Judicial Procedure I

The Athenian magistrates, and especially the nine archons, were also court officials, before whom a trial, as well as the indictment and various other procedures preliminary to it took place. In the case of Socrates' trial and conviction on a charge of impiety (asebeia), for example, the first stage would have been the delivery to him in the presence of witnesses or "callers" (klêtêres), of a summons (prosklêsis) by Meletos, Socrates' accuser (katêgoros), a young man whom he does not know, but whom he describes to Euthyphro as "[aristocratically] long-haired, but without much of a beard, and hook-nosed."1

Meletos' summons can be reconstructed from the dialogue at the beginning of the Euthyphro, and it would have said (the summons was delivered orally): "Meletos, son of Meletos, of the deme of Pithos, summons (proskaleitai) Socrates, son of Sophroniskos, of the deme of Alopeke, (to appear) before the archôn basileus on a charge of impiety (graphe asebeias), on [date], having as his witnesses [names 2]." The summons would also, presumably, have stated the grounds for the charge, since Socrates knows what they are before he meets Meletos to answer the summons.3

It was when Socrates was entering the Stoa Basileios (where the office of the archôn basileus was situated) to answer Meletos' summons that he encountered Euthyphro (2a) and engaged him in a dialogue of the subject of piety. On that day also, after the archôn basileus had ascertained that the procedure was indeed legally permitted, a lawsuit (dikê) against Socrates was instituted--literally "allotted" (dikên lankhanein)--in the presence of the archon.4 Its terms, along with a date for the "preliminary hearing" (anakrisis), were then posted as a public notice before the shrine of the Eponymous Heroes.5

At the anakrisis ("preliminary hearing"), Meletos' written charge and Socrates' answer were both presented before the archon and their validity was affirmed under oath (antômosia). What Socrates in the Apology quotes as the "charge" (enklêma) against him,6 and what Xenophon and Diogenes Laertius present as the contents of the "lawsuit" (graphê),7 were actually the words of the charge as affirmed under oath, the antômosia, which was a public document.8 The actual trial took place on the day assigned by the Thesmothetai for the court to sit, and the archon introduced the case when it came to trial.9

1. Plato, Euthyphro 2b.
2. Possibly Lykon of Thorikos and Anytos of Euonymon, Meletos' synêgoroi..
3. Plato, Euthyphro 3b.
4. Aristotle, Athenaiôn Politeia 56.6; cf. Plato, Euthyphro 5b.
5. Demosthenes 21 (Meidias) 103.
6. Plato, Apology 24b6-c2.
7. Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.1.1; Diogenes Laertius, Life of Socrates 2.40 (tade egrapsato kai antômosato ktl.).
8. Diogenes Laertius, who was writing in the third century CE, cites it from an authority of the second century CE who claimed that it was still "in the Metroön."
9. Aristotle, Athenaiôn Politeia 59.1.