elections and voting, Greek

P. J. Rhodes

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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In the Greek states voting was used in councils, assemblies, and lawcourts; appointments were made by election or by allotment (see sortition) or sometimes by a combination of the two. In Athens and elsewhere psēphisma (from psēphos, ‘voting-stone’) became the standard word for a decree of the council (*boulē) or assembly (*ekklēsia), and cheirotonia (‘raising hands’) was used for elections; but in *Athens voting was normally by show of hands (not precisely counted) in the council and assembly both for decrees and for elections, but by ballot in the lawcourts. Ballots seem first to have been used on occasions when a count was necessary to ensure that a quorum was achieved, but by the end of the 5th cent. bce it had been realized that voting by ballot could be secret voting. In *Sparta voting by acclamation survived to the Classical period for elections and for decrees of the assembly. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods some decrees of some states report numbers of votes cast for and against.

Article.  215 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Law

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