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Thesmos/Nomos

…Cleisthenes has been credited with a significant change in Greek political vocabulary, the application of the word nomos, instead of the traditional thesmos, to designate statutory law. What is significant about this change is that, while thesmos implies the imposition of law from above and has a distinctly religious flavour, nomos — a word that suggests something held in common, whether a pasture or a custom — implies a law to which there is common agreement, something that people who are subject to it themselves regard as a binding norm. The application of nomos to a statue became common usage in Athebs, which had thereby adopted ‘the most democratic word for “law” in any language’. — Ellen Meiksins Wood, Citizens to Lords, p. 36

I wish I hadn’t lost so much of the little Greek I had. Meiksins Wood quotes Martin Ostwald at the end of this, and it’d be somewhat nice if I knew a bit more of the wordshape that nomos had on the verbal landscape of Athens. Or thesmos for that matter. Because claiming that nomos was the most democratic word for law in any language is all but certainly hubris, but y’know, the linguistic and metaphorical facets of the words would be nice to know.

Categories: Notes.

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