A. H. J. Greenidge: Appointment by lot in Athens

In 1896 A. H. J. Greenidge published his book A Handbook of Greek Constitutional History. Greenidge devotes a few pages to sortition (“appointment by lot”). He proposes theoretical justification and analysis of the effects of the mechanism.

At this point we may naturally raise the question, “What is the meaning of this new element in political life which was destined to become almost the most characteristic feature of the Athenian and other democracies?” From the treatment of the lot by Plato and Aristotle we should be inclined to gather that it was a consciously adopted democratic institution, that it was the final assertion of the numerical equality of all citizens and of the principle of equal representation. But to realise this character it must be accompanied by universal admission to office. We know, however, that the use of the lot preceded universal admission; we shall see, when we come to discuss the qualifications for office, that in early Athens it was an assertion of the equal fitness for rule of the members of only a narrow circle; and we are further informed that in some cases of its employment it had other meanings than that of an assertion of equality. Continue reading