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1. Maybe the most curious institution of the classical Athenian democracy is ostracism, by which the citizenry would kick a politician out of the city for ten years. Here's a very very short introduction. #ostracismculture
2. Ostracism was probably introduced as part of Kleisthenes1's reforms of around 508/7 BC, which also introduced the Council of 500, 10 new tribes, and other democratic innovations. #kleisthenes
3. The 3rd-C AD writer Aelian says Kleisthenes1 was himself ostracised, but there's no real evidence for that; it seems to be part of a tradition of ancient anecdotes about people who were hoist by their own petard. #trickstertricked perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?do…
4. The 4th-C BC historian Androtion seems to say that ostracism was only introduced c. 488/7, but the truth is probably just that that was the first time anyone actually got ostracised (why it took 20 years isn't entirely clear). Go down to F6 here: #F6 referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-…
5. After that first ostracism of Hipparchus in 488/7, we know of some dozen other men who were kicked out of Athens for ten years in this way. There's a list half-way down this page, curated by the demos: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostracism
6. Those include some prominent names, and archaeologists have found no shortage of sherds with the names of famous Athenians on them. Here's just a sample, feat. (clockwise from top left) Aristeides 'the Just,' Themistokles, Pericles, and Kimon (followed by their father's names)
7. How did it work? Ostracizing someone nowadays is more of a social thing, but the Athenian practice was a highly formal one. Each year there was a vote (by show of hands) in the Assembly on the Pnyx hill about whether there should be an ostracism that year. #pnyx
8. If so, the ostracism proper would be held in the Agora within a couple of months. Citizens would write the name of the man they wanted kicked out on a sherd of pottery (an ostrakon). If there were more than 6000 sherds, the man with the most votes would get 'ostracised.'
9. He'd have to leave the city within 10 days, for 10 years, though all was not lost. This was a political process, not a legal judgment; he would incur no loss of property or status, and could come back to the city and be active in politics again when his time was up. #politics
10. One interesting find was 190 sherds in a well near the Acropolis with Themistocles' name on them, but apparently written by only 14 individuals. Was an anti-Themistocles crew handing them out to people? #wellwellwell
11. That some illiterate citizens had to get someone else to write for them is also suggested by the tale that one man, failing to recognize Aristeides, asked him to write 'Aristeides' on his sherd for him! (And he did- he was 'the Just' after all) #justly perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?do…
12. Ostracism remained on the books, but was used for the last time in 416ish. Plutarch says Hyperbolus proposed an ostracism, but the two top politicians made a deal against him and got him kicked out instead! #trickstertrickedagain perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?do…
Research on ostracism continues (I just read a very good MA thesis by one Bryant Ahrenberg). For more on the procedure, one book I can recommend is this one by Sara Forsdyke: press.princeton.edu/books/hardcove…
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