Law Against Tyranny

In 338 B.C. Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander defeated the Athenians and other Greek states in a battle at Chaironeia in central Greece. In the following year (337/6 B.C.) the Athenians passed a law against tyranny that reflects Athenian uncertainty concerning the future of their democracy. The decree was written up on a marble stele capped with a handsome relief showing Democracy crowning the seated Demos (people) of Athens.

Stele with a relief showing Democracy crowning Demos (the people of Athens), ca. 337 B.C. Athens, Agora Museum, I 6524. The inscription is an Athenian law forbidding cooperation with those plotting an antidemocratic coup and calling for the acquittal of anyone accused of murdering the tyrant. As the text explains, Eukrates made the motion, and the question was put to a vote in the archonship of Phrynichos. The law was inscribed on two stelai (stone markers) to be set up at the entrances of the Bouleuterion (senate house) and the ekklesia (assembly).

The text of the decree reads:

In the archonship of Phrynichos, in the ninth prytany of Leontis for which Chairestratos, son of Ameinias, of Acharnai, was secretary; Menestratos of Aixone, of the proedroi, put the question to a vote; Eukrates, son of Aristodimos, of Peiraeus, made the motion; with Good Fortune of the Demos of the Athenians, be it resolved by the Nomothetai [lawgivers]: If anyone should rise up against the Demos for tyranny or join in establishing the tyranny or overthrow the Demos of the Athenians or the democracy in Athens, whoever kills him who does any of these things shall be blameless. It shall not be permitted for anyone of the Councillors of the Council from the Areopagos [Supreme Court] - if the Demos or the democracy in Athens having been overthrown - to go up into the Areopagos or sit in the Council or deliberate about anything. If anyone of the Councillors of the Areopagos - the Demos or the democracy in Athens having been overthrown - goes up into the Areopagos or sits in the Council or deliberates about anything, both he and his progeny shall be deprived of civil rights and his substance shall be confiscated and a tenth given to the Goddess. The secretary of the Council shall inscribe this law on two stelai of stone and set one of them by the entrance into the Areopagos, that entrance, namely, near where one goes into the Bouleuterion, and the other in the Ekklesia. For the inscribing of the stelai the treasurer of the Demos shall give 20 drachmas from the moneys expendable by the Demos according to decrees.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).