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Ēliaia (ἠλιαία‎), often but less correctly spelled hēliaia, was a meeting of Athenian citizens to try a legal case, or a building in which such meetings were held. It has generally been thought that, when Solon introduced trials by the people in the early 6th cent. bce, the ēliaia was simply the ekklēsia, called by this different name when it was performing a judicial function. An alternative view is that Solon established it as a separate body, consisting of citizens selected by lot, and able to be subdivided to try two or more cases at once. This view is based primarily on passages in which Aristotle attributes to Solon establishment of ‘the lawcourt’ or ‘the lawcourts’ (Pol. 1273b35–1274a5; Ath. pol. 7. 3, 9. 1); on the usual view, these passages are regarded as meaning merely that Solon's innovation led eventually to the lawcourts of the 4th cent.

After the middle of the 5th cent., when a plurality of jury courts certainly existed, the name eliaia was used either for all these courts collectively or for any one of them. It was also the name of a particular large court building, used for trials over which the thesmothetai presided; its location remains uncertain.


D. M. Macdowell, The Law in Classical Athens (1978), 29–35.Find this resource:

    M. H. Hansen, Classica et Mediaevalia. (1981–1982), 9–47, repr. with addenda in M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Ecclesia 2 (1989), 219–262.

    M. Ostwald, From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law, 9–12.Find this resource:

      R. Sealey, The Athenian Republic (1987), 60–70.Find this resource:

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