In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Greek Law

  • Introduction
  • Sources
  • General Overviews
  • Collections of Articles
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Unity
  • Early Greek Law, c. 800–500 bce
  • Hellenistic Law, 323 bce—14 ce
  • Law at Gortyn, c. 600–350 bce
  • Law at Sparta, c. 650–300 bce
  • Greek Law in Egypt, 330–31 bce and Beyond
  • Other Greek Cities, 600–31 bce and Beyond
  • Early Athenian Law, before 500

Classics Greek Law
Michael Gagarin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0030


The study of Greek law began in the late 19th century as an offshoot of the study of Roman law. The field was long dominated by scholars from Continental Europe, who were well versed in Roman law, the direct ancestor of their legal systems. In the second half of the 20th century, anglophone scholars, often with backgrounds in history or literature, began to study Greek (primarily Athenian) law, and that trend continues today. Anglophone scholars question whether Greek law (as opposed to Greek laws) ever existed, but most Continental scholars believe in Greek law.


Evidence for the study of Greek law comes from different kinds of sources, depending on the place and period studied. Inscriptions (see Packard Humanities Institute) are especially important for law in Gortyn (see Law at Gortyn, c. 600–350 BCE); papyri (see the Duke Papyrus Archive and the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri) dominate the study of law in Hellenistic Egypt (see Greek Law in Egypt, 330–31 BCE and Beyond); and for classical Athenian law we rely primarily on forensic oratory.

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