Documents of Ancient Athenian Democracy published by Jim Sickinger


New evidence for the Athenian practice of ostracism appears in an article recently published in Hesperia by Associate Professor Jim Sickinger. Ostracism was the practice of expelling a citizen of Athens for a period of 10 years, and was used to neutralize political opponents. Sickinger’s focus is a deposit of more than 150 incised sherds, or ostraka, discovered in the Athenian Agora in the late 1990s; these ostraka were the actual ballots for voting to expel someone. Five candidates for ostracism are represented among the ostraka, including a large number of Xanthippos, father of Pericles, who was ostracized in 484 B.C. The entire deposit presumably dates from that very year. The new finds shed light on various features of Attic writing, including nomenclature, letter forms, and variant spellings, and provide important new evidence for the mass literacy of Athenian citizens in the early 5th century.

The article is available via JSTOR here (FSU ID required)