Featured Object: Ancient Athenian Juror’s Ticket overview image

Featured Object: Ancient Athenian Juror’s Ticket

  • Post Date9/22/2016
  • AuthorJames Dengate, curator
  • Reading Time4 minute read

The Museum is very lucky to have in its collection this bronze juror’s ticket (pinakion) from ancient Athens. Every Athenian citizen had the right to trial by a jury of his peers. A citizen volunteered for jury duty by submitting his juror’s ticket, an identification card showing his name and the seal of Athens. Jurors were selected at random with an allotment machine. Each juror was issued two ballots: innocent and guilty. At the end of the trial, jurors voted by casting the appropriate ballot into a box. They exchanged the remaining ballot for their ticket and their wages, a half-day’s pay.

This artifact is one of around 200 surviving examples, two thirds of which are fragmentary. Most of these artifacts are in Athens and other parts of Greece. Beyond that, including our example, there are only four in the Western Hemisphere: two in New York City and one in Toronto. Over a dozen have vanished since they were first recorded, including some destroyed in World War II.

The Spurlock ticket was reused at least three times. The latest inscription reads “Timophon Paiani[eus],” declaring that the ticket once belonged to a man named Timophon of the deme—a subdivision of Athenian territory for voting purposes, similar to our precincts—of Paiania, which was near the modern Athens international airport. Timophon voted in the third division of the courts, indicated by the raised letter gamma in the square on the left. At the right are stamped symbols. The larger is a single owl with folded wings standing between olive branches with the letters Α (alpha), θ (theta), and Η (eta), the abbreviation for Athenaion or “[officially] by the Athenian people.” Together, these items form the seal of the state.

The smaller official seal just after the text is a double-bodied owl, indicating that this juror’s ticket was later authenticated by the state for additional use in the annual election by lot of the Council of 500 and the other magistrates who ran the Athenian government. Every citizen (a free, land-owning male) was eligible for selection to almost every state office from the age of twenty.

Complete tickets tend to be found in graves, while the fragments come from habitation debris such as that from the Agora (market place) in Athens where they were lost. Since these were official state documents, they were regularly recalled, later erased, and reissued with new names. Our whole ticket came from the burial of an Athenian who was so proud of his citizenship that he did not return his allotment name badge but had it buried with him. The cemetery where many of these are found is near Piraeus (the harbor town of Athens) where the poorer citizens were buried. Very few tickets have been found in the Kerameikos cemetery just outside the walls of Athens where the wealthier citizens were buried. Unlike the poorer citizens, these elite probably did not feel much need to emphasize their citizenship status.

The next-to-last inscription has been erased, although enough letters can be read to restore the name as Philo[ny]m[o]s. In the second line, the first four letters are clearly ΠΑΙΑ, showing that Philonymos was also from the deme of Paiania. Only the deme name, Araphenios, can be reconstructed from the second usage, and only three letters of the first use are partially legible. This earliest inscription was written shortly after ca. 378 BCE. The other three times this bronze was inscribed occurred between ca. 370 and ca. 350 BCE, when bronze tickets were replaced by wooden ones. When the Athenian democracy temporarily ended in 322 BCE, neither bronze nor wooden tickets were used. Literary sources say that when the democracy was restored only wood was used, and none of these wooden examples has survived.

  • picture of jurors ticket