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An Athenian court of law: 5th - 4th century BC

An Athenian jury is astonishingly large - ranging from 201 to 2501 jurors, depending on the seriousness of the case. In an inevitably noisy debate (Socrates, speaking in his own defence, has to ask members of the jury not to shout him down), supporters of each side of the argument address the court, witnesses are produced to testify, relevant documents and laws are read out. Then (always within the day) each member of the jury votes by putting a pebble in one of two boxes, for conviction or acquittal.

If the answer is conviction, the jury also votes on the sentence - choosing between one demanded by the prosecution and an alternative proposed by the defence. This is a subtle game of chance which Socrates refuses to play.


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