Ancient Jury Duty Comes to Life at IAS

Pinakia, here shown as casts made of Plaster of Paris, were small bronze plates used in ancient Athens for the process of democratically selecting a group of citizens to serve on a jury. Athenian citizens would nominate themselves for jury duty, volunteering their bronze plates to be inserted into a kleroterion (a machine with rows of slots and a built-in lottery system).

Krateros from the Archives 2
Maria O'Leary

Athenians’ willingness to participate might surprise a modern reader, but jury duty was highly sought-after in ancient Athens. The role offered guaranteed pay and did not require physical strength—conditions which may have led to the development of a class of professional jurors, if we take seriously the caricatures in comic plays such as Aristophanes’ Wasps.

These pinakia were recently discovered in the storage cupboards of the Institute’s epigraphic library. While the making of casts such as these has historically been common place in archeological practice, the precise role of these casts in archeological studies at IAS is unclear.