The Draco Code – 621 BCE

Brief history of the The Draco Constitution – The Draco Code.

The Draconian Code
The Draconian Code

People relied on memory and oral tradition for the transmission of customs and laws from generation to generation before the emergence of written laws. The law, according to legal historian and scholar William Seagle, is “the science that lives on the written word,” where “the words themselves are the topic of the study, the words are the law.”

In 621 BCE, Draco, an Athenian statesman and archon, or magistrate, introduced to Athens and the Ancient Greeks what some regard to be the first written laws.

Draco is only remembered for the laws he recorded and, in especially, their severity. Draco’s regulations were written in blood, not ink, according to Greek biographer and historian Plutarch, and the orator Demades is reported to have remarked that Draco’s laws were written in blood, not ink. When questioned why he placed the death penalty on minor misdeeds, Draco is said to have replied, “The tiniest of them deserve death, and there is no higher punishment I can find for the heavier ones.”

Draco’s laws arose in part from a rising belief among the lower classes (among freeborn, native, landholding men) that the law should be open to all. Until this time, the laws “rested in the comfortable recollections of the aristocrats and their priests,” as Professor Rene Albert Wormser argues, and it was thus impossible for an ordinary person to point to a page and paragraph and declare, “There are my rights.” The most renowned of Draco’s rules distinguished between intentional and unintentional homicide—an early predecessor to modern manslaughter legislation—and punished the lesser crime with exile rather than personal revenge.

Although the name “draconian” has come to refer to rules or punishments that are overly broad in scope or call for ruthless, harsh retribution, some academics believe that Draco did not create all of them. He was, however, the one who put them down on paper, and the epithet is his legacy.

This was the brief history of the Draco Code.

SEE ALSO:

The Laws of Solon (594 BCE);

The Twelve Tables (450 BCE);

The Justinian Code (529).

Sources:

The Draconian Code

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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