Bronze juridical ballot

Participation in juridical institutions was a primary obligation (and right) of citizen in democratic Athens. All cases were examined in front of a jury, consisting of citizens from the various demes of Athens.

The illustrated object is a bronze ballot from a 4th c. BC court, with the inscription ΨΗΦΟΣ ΔΗΜΟΣΙΑ (= public vote). Once the members of a jury were selected by lot, they received two such ballots, one with solid peg and another with hollow. The solid peg stood for the innocence of the defendant, the pierced one for condemnation. At the end of the hearing, the jurors should cast the chosen ballot to a bronze urn and discard the other in a wooden urn. To guarantee secrecy of the vote, the jurors held the ends of the pegs between their fingers, so that other people could not see whether they had chosen the solid or pierced peg.

Empereur J.-Y. 1981. ‘Collection Paul Canellopoulos (XVII). Petits objets inscrits’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 105, 537-568, esp. 553-554.