The Athenian Amnesty and the 'scrutiny of the laws'


The 'scrutiny of all the laws' that Andocides invokes in his defence On the Mysteries is usually interpreted as a recodification with the aim of barring prosecution for the crimes of civil conflict. This article advances four theses against that traditional reading: (1) In Andocides' argument the Scrutiny was designed for a more practicable purpose, not to pardon crimes unpunished but to quash any further action against former atimoi, those penalized under the old regime but restored to rights in 403. In context, coming close upon the summary of Patrocleides' decree, 'all the laws' means all laws affecting atimoi. (2) The other evidence from inscriptions and literary testimony, for the Athenian Amnesty and similar agreements, supports this reading: the oath that closed the covenants, mê mnêsikakein, functions as a rule of estoppel or 'no reprise'; it was not in itself a pledge of 'political forgiveness'. In regard to the Scrutiny, as in Patrocleides' decree, the oath means that old penalties, now cancelled, can never again be enforced. (3) The Scrutiny itself was a reauthorization of the old laws for summary arrest and other standard remedies against atimoi who trespass or violate their restrictions. As a corollary to this re-enactment, the statute of limitations was introduced, 'to apply the laws from Eucleides': the rules punishing the disfranchised cannot be used against those whose liabilities were incurred before 403. (4) Teisamenus' decree for new legislation was prior to this revision; it is not the decree that Andocides read to the court as a document of the Scrutiny. An ancient editor simply inserted the wrong document. Teisamenus envisioned no alteration of the 'Solonian Code'; the decree for Scrutiny was an unforeseen but necessary correction. These measures were successive reforms sorting out the new hierarchy of rules, a process whose complexity is attested in Diocles' law.


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Journal of Hellenic Studies