The archaeology of ostracism

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Ostraka from the Eridanos in the Kerameikos © David Gill

German excavations in the Kerameikos, in the bed of the river Eridanos, revealed major deposits of pot sherds or ostraka with the incised names of individuals. They include:

  • Aristeides Lysimachou, candidate in the 480s
  • Kallias Kratiou, candidate in the 480s
  • Megakles Hippokratous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Themistokles Neokleous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Kimon Miltiadou, candidate in the mid 5th century

Although in some cases the date of the (successful) ostracism is known, the individual could have been a candidate in earlier voting.

These ostraka were used in the process of ostracism in the Athenian democracy to restrict the power of a person who had been seen as becoming too powerful. If sufficient votes were cast against an individual they were forced to go into exile.

Note that some of these ostraka come from the same pot.

Reference

Lewis, D. (1974). The Kerameikos Ostraka. Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 14, 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20180644

See also:

Lang, M. (1990). Ostraka. The Athenian Agora, 25, Iii-188. doi:10.2307/3601999

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