Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

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A Summary of: Apophasis (Special Investigations)

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of March 21, 2003

· Summary ·

Apophasis refers to an investigation into serious threats to the Athenian democracy, especially treason and bribery, although there is some evidence for it being used for lesser offenses. This investigation involved several branches of the Athenian government: the Assembly, the Areopagus, and the People’s Court. This procedure, an innovation of the later 4th century BCE, began with an investigation conducted by the Areopagus, which would issue a report. The report was called an apophasis (ἀπόφασις). Eventually, the whole procedure—investigation, report, prosecution—came to be known by this term. When the Areopagus issued its report on suspected treason or bribery, it included a recommendation, either to prosecute certain parties or not to. If the Areopagus recommended prosecution, the Assembly would appoint prosecutors, and the matter would be tried before the People’s Court. The different institutions seem to have served to balance each other, and we hear of several cases in which the Areopagus recommended conviction, but the Assembly or People’s Court acquitted the defendant.


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