chapter  VI
31 Pages


The people was the sovereign redresser of wrongs, possessing in theory absolute power over the life and property of all. Recall the declaration of Philocleon in the Wasps of Aristophanes-as soon as he enters the Helisea he lifts up his head and, swelling with pride, exclaims: " Is not my power as great as tha t of any king ? . . . Is not my authority equal to tha t of Zeus 7 " 1 In fact the popular courts of the Heliaea filled a prominent place in the city. It was the inevitable consequence of the advance made by democratic ideas. Previously, justice, even when it ceased to be the monopoly of the Eupatridse, had had for organs the Areopagus and the magistrates, and even when Solon had instituted the Heliaea he had only assigned to it an appellate jurisdiction (ephesis) which gave it the right of supervising the judgments of the magistrates, but not those of the Areopagus. It was not until the reform of 462 tha t the people definitively acquired the judicial prerogative which corresponded to an historical necessity. At the same time as the powers of the Areopagus were broken the magistrates saw themselves reduced to a hegemonia, t ha t is to a simple delegation in virtue of which they received suits, proceeded to investigation and presided over the competent tribunals. There was henceforth no intermediary between popular sovereignty and justiciables.