Tag Archives: ancient greece

Ancient Noise Ordinances

Some types of regulations go back a very long way.  Some of this is likely only legend, but according to the historian Donald Kagan, local noise ordinances date all the way back to ancient Greece:

At the Gulf of Taranto lay the Greek city of Sybaris, whose citizens’ taste for luxurious living has provided a synonym for voluptuaries. They were said to honor cooks with golden crowns and give them the same honors for preparing a fine meal that they gave to choregoi for staging winning tragedies. They taught their horses to dance and were once defeated in battle when their opponents played tunes on the flute that lured their cavalry away. They went to parties at night and slept all day, imposing the first anti-noise legislation; even roosters were barred from the town.

-Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy,  p. 125.

Before Lawyers

Before there were lawyers, there were philosophers. The Sophists, given a bad name by Plato, earned their bread by teaching people how to plead their cases in court. There being no professional lawyers in 5th century B.C. Athens, people had to represent themselves. Witness this tale (probably too good to be true) of the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Protagoras:

It is said that [Protagoras] taught a young man on the terms that he should be paid his fee if the young man won his first law-suit, but not otherwise, and that the young man’s first law-suit was one brought by Protagoras for recovery of his fee.

Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, p. 75.