‘Athenian Democracy: Kleroterion and the draw in ancient Greece’ at The Adolf Michaelis Museum, Strasbourg


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The Adolf Michaelis Museum in Strasbourg is hosting the exhibition Athenian Democracy: Kleroterion and the draw in ancient Greece. The exhibition, initially presented at the Palais de l’Europe, seat of the Council of Europe, shows us a collection of casts of antique sculptures from a number of ‘prestigious’ museums, all beautiful objects of discovery for archaeology students.

'Athenian Democracy: Kleroterion and the draw in ancient Greece' at The Adolf Michaelis Museum, Strasbourg

At the heart of the casts on display is the Draw Machine (Klèrôtèrion) as reconstituted by the CNRS Research Institute on Ancient Architecture. The various works illustrate the history and institutions of Athenian democracy.

The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Adolf Michaelis Museum, the Association of Friends of the Adolf Michaelis Museum, the Institute of Classical Archaeology, the Permanent Representation of Greece and the Council of Europe.

'Athenian Democracy: Kleroterion and the draw in ancient Greece' at The Adolf Michaelis Museum, Strasbourg
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The main object of this exhibition the ‘KlèrĂ´tèrion’ is the device used in ancient Athenian democracy to choose the jurors of the Heliaia and the Boulè among Athenian citizens. It should be noted that the drawing of lots was a frequent procedure of choice in all ancient societies, democratic or not, and in Greek society of the archaic and classical period, it often had a religious value.

In the KlèrĂ´tèrion tokens were introduced bearing the names of those who would be the judges. This instrument thus testifies to the effective involvement of citizens in the affairs of the city. A 4th century BC copy can be seen at the Agora Museum in Athens. The KlèrĂ´tèrion gave everyone an equal opportunity to participate in public affairs for a one-year term.

One could say that this is one of the most interesting discoveries concerning Athenian democracy and its functioning. The KlèrĂ´tèrion was usually made of stone, with rows of horizontal slits in which small plaques bearing the name of each participant were inserted. On the side of the “Klirotirio”, there was a tube with a funnel on top.

The orifice of the tube opened and closed with a small crank handle. This tube was filled with black and white balls that mixed as they fell. The drawing began with the opening of the crank handle which released a ball corresponding to a series of plates. If the ball was white, the names in this series were selected. If the ball was black, the names were rejected. The draw continued until the necessary number of people was selected.

The exhibition runs until May 11, 2019.

Source: GrèceHebdo [March 20, 2019]



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