Skip to content

Adriaan Lanni, Transitional Justice in the Ancient World, in The Oxford Handbook of Transitional Justice (Jens Meierhenrich, Alexander Laban Hinton & Lawrence Douglas eds., 2023).

Abstract: The ancient Athenian democracy provides our first richly documented example of a self-conscious transitional justice policy. This chapter explores the classical Athenians’ complex response to the atrocities committed during the reign of the Thirty Tyrants at the end of the fifth century BCE. Following the return of the democracy, the Athenians carefully balanced retribution and forgiveness: an amnesty protected collaborators from direct prosecution, but in practice private citizens could indirectly sanction even low-level oligarchic sympathizers by raising their collaboration as character evidence in unrelated lawsuits. They also balanced remembering and forgetting: discussion of the civil war in the courts memorialized the atrocities committed during the tyranny but also whitewashed the widespread collaboration by ordinary citizens, falsely depicting the populace as members of the democratic resistance.