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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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Since written law, which contributes most decisively
to separating the sphere of law from other aspects of
human existence, did not make its appearance in most
of the Greek world before the seventh century B.C.
and in Athens not until Draco (traditional date: 624
B.C.), the concepts of themis and dikē, which dominate
throughout the early archaic period what we would
call “legal” thinking, denote concepts of law consid-
erably wider and more comprehensive than any later
terms. For that reason it is incorrect to apply our
notions of “unwritten law” to them, for where the
written law has not been conceived of, its opposite
cannot have been conceived of either.

Although themis plays a larger part than dikē in the
Iliad and dikē than themis in the Odyssey and in
Hesiod, the two concepts complement rather than
exclude each other. Both are part of a social order
which views them as having existed from time im
memorial and believes that they will continue to exist
without change, since the permanence of the order is
guaranteed by the gods. In fact, both themis and dikē
are often treated as divine persons, and both are in
many passages related to the supreme god, Zeus. While
the Iliad regards Themis as an Olympian deity (Iliad
15. 87-95, 20. 4; cf. Odyssey 2. 68-69), Hesiod makes
her the child of Earth (Gaia) and Heaven (Ouranos),
born even before Kronos and thus older than the
Olympian generation of gods (Theogony 135). After
Zeus had consolidated his power, he took her as his
second wife, and by him she became the mother of
Dike (Theog. 901-02; cf. Works and Days 256). If this
shows in a genealogical and personal form the interest
Zeus takes in the social order, Zeus' interest in them
is also evinced by many passages which do not treat
them as persons: it is Zeus who has entrusted the king
with his staff and themistes (Il. 2. 205-06, 9. 98-99),
it is Zeus who is concerned that in judicial proceedings
themistes be sorted out with straight dikē (Il. 16.
386-87; W.& D. 9), and it is the themistes of Zeus
which are to decide whether a royal person may be
killed (Od. 16. 403. See also for themis; Il. 1. 238-39;
Od. 11. 568-69, 14. 56-58; and for dikē; W.& D. 36,
239, 268-69, 276-80; Hymn to Hermes 312, 324;
Archilochus, frag. 94). Thus both themis and dikē are
permanent and immutable; although they both have
a beginning in cosmic time, there is never any sug-
gestion that they are the creation of man, that they
have a beginning in human society, or that they are
merely transitory, that is, that today's themis or, to a
slightly lesser extent, dikē will no longer be valid to-

A further characteristic shared in common by themis
and dikē is that both operate only in the larger social
group. They do not function in the phratrē or the
family, the smaller groups of which society is com-
posed. This is shown best in Nestor's definition of the
lover of civil strife as a person “without phratrē without
themis, and without a hearth” (Il. 9. 63-64) to indicate
that he is rejected by every kind of association: being
without themis means exclusion from society in the
widest sense. According to Hesiod, dikē is confined
within the city (W.& D. 269). Similarly, the Cyclopes
are called athemistoi (“without themis”) because they
are food-gatherers and shepherds rather than peasants
and because they live the solitary existence of moun-
tain-cave dwellers (Od. 9. 106-15, 187-89). This is not
contradicted by the statement that “each one wields
themis over his own children and wives, and they do
not concern themselves with one another” (Od. 9.
114-15), for the themis here is themis only by analogy
with a normal society: the very absence of community
life denies the possibility of genuine themis. For that


very reason Polyphemus is described as “knowing nei-
ther dikai nor themistes” (Od. 9. 215).

But these similarities are rather general and may be
attributed to the way in which a society that has not
yet broken life into separate compartments regards
itself. Within this framework there are, however, sig-
nificant differences between themis and dikē, differ-
ences which can be articulated more readily in some
cases than in others. themis (derived from a stem
meaning “set,” “place,” “establish”) is the wider con-
cept of the two and tends to define those aspects of
the social structure which give order and regularity
to the whole, whereas dikē, whose etymology links it
to a stem meaning “show,” “point in a given direction,”
usually describes the place assigned to individuals
within human society: it seems originally to designate
claims or rights which define the place a person occu-
pies within a community, often with the connotation
that this place is actually or potentially assigned by
the verdict of a judge.

In view of this it is not surprising that dikē plays
no part in what we would call the constitutional and
religious aspects of law. Here themis holds the field
alone. The position of the king, as the keystone of the
political structure of society, is guaranteed by the staff
and the themistes which Zeus has given him (Il. 2.
205-06). These impose on him not only the right to
give counsel but also the obligation to take advice from
others (Il. 9. 98-102; cf. the beginning of an early epic,
the Cypria, in Proclus' Chrestomathy 1, where Zeus
deliberates with Themis about starting the Trojan War).
In short, the themistes constitute those rights, preroga-
tives, and obligations by virtue of which the king wields
power. One of the prerogatives is exercised by
Agamemnon when he claims for himself the right to
tempt the troops by proposing flight (Il. 2. 73-74); but
the other nobles have prerogatives, too, in that they
may dispute his proposals in assembly (Il. 9. 32-33).
The royal prerogatives impose on his dependents the
obligation to offer gifts to the king, and these gifts,
embodying the dual aspect of prerogative and obliga-
tion, are also called themistes (Il. 9. 156, 298). In return,
it is the king's themis to be ever ready to receive men
who may wish to consult with him on matters of policy
(Il. 24. 652). In short, it is on his themistes that the
king's singular status in the community is based. The
fact that he has received them from Zeus does not
mean, however, that royal decisions are divinely in-
spired or revealed by Zeus to the king, else it would
not be themis to contradict the king in assembly (Il.
9. 32-33). But it shows that the royal position in the
social and political order is sanctioned by the supreme
god, and this sanction suggests that it will continue
to be as it is for all time. If prerogatives are temporarily
denied, it is themis that they be restored or granted
at a later time: this at least is implied by Zeus's promise
to those who had been denied their honors and
prerogatives in the reign of Kronos (Theog. 395-96).

The constitutional prerogatives of the kings are
manifested primarily in the agorē, a term which de-
notes the institution of a political assembly as well as
the place where it is convened, and the agorē is, there-
fore, closely associated with themis. Themis is ordered
by Zeus to convoke an assembly of the gods (Il. 20.
4), and she also dissolves and seats the assemblies of
men (Od. 2. 68-69), where alone it is themis to chal-
lenge the king (Il. 9. 32-33). Moreover, agorē and
themis are closely related as places, the one for assem-
bly meetings and the other as the place of judgment,
in the Iliad (11. 807) and possibly also in the Odyssey
(9. 112).

In religious ritual we hear of a number of specific
commands and prohibitions which are described as
themis or ou themis (“not themis”) respectively to
indicate that certain ritual practices are part of the
established order of life. When a banquet is held in
honor of a god, it is themis to pour a libation and pray
to him (Od. 3. 45), and it is themis for men in their
several habitations to worship the gods and to offer
sacrifice at their altars (W.& D. 135-37). On the other
hand, it is ou themis that water touch the head of
Achilles before Patroclus funeral rites are completed
(Il. 23. 44-46) or that a person hated by the gods be
helped on his way (Od. 10. 72-75). In this context, too,
presumably belong the themistes of Phoebus Apollo
which are proclaimed by Minoan Cnossus and the
pronouncements which come from Apollo's oracular
shrine at Telphusa (Hymn to Apollo 393-96, 252-53,
292-93). It will be noted that the ritual themistes are
not prerogatives which have been entrusted to a person
but rules which men are expected to observe and the
observation of which is accepted without question as
part of the way things are in the universe.

“Rule” seems also to be one of the connotations of
themis in the administration of justice. This, at any rate,
is suggested by the fact that the administration of
justice rests with persons called dikaspoloi (“handlers
of dikē”) whom Zeus has entrusted with the guardian-
ship of the themistes (Il. 1. 237-39; cf. Od. 11. 186),
and that is presumably the reason why Hesiod once
applies the term themistopoloi to kings (frag. 10). The
themistes mentioned here cannot be identical with
those that constitute the royal prerogatives of ruling
and counselling; they look more like a body of legal
rules or principles on which judicial decisions are
based, rules which no doubt included procedural mat-
ters, such as taking an oath to confirm one's legal claim
(Il. 23. 581-85). Although in Hesiod jurisdiction is one


of the functions of kings (Theog. 80-86; W.& D.
248-50, 263-64), there is no evidence to affirm or to
deny that the Homeric dikaspoloi were identical with
the kings, even if their themistes, like those of the kings,
are derived from Zeus. Nor is there any reason to
assume that the divine assignment of the themistes to
the judge meant that his verdicts were regarded as
divinely inspired. One passage in the Odyssey, it is true,
has been adduced to support the contention that Zeus
was regarded as a source of law: as the suitors deliber-
ate about murdering Telemachus, Amphinomus pro-
poses first to ascertain whether the themistes of Zeus
approve the murder of a royal person (Od. 16. 403).
Since we are not told in what way Amphinomus
thought of conducting his inquiry, there is no need to
assume that he meant to ask an oracle for a specific
injunction. In fact, no other passage in early archaic
literature attributes specific legislation to a god, and
the role of the gods does not go beyond guaranteeing
the existing order as a whole. In view of that, the most
natural interpretation is that Amphinomus intended to
address his question to some human expert, possibly
a dikaspolos, knowledgeable about the rules prevailing
in the Zeus-given social order, in order to obtain from
him instructions how to act under the circumstances.
An expert of this kind might be a person like Nereus,
of whom Hesiod says that “he does not forget themistes
but knows just and kindly counsels” (Theog. 235-36),
that is, someone who fulfils among the living the func-
tion which Minos performs among the dead: a themis-
(“person who wields themistes”) who is asked
to issue dikai (Od. 11. 568-71).

In matters of jurisdiction themis is frequently found
in conjunction with dikē. In such contexts it seems to
refer not to legal principles upon which verdicts are
based, but to denote a “legitimate claim,” a “title,”
or a “right” which the verdict has conferred upon one
or both of the contending parties in a lawsuit. This
is shown by the standard expression
(“to separate rights by means of a verdict”)
with which Hesiod regularly describes the activity of
a judge. The purpose of a trial in the early archaic
period was not to establish the facts of a case but to
have each of the contending parties state his claim
under oath and to have the judge pass on the validity
of the opposing claims. The act of the judge is de-
scribed by the verb krinein—“separate,” “distinguish,”
“decide” (Il. 16. 387-88; Theog. 85-86, W.& D. 35-36,
221); dikē is the verdict by which a given claim is
validated, and themis is the validated claim, the right,
or the title. The fact that dikē is etymologically linked
to a complex which indicates “pointing in a direction”
explains why a just verdict is called “straight” and an
unjust verdict “crooked” (Il. 18. 508; Theog. 85-86,
W.& D. 35-36, 219, 221, 225-26, 250, 262, frag. 286),
and why the activity of issuing just verdicts is expressed
by the verb ithynein—“straighten” (W.& D. 263-64).
The adjectives “straight” and “crooked” are always
applied to dikē, and only once do we hear of “crooked
themistes” (Il. 16. 387), evidently because claims
authenticated by crooked verdicts are thought of as
being themselves crooked.

From its meaning “verdict” a number of other uses
of dikē can be derived. One of these is its application
to the occasion or place at which verdicts are given,
that is, to the session of the law court where legal
proceedings take place. Hesiod informs us, for example,
that Hekate sits en dikēi with reverent kings (Theog.
434) and Solon appeals to Earth to be his witness before
the court of time, ἐν δίκῃ χρόνου (Solon, frag. 24. 3;
cf. frag. 27, which may mean “obey the magistrates
both in court and out of court,” but both the reading
and the interpretation are uncertain). But the use of
dikē to describe a claim is more common, a claim
different, however, from that expressed by themis. For
while themis is used invariably of a claim which has
been authenticated by a verdict and which has thus
been recognized as part of the established order, dikē
denotes what is regarded by the claimant as a just claim
but which has not yet been validated or whose legiti-
macy is or may be contested; a claim, in other words,
which, though adjudicated, is looked upon as still open
to dispute. For example, it is with a view to claims
that Achilles might possibly still make that Odysseus
urges Agamemnon not only to deliver publicly the
promised gifts of reconciliation but also to invite him
to a banquet, so that Achilles may “lack nothing of
his dikē” (Il. 19. 180). Similarly, dikē is used of
Antilochus' protest that the prize awarded to Eumelus
in the funeral games for Patroclus is actually his due
(Il. 23. 542), and Hesiod describes as dikē his claim
against his brother, which has been submitted for
adjudication to the “gift-devouring princes” (W.& D.
39). In the Hymn to Hermes we find for the first time
the expression δίκην διδόναι καὶ δέχεσθαι to describe
the claim and counterclaim which is to be submitted
to adjudication, and which is, in this case, to be
weighed on Zeus' “scales of dikē” (312, 324).

Closely related to this is the contestable kind of dikē,
which comes close to the meaning of themis (“title,”
“right”), but differs from it in that the claim is open
to criticism and is not thought of as properly belonging
to the immutably established order. In Hesiod's state-
ment that he does not want to be righteous (δίκαιος)
if a less righteous person (ἀδικώτερος) has the greater
dikē (W.& D. 271-72), we are evidently dealing with
a claim of this kind. It seems to be a claim unfairly
validated by a judgment and Hesiod protests against


it. The same is implied in Theognis' contention that
evil men are corrupting the people by giving dikai to
the unrighteous—i.e., to those not entitled to them—in
order to increase their own profit and power (44-46);
and the converse, namely that an otherwise contestable
dikē will not be challenged, underlies his belief that
nobody will wish to deprive of respect and dikē a
distinguished man as he grows old (938).

Derived from its judicial sense as “verdict” dikē also
is the “punishment” or “retribution” assigned to the
doer of evil, and it is a punishment the justice of which
is never questioned. This meaning, which dikē retains
into the classical period and beyond, is first found in
Hesiod's warning that Zeus ordains dikē against those
who indulge in “evil arrogance and works of wicked-
ness” and that dikē will visit a city for the crooked
verdicts (dikai) with which people oppress their fellow
men (W.& D. 238-39, 248-51), and it assumes a central
role in Solon as the personified power of Retribution
(frags. 1. 7-8, 3. 14-16; cf. Anaximander, frag. 1, and
Heraclitus, frag. 94). The justice inherent in the idea
of dikē as retribution is positively expressed especially
in those passages in which dikē is contrasted with
hybris, as it is in Hesiod's exhortations to his brother
to listen to dikē and not incur hybris and to forget
violence because dikē will triumph over hybris in the
end (W.& D. 213, 217, cf. 275), or in Theognis' belief
that shamelessness and arrogance have vanquished dikē
all over the earth (291-92). In the Iliad this kind of
dikē, which may best be rendered as “justice,” is said
to be driven out by men who adjudicate crooked
themistes (Il. 16. 387-88; cf. W.& D. 224), while in the
Odyssey it is bracketed with all things good and proper
as being honored by the gods (Od. 14. 83-84). Hesiod
goes so far as to treat it as the differentia between man
and beast: to beasts Zeus assigned a way of life which
makes them devour one another, “since dikē is not
among them, whereas to men he gave dikē which is
the best by far” (W.& D. 276-80). Thus dikē becomes
the distinguishing feature of human civilization, an
aspect to which we shall return later.

Finally, some uses of dikē seem to reflect the view
that verdicts establish legal norms which are valid for
the community. Glaucus, the ruler of Lycia, preserved
his country by his might and by his dikai, that is, by
the norms he propounded through the verdicts he gave
(Il. 16. 542). Minos is asked for dikai among the dead
(Od. 11. 570), and in the Iron Age the norms of right
and wrong (dikē) reside in brute force (W.& D. 192).
The same dikai seem to be involved in Solon's convic-
tion that the good order (eunomiē) which his reforms
will create will “straighten out crooked dikai,” and that
after his reforms his laws will apply a “straight dikē
to each person (frags. 3. 36, 24. 19).

The distinctions we have been drawing between the
use of themis and dikē in different spheres of human
life obviously do violence to the cultural context in
which they belong. For while we have to differentiate
the constitutional, religious, legal, and social aspects of
these terms in order to make them comprehensible to
ourselves and to find equivalents for them within our
conceptual framework, the differences among these
areas of life were less distinct for the Greeks of the
early archaic period. For them themis and dikē were
each one concept, regardless of how they were applied
in particular cases. The truth of this is particularly
evident as we now turn to the uses of themis and dikē
to describe certain social features of life and certain
ways of human behavior. Both themis and dikē in this
field treat behavioral norms as immutable and peren-
nial parts of the universe within which man has been
placed and without which community life would cease
to function. But while in many instances no difference
can be detected between the contexts in which one
term is preferred over the other, there is a general
tendency to find themis defining rules which govern
the correct relations into which men enter with one
another or with the gods, while dikē tends to describe
the essential characteristic of a group on the basis of
which a certain kind of conduct can be expected from
the individual members belonging to that group.

Thus themis regulates human behavior toward the
gods in the statement that it is ou themis to fight with
Poseidon (Il. 14. 386) or to help on his way a person
hated by the gods (Od. 10. 72-75), that it was ou themis
that Achilles' helmet be defiled in the dust as long as
a theios anēr (“godlike man”) wore it (Il. 16. 796-99),
or that it is themis for men in their several habitations
to worship the gods and offer sacrifice at their altars
(W.& D. 135-37). It governs relations within the family
when we learn that it is themis that a wife weep for
the husband she believes lost abroad (Od. 14. 130) or
that a son embrace his returning father (Od. 11. 451);
relations between the sexes in the statement that it is
themis anthrōpōn (“themis for humans”) that men and
women have sexual intercourse (Il. 9. 133-34, 275-76);
and relations between allies in Zeus's promise, as he
was trying to gather allies for his fight against the
Titans, to give honors and prerogatives to those gods
from whom Kronos had withheld them (Theog.
395-96). The most frequent use of themis in the de-
scription of social norms concerns the relation of host
and guest, that is, the relation of xeinoi to one another.
The hospitable entertainment of strangers and the
exchange of gifts with them is themis (Il. 11. 779; Od.
9. 268, 14. 56, 24. 286, cf. 20. 287); when a visiting
stranger asks for information, it is themis to give him
a truthful answer (Od. 3. 186-87); and when he is the


subject of a discussion, it is themis for him to partici-
pate in it (Od. 16. 91).

While themis thus describes the normal kind of
behavior in various human relationships, implying a
correct norm, deviations from which are possible but
reprehensible, dikē, which is in social contexts usually
accompanied by a genitive defining the group whose
dikē it is, denotes an intrinsic natural characteristic
from which certain modes of behavior can be expected;
it does not automatically imply a relationship, and
deviations from it, where possible, are not measured
by the yardstick of right and wrong at all. When it
is said of mortal men, for example, that it is their dikē
that in death fire consumes their flesh and bones while
their soul (psychē) flies off like a dream (Od. 11.
218-22) or of the Olympian gods that they are percep-
tible to men only as radiant light (Od. 19. 43), no
relationship is implied, and what is predicated is no
more than a simple fact of natural experience, namely,
the way in which a given group naturally behaves. In
the same vein, the dikē of old men is to sleep softly
after a bath and a meal (Od. 24. 254-55), and the dikē
of a man who has long been away from home is to
be dejected when asked about his ancestry (Od. 19.
167-70). The fact that seafarers go ashore and eat a
meal when their ship has landed is dikē (Hymn to
458-61), as is the fact that slaves, fearful of their
new masters, give only small gifts to strange visitors
(Od. 14. 58-61). Two passages are interesting because
they describe deviations from dikē: Odysseus is said
to have been a remarkably good ruler in that he did
not follow the dikē of kings, whose treatment of people
is determined by their likes and dislikes (Od. 4. 691-92),
and the suitors are said to be extraordinarily wicked
because they do not follow the dikē of suitors of former
times, who used to provide a banquet and gifts for the
bride and her family rather than consume her property
(Od. 18. 275-80). In both passages it is significant that
it is the deviation from the norm which elicits praise
or blame; the norm itself remains merely descriptive
and morally neutral.

Yet it is often hard to determine why, in some of
the passages just discussed, themis is used in preference
to dikē, although it must be observed at the same time
that there seems to be no use of dikē for which themis
would have been more appropriate. For instance, the
themis, discussed above, that men and women have
sexual intercourse with each other, or that a wife weep
when she has lost her husband abroad, might just as
well have been expressed by dikē, and this is particu-
larly true of the statement that hybris is the themis
(rather than dikē) of mortal men (Hymn to Apollo 541).
We can only guess that in these cases, and perhaps
in some others too, an option was open to the poet
to view the action either as something right and proper
in terms of the relationship involved, or as a typical
natural characteristic, and that he adopted the first

Closely related in sense to the use of dikē plus the
genitive is its use, normally in the plural, as the object
of the verb “to know.” When Nestor's rich experience
of life is described as “he knows dikai and mentality
better than anyone else” (Od. 3. 244), he is credited
with a knowledge of the different ways of people, and
dikai seems to be used in exactly the same sense when
we are told that the Cyclops lacks this kind of knowl-
edge (Od. 9. 215). Theognis' complaint (54) that those
who now hold power “knew formerly neither dikai nor
proper forms of behavior (nomoi)” points in the same
direction, for the implication is that the present rulers
were not brought up to know the ways of social con-
duct needed for the proper functioning of society. In
this context perhaps also belongs Hesiod's warning that
Zeus will notice what kind of dikē a city practices
(W.& D. 269), for, although the singular is used here,
the passage suggests that different kinds of dikē exist,
and the phrase “it does not escape his notice” is of
course merely a different way of expressing knowledge.

themis and dikē are the only terms in which a
concept of law can be expressed in the early archaic
period. But, as we have seen, they provide much more
than merely a set of legal rules by which right and
wrong are determined. They belong to a society which
is convinced that its own stability is guaranteed ever-
lastingly by gods, who have assigned to kings the
prerogatives that make them rulers and to judges the
principles by which disputes are to be adjudicated. The
verdicts of these judges legitimatize claims and rights
and establish binding norms for the community, and
the behavior of the members of the society toward one
another is regulated by a code which sanctions some
actions and forbids others. They are the only equiva-
lents of concepts of law in early archaic society; but
“law” is too narrow a term to encompass them.

Since themis and dikē constitute the bonds which
keep the structure of the larger society intact, they
are the hallmarks of the civilized life of the community.
The primitiveness and barbarity of the Cyclopes, a
pastoral gathering and nonagricultural society of
isolated mountain-dwellers, who know no authority
other than that exercised by the head of the family,
is brought out by their description as athemistoi and
“knowing athemistia” and as “knowing neither dikai
nor themistes” (Od. 9. 106-15, 187-89, 215, cf. 114-15.
See also Theognis 54). In the Iliad, themis is opposed
to forces destructive of society: the lover of civil strife
is without themis (Il. 9. 63), and Ares, the god of
destructive war, “knows no themis” (Il. 5. 761). Hesiod


presents the positive side of the picture when he
identifies dikē as a force conducive to the preservation
of society. As the daughter of Zeus and Themis, she
is the sister of Peace, Eirēnē, and Good Order, Eunomiē
(Theog. 901-02). Zeus gave mankind dikē to differen-
tiate it from the beasts (W.& D. 276-80), and that city
will flourish in which straight dikai are given to citizens
and strangers alike (W.& D. 225-27). Therefore also
dikē is the implacable foe of that peculiar trespassing
of the bounds of propriety which the Greeks called
hybris (W.& D. 213, 238-39; Archilochus, frag. 94), and
even though hybris may degrade dikē to violence in
the Iron Age (W.& D. 190-93; cf. Theognis' complaints
at 44-45 and 291-92), dikē will win out in the end
(W.& D. 217-18).

Another enemy of dikē in early archaic literature
is violence, bia (Il. 16. 386-88; W.& D. 275), but this
enmity does not survive unmodified into the late
archaic period. In a passage in which Solon boasts of
the accomplishments of his cancellation of debts
(seisachtheia), he attributes his liberation of the earth
and of Athenian citizens from bondage to his use of
his legitimate power (kratos) to fuse bia and dikē into
one (frag. 24. 15-16). That bia refers to the coercive
measures by which he made creditors give up their
claims is clear. But what is the point of dikē here? That
it does not refer to Solon's statutes emerges from the
fact that the written legislation is mentioned as a sepa-
rate and different achievement in the next sentence
of this poem (18-20). Nor does the context allow us
to interpret dikē as a verdict or norms established by
a verdict, since that would make nonsense of its associ-
ation with bia. In fact, although dikē in Solon may
still describe claims established by crooked verdicts
(frag. 3. 36), Solon no longer uses the term for the
verdict itself. In our passage it evidently refers to the
moral norm, justice, which has been redressed by means
of violence through Solon's authority, and in some
other passages, too, a moral rather than a legal aspect
of dikē is emphasized by Solon: it is the retribution
that will overcome the evildoer, late though it may
come (frags. 1. 8, 3. 12-16). Still, this does not mean
that dikē loses its legal connotations in Solon alto-
gether, for it is still used of the “straight” claim which,
he asserts, his legislation assures to each individual as
his due (frag. 24. 19), and it is still applied to the legal
proceedings in which justice is meted out (frag. 24.
3). But dikē no longer occupies the central place as
a concept of law in the strict sense which it occupied
together with themis in Homer and Hesiod.

These developments foreshadow the role played by
themis and dikē after the end of the early archaic age.
Unlike dikē, themis vanishes completely from current
legal usage and is found only as an archaism, generally
with religious overtones, in poetry and in elevated
prose passages in Plato. Dikē, on the other hand, re-
mained current in daily prose as well as in poetry, but
no longer as a concept of law in the sense in which
we have been concerned with it. For while it retained
the sense which it had, mainly in the Odyssey, of an
essential characteristic defining a group and continued
its development along the moral lines to which Solon
had pointed, the moral norm of justice and the idea
of a quasi-divine retribution, its use in legal matters
was narrowed to designate a private (as opposed to
a public) lawsuit, judicial proceedings, a trial, and the
punishment inflicted by the court. Thus it was deprived
of the central part which it had played in Homer and
especially in Hesiod, and whatever notions of “right”
(ius) may originally have been inherent in it were taken
over by the adjectival to dikaion, which, however,
never developed into a technical judicial term. In short,
themis and dikē as concepts of “law” come to an end
with the early archaic age and new terms take their