This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
(fl. 660 B.C.)
The highest Law rules Locri Epizephyrii . . . —PINDAR, OLYMPIAN ODES X, 17-18 1
On the cusp between archaic Greece and the Greece of history comes to us the lawgiver Zaleucus of Epizephyrian Locri. The precise dates of Zaleucus’s birth and death are unknown, and probably unknowable, but he is believed to have flourished about 660 B.C. Unfortunately, as is the case for most of our knowledge of this era, little is known of Zaleucus. It is impossible to sort out the legendary from the historical in what comes to us from various sources. Indeed, the Greek historian Timaeus of Tauromenium (ca. 356 – ca. 260 B.C.) rejected the historicity of Zaleucus. But we may answer such skepticism along with the Roman lawyer Cicero, who in his dialogue On the Laws, relates the following exchange between Quintus and Marcus: QUINTUS: What of the fact that Timaeus denies that Zaleucus ever existed? MARCUS: But Theophrastus, 2 a no worse authority in my opinion (and many people think him a better one), says that he did, and his own fellow citizens, our clients the Locrians, refer to him. But it makes no difference whether he existed or not: what I say is what has been reported. 3 Zaleucus: First Lawgiver (Nomothetēs) of the Greeks Zaleucus warrants more than passing attention, for (as Cicero tells us) it makes no difference whether he existed or not, as it has been reported that Zaleucus was the first of the Greeks to write down laws. As a result of his famous judgment against his son, Zaleucus has also been regarded as a symbol of the tension between justice and mercy, and the efforts to reconcile the demands of both without the slighting of either. It is wrong to be unjustly merciful. It is equally wrong to be mercilessly just. It is right—though frequently the process of reconciliation is fraught with struggle—to be both mercifully just and justly merciful. This is the principle that Zaleucus symbolized.
Zaleucus Page 1 of 5
a colony founded by the Locrians around 679 B. had such laws been found? Zaleucus answered that the goddess Athena had revealed them in a dream. They seem every bit as harsh as the later laws that Draco promulgated for his fellow Athenians on the Greek mainland. with a set of laws to propose to the citizens of Locris. the Locrians asked themselves.C. As the colony struggled to fashion its laws. Where. they asked. forbad the ownership of slaves. and we must rely on often unreliable and late sources for their mention. If we are to believe the testimony of Strabo (among others) Zaleucus is the author of the first written code of laws among the Greeks. in Italy (Magna Graecia) on eastern side of the Italian peninsula’s toe. The penalty for infraction? Naturally. and simplified the making of contracts. 7 Draconian Before Draco: The Laws of Zaleucus The laws attributed to Zaleucus are no longer extant. The oracle answered that they had to make laws for themselves. 8 According to these.Zaleucus was a Greek from the city-state or polis of Locris in the Greek mainland. One of these sumptuary laws regulated the dress of women—distinguishing between married women who were commanded to wear white and unmarried women who were free to wear garments of different colors. The Locrian laws written by Zaleucus—though beneficial—were severe and with stern punishments. were they to solve this problem? Seeking a solution. the Locrians consulted the oracle at Delphi. Sumptuary restrictions were also part of Zaleucus’s laws. 9 Zaleucus also prohibited lawsuits unless the parties had first tried to reconcile. How. the Locrians passed a law providing that anyone who interpreted a law differently from the chief magistrate (the cosmopolis) or anyone who wished to propose a new law or amendment of an Zaleucus Page 2 of 5 . which places him among the Law’s Greats. 11 To prevent changes in the laws passed by Zaleucus for transient reasons and to encourage law-abiding behavior. death. He or his family emigrated to the Greek colony of Locri Epizephyrii. Another sumptuary law forbad women from wearing ornaments and gold and silk garments except during their marriage rites. Zaleucus prevented the alienation of land except when a family was in misery. a shepherd’s slave named Zaleucus appeared around 663 B. 5 The Locrians faced chronic lawlessness and disorder in their young colony. 10 Personal injuries were handled by the laws of Zaleucus on the basis of the lex talionis—an eye for an eye.C. 6 They were amazed that this shepherd’s slave had gathered together such a set of laws. 4 Aristotle documents the received story of Zaleucus’s role in fashioning the Greek world’s first laws. One sumptuary law mentioned by the Roman rhetorician Aelian stated that Zaleucus prohibited the drinking of pure wine except by a physician’s orders.
the executioner. the judge. This ban was enforced by the penalty of death. and the judge before whom the case was tried had absolutely no discretion in assessing punishment to look toward any mitigating circumstances in the crime. When his infraction was pointed out. adultery. Zaleucus ran upon the point of his sword declaring that the law had to be enforced for the good of the city. Brought before the magistrate Zaleucus. of the strict laws passed by Zaleucus. Of Zaleucus’s many strict laws. Thus Zaleucus. In an effort to reconcile the demands of justice with the demands of mercy. The Greek historian Eustathius tells the story of how one unfortunate day Zaleucus inadvertently entered into the senate house in violation of the law. An Eye for Justice and an Eye for Mercy The laws of Zaleucus provided for rigorous punishment. as a result of the strict application by Zaleucus. If the council ruled against the proponent of change. the lawgiver. while he put out one of his own. Zaleucus Page 3 of 5 . the criminal. Zaleucus Killed by His Own Law Zaleucus’s strict laws and the uncompromising punishments attached to them led to his own death. was punished with the loss of both eyes. one restricted entry into the Locrian senate house with a weapon in hand during times of war. This law and its punishment was the source of the famous Judgment of Zaleucus. 12 For example. was self-dispatched by the Zaleucus. Zaleucus found his own son guilty of the crime and would not ameliorate the penalty that required two eyes to be put out. Zaleucus had one eye of his son put out. he was to be immediately strangled.existing law had to appear before the ruling council with a rope around his neck. That story became a symbol of the reconciliation between justice and mercy and became popular with theologians as a symbol of the reconciliation of Divine Justice and Divine Mercy in the sacrificial and redemptive death of Jesus Christ. proscribed under the laws of Zaleucus. It is said that Zaleucus’s son was caught in the act of adultery. The draconian punishments for listed criminal offenses were fixed by law.
ed. that therefore they ought to adore the gods. or sacrifices of the wicked. In conclusion. and his encomium of Zaleucus: Unfortunately little remains of [Zaleucus’s] laws but their preamble: but this is in a style so superior to all the other legislators. they will be convinced. that there should never be among them any irreconcilable enmity. and are pleased only with the just and beneficent actions of virtuous men. on the contrary. that those animosities which might arise among them. should be only a passage to a sure and sincere reconciliation. places religion. p. Having thus. Zaleucus Page 4 of 5 . as to excite regret for the loss of his code. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870). he ordains. and the order which reigns in all nature. nor of chance. that they should hold their souls pure from every vice. which is rational. on the merits of Zaleucus. ought. intelligible. In this preamble he declares. and government.John Adams on Zaleucus So much for Zaleucus. and throughout his duration. fixed the attention of his fellow-citizens upon piety and wisdom. . Michale Gagarin. The chiefs of his republics ought not to govern with arrogance nor pride. as the authors of all which life presents us of good and beautiful. nor should the magistrates be guided in their judgments by hatred nor by friendship. the first nomothetēs or lawgiver among the Greeks. This preamble . because the gods accept neither the prayers. but. for the real happiness of man in society. “Zaleucus”). 1309 (s. upon a basis of philosophy. 13 So wrote our nation’s second president. Early Greek Law. 1989. are not the work of men. 3. Sources William Smith. to be persuaded that there is a God. v. that the disposition of the heavenly bodies. in the beginning of his laws. Berkely: University of California Press. and that he who would not submit himself to these sentiments. one can do little better than quote the words of John Adams. that all those who shall inhabit the city. should be regarded as a savage in a civilized community. offerings. morals. himself a notable lawyer. above all things.v. and if they elevate their eyes and thoughts towards the heavens. and eternal. . above all things.
372-287 B.15 in Zetzell.21). Vol I. 1999).uniduesseldorf.phil-fak. Diod.10 cited in Gagarin.html n°mei går ÉAtr°keia pÒlin Lokr«n Zefur¤vn (Nemei gar Atrekeia polin Lokrôn Zephuriôn). 13 John Adams. ed. To Pindar Ol. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus stated that Zaleucus was of noble birth. 3 Cicero. which could not be true. 66. Cicero: On the Commonwealth and On the Laws (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. 58.. James E. Defence of the Constitutions. Theophrastus (ca. Geography VI. 68 n.. xii.37. and others. 12 Gagarin. Strabo. but he also says he was a pupil of the philosopher Pythagoras. a friend of Aristotle. Letter LI (Locris. and not part of Zaleucus’s work.C.). 77.Photo of Zaleukos: http://www.20 7 Zenobius 4. Aelian. 63. 11. 130. 74. Zaleucus). is probably historically spurious. 20.20) and Stobaeus (Serm. 11 Gagarin. II. 548 Rose (=schol. Frag. 8 The laws of Zaleuscus are a patchwork taken from the writings of Diodorus.17) quoted in Gagarin. On the Laws. Aristotle.de/philo/galerie/antike/zaleukos. 10 Aelian. The preamble. Eustathius. 66 & n. Zenobius. 52. 1 2 Zaleucus Page 5 of 5 . 4 Strabo. Historical Miscellanies. found in the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (xii. 6 Gagarin. 9 Gagarin. 5 Aristotle. Sic. as such is an anachronism. 64 citing the Greek historian Ephorus. was a Greek philosopher and scientist from the island of Lesbos.G. II. 135. xliv.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.