The theory and practice of torture in ancient Athenian courts

Adamidis, V. ORCID: 0000-0001-6347-5327, 2018. The theory and practice of torture in ancient Athenian courts. SCHOLE, 12 (2). ISSN 1995-4328

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There has been much debate in scholarship over the actual existence of torture (basanos) of innocent slaves for evidentiary purposes in the courts of classical Athens in the age of the orators. In the absence of direct evidence in the forensic speeches, scholars have pointed to a putative inconsistency between theory and practice regarding this institution. On the one hand, belief in the reliability of torture is evident in the works of the Attic orators, as well as challenges to evidentiary torture. Furthermore, rhetorical theory (in Aristotle's Rhetoric and Anaximenes' Rhetorica ad Alexandrum) supposedly provides guidance to orators as if recourse to basanos was a real possibility and classifies torture under the category of artless or supplementary proofs. On the other hand, not even one of such challenges has evidently been accepted and actually carried out and the sources are silent as to the actuality of evidentiary torture. This study closely examines the evidence of the primary sources and seeks to provide a solution to the aforementioned putative inconsistency. It demonstrates that it is far from certain that Aristotle and Anaximenes referred to the particular type of evidentiary basanos, since closer analysis shows that the shape of this institution is complex and much nuanced. Moreover, the presence in the courts of testimonies elicited by other than evidentiary types of torture, points to the root of the Athenian belief in the reliability of torture. Consequently, it is plausible to suggest that by the time of the Attic orators, evidentiary basanos had become obsolete and its remnant was primarily of rhetorical value.

Item Type: Journal article
Description: Journal SCHOLE = ΣΧΟΛΗ
Publication Title: SCHOLE
Creators: Adamidis, V.
Publisher: Novosibirsk State University Press
Date: April 2018
Volume: 12
Number: 2
ISSN: 1995-4328
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 03 May 2018 15:37
Last Modified: 03 May 2018 15:38
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