist in this printed version "can usually be resolved by an online search."

    Why didn't the authors "re-edit, and re-categorize their material" in the on-line version?

    I'm baffled.


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