In Greece there are as many rights as there are pòleis. Documentation is scarce, relatively abundant only for Athens. Law was considered in Greece first as a divine emanation (ϑεσμός) and the first legislators are often mythical figures (Lycurgus, Zaleuchus); only in the 7th century. the human law (νόμος) begins to assert itself, which removes the individual from the interpretation of customary norms entrusted to members of the dominant oligarchies. Greek law exercises its power over all male citizens, both by birth and by acquisition of citizenship, over particular categories of resident non-citizens (➔ meteco), and, with wide limitations, over slaves.
In Greek law the right of ownership is less marked than in Roman law: ownership is essentially the prevalence of the owner over any other claim to the thing. The pecuniary obligations derive either from the settlement of crimes for money, or from debts contracted by the small owner when his company needs a subsidy: in the archaic age the debtor, if he could not pay the due, remained linked to the creditor even with the person physics. Criminal law develops from revenge: murder is avenged by the whole family, minor crimes by the individual; the distinction between voluntary and involuntary murder is late (late 6th century). Flagrant theft was punished with death up to the 6th century; the non-flagrant one with a multiple pecuniary penalty of the damage. As for the trial, in Greece
The Greek economy towards the end of the 2nd millennium BC and in the first centuries of the following was still primitive and essentially agricultural; with the settlement of the Greeks on the coasts of Asia Minor, of Greece, of southern Italy and of Sicily, Gaul and Spain, the economy of the motherland developed above all in the cities that for their maritime activity were in relationship with the colonies (Chalcis, Corinth, Aegina, Megara). Soon the colonies acquired self-sufficiency becoming export centers towards the motherland: thus Miletus for textile products, Chios and Samo for metallurgy. Up to the 6th century. the industries were modest and the number of slaves who worked there relatively low; agriculture was prominent among economic activities. The coin, though already in use in the most advanced cities, was poor and the same wealth of citizens soloniano law (594 BC) was not expressed in the measurement currency, but in wheat medimni: hence the high purchasing power of the coin. Even the state financial organization was in the modest archaic age and only with the development of trade and the introduction of money was it defined and complicated. Rare direct and indirect impositions, introduced by tyrants (Pisistratus in Athens) in the form of taxes and duties or forced withdrawal of a share of the products of the soil.
After the Persian wars the economic development of Greece was intense: the free and servile population increased; the products of the soil were no longer enough for the metropolitan population and the import of grains, especially from the Pontic regions, increased. The circulation of the currency caused an increase in the cost of living. Wealth in many regions tended to be concentrated in the hands of a few and the social problem, scarcely noticed in the archaic age, gained importance. During the 4th century. the cost of living increased again; not compensated by the increase in wages, it was the cause of economic malaise. It also appeared more complex in the 5th-4th century. state finance, which had greater revenues, not so much from direct taxes, which are completely exceptional, as from indirect taxes: port duties, consumption taxes, sales tax. The expenses of the state were huge, for war necessities and in Athens for public works, for daily allowances for the buleuti and popular judges; during the 4th century. distributions of public money to the people increased, leading to the collapse of the state economy. It was remedied with increased duties, with the secularization of the treasures of the temples, with forced loans and confiscations of private assets.
The conquest of the East by Alexander the Great aggravated rather than alleviated the situation of the cities; the Greece was now peripheral to the center of the new empire: the major cities in the 3rd-2nd century. they were in the territories of recent conquest: Alexandria, Antioch, Seleucia, Pergamum, Ephesus. The conditions of trade had improved due to the greater safety of traffic, but the cities of Greece continental, overtaken in their industrial potential by the new centers, did not take advantage of this. The process of concentration of wealth determined in Greece a mass of possessors and of those who, already belonging to the middle classes, had gone proletarianizing with the progressive decrease of small-industrial and artisan activities. The 3rd century. was dominated by the imminence of the social revolution: hence the reaction of the possessing classes and of the states with a conservative structure (Achaean league and Macedonia), the unrelated and not unanimous resistance opposed to the Roman conquest, presenting the Romans as supporters everywhere of the social order existing.
The minted coin, introduced in the reign of Lydia in the 7th century. BC and immediately imitated by the Greek colonies of the eastern Aegean basin (Cyzicus, Ephesus, Phocaea etc.), it quickly spread to the islands and the motherland where, in the mid-6th century, the most important cities had their own monetary series: at the turn of the century a true monetary economy developed. The establishment of official monetary units by the pòleis and the adoption of the minted currency responded to community needs and requirements. The Greeks replaced silver for the first metal used, electro. Eastern bimetallism (gold-silver) did not follow in Greece due to the shortage of gold, so its use was sporadic, limited to particular contingencies. Coinage in bronze was introduced relatively late to facilitate a market economy.
Each city had its own coinage and held the monopoly of minting. Circulation was generally limited to the local area; the coins issued by great commercial and political powers (Aegina, Corinth, Athens, Macedonia) had a notable diffusion, characterized by particular emblems imprinted on the coins: the owl in Athens, the tortoise in Aegina, the pegasus in Corinth etc. The coin was minted under the direction and control of the state, which guaranteed the authenticity, weight and quality of the metal. The types, taken from the mythological repertoire, from the animal, vegetable world, etc., are varied; the human figure is prevalent in the coin series of the Hellenistic period when the coin assumed importance for the iconography of the various dynasts. The obscure work of modest craftsmen is reflected in the Greek currency, Phidias, Polykleitos, Lysippos.