The Gortyn Law Code : A Series Of Civil Laws Essay

The Gortyn Law Code : A Series Of Civil Laws Essay

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The Gortyn law code was a series of civil laws in use at around 450 B.C.E in modern day Crete . Unlike the name suggests these laws were not a code, but specific ad hoc responses to crisis as they occurred in Gortyn and surrounding areas . The writing itself focuses on civil laws such as divorce, rape and property rights. The majority of punishments for crimes in Gortyn were monetary rather than physical pain or imprisonment, like other city states in ancient Greece. The laws themselves can also shed light on other law practices throughout Greece at this time, as many law makers would visit Gortyn and study the inscriptions. However, due to the vast differences between many city states as well as change over time there are many differences in laws and their punishments in Gortyn and mainland Greece.
The code itself is fragmentary and widely known since the 1884 discovery of 4 columns of text by Federico Halbherr. The original inscriptions are thought to be around 600 lines that were spread over 12 columns, all located around a building 100 feet in diameter . Meaning that it is now considered the oldest and most complete example of a code of ancient Greek law . It runs in a tradition of Cretan law which as a whole represents the only large collection of Greek law from antiquity outside Athens. Therefore, the code itself can be fairly easily compared with Athenian law, as well as the punishments in the Athenian judicial system.
Due to some of the conservative elements, as well as the oral tradition common in Ancient Greek societies, it is thought that some, if not many, of the laws present in the code have been passed down from previous generations. Consequently, it can be inferred that due to the post hoc nature of the ...


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...cient Greece. However, while the law codes can help teach us partially how divorce was handled, the added women’s rights it the codes creates a distinction to other areas in Greece.
In conclusion, while the Gortyn codes show clear comparisons to other legal systems in ancient Greece during this period, it does also have some stark differences. From a modern stand point, the Gortyn law codes represent a more liberal set of values in comparison with the repressive states of Athens and Sparta. This is mainly due to the added women’s rights to own their own property, and retain money and property after divorce. Therefore, women in Gortyn had more social security, a feature unique to Gortyn society. However, with the clear political and economic created in Gortyn’s class system it does a lot of similarities with the other slave trading states in ancient Greece.





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