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sortition


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Selection by lot, a method of appointing officials in Greek city‐states, esp. in democracies (see democracy, both entries). It was based on the idea of equality and reduced outside influence. Little is known of its use except at Athens. It was introduced there perhaps as early as Solon. From 487/6 bc the archons (see archontes) were appointed by lot out of nominated candidates; later, this became a double sortition. From the time when the archons began to be selected by lot, they lost political leadership. But all ordinary magistrates, a few excepted, were thus appointed; also the boule (a prytany of 50 from each phӯlē; see phylai; prytaneis) and the juries (by a complicated procedure; see law and procedure, athenian, 2). Lot decided many questions in political and social life. Politically, sortition, combined with the prohibition or at least severe restriction of a second term, enabled rotation in office, and electoral contests were avoided by its use; moreover, the power of magistrates was reduced, and thus the sovereignty of the assembly (see ekklesia) guaranteed. Sortition was practicable, as almost every citizen had a minimum of political experience, and nobody could be selected without having presented himself. Certain precautions were always taken (see dokimasia), and military and some technical (esp. financial) officials were elected. Sortition was a necessary and fundamental element of the democratic polis. See elections and voting, Greek.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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