Aristides self-own

30 Jul 2019

Ancient Greek citizens could vote vexatious people out of the city through a process called ostracism. A special meeting of the ecclesia met at the marketplace, and each voter scratched the name of someone he wanted banished on a broken shard of pottery called an ostrikon. The person with the most votes had ten days to leave the city on pain of death.

Once during a vote an illiterate farmer walked up to Aristides, the famous statesman, and asked him to write a name on his ballot for him.

Sure. What name?


Aristides was shocked. He asked what did Aristides ever do to you?

Nothing, the farmer replied. I don’t even know him. I am just sick of everyone calling him Aristides the Just.

Aristides scribbled his name on the ostrikon and handed it back without a word.


Everitt, Anthony. The Rise of Athens. Random House, 2016.

Hall, Edith. Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind. W.W. Norton and Company, 2015.