1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zaleucus

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ZALEUCUS, of Locri Epizephyrii in Magna Graecia, Greek lawgiver, is supposed to have flourished about 660 B.C. The statement that he was a pupil of Pythagoras is an anachronism. Little is known of him, and Timaeus even doubted his existence, but it is now generally agreed that this is an error. He is said to have been the author of the first written code of laws amongst the Greeks. According to the common story, the Locrians consulted the Delphic oracle as to a remedy for the disorder and lawlessness that were rife amongst them. Having been ordered to make laws for themselves, they commissioned one Zaleucus, a shepherd and slave (in later tradition, a man of distinguished family) to draw up a code. The laws of Zaleucus, which he declared had been communicated to him in a dream by Athena, the patron goddess of the city, were few and simple, but so severe that, like those of Draco, they became proverbial. They remained essentially unchanged for centuries, and the Locrians subsequently enjoyed a high reputation as upholders of the law. One of the most important provisions was that the punishment for different offences was definitely fixed, instead of being left to the discretion of the judge before whom a case was tried. The penalty for adultery was the loss of the eyes, and in general the application of the lex talionis was enjoined as the punishment for personal injuries. Special enactments concerning the rights of property, the alienation of land, settlement in foreign countries, and various sumptuary laws (e.g. the drinking of pure wine, except when ordered medicinally, was forbidden) are attributed to him. After the code was firmly established, the Locrians introduced a regulation that, if a citizen interpreted a law differently from the cosmopolis (the chief magistrate), each had to appear before the council of One Thousand with a rope round his neck, and the one against whom the council decided was immediately strangled. Any one who proposed a new law or the alteration of one already existing was subjected to the same test, which continued in force till the 4th century and even later. Zaleucus is often confused with Charondas, and the same story is told of their death. It is said that one of Zaleucus’s laws forbade a citizen, under penalty of death, to enter the senate-house bearing a weapon. During the stress of war, Zaleucus violated this law; and, on its being pointed out to him, he committed suicide by throwing himself upon the point of his sword, declaring that the law must be vindicated.

See Bentley, Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris; F. D. Gerlach, Zaleukos, Charondas, Pythagoras (1858); G. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, i.; Schol. on Pindar, Ol. x . 17; Strabo vi. p. 259; Diod. Sic. xii. 20, 21; Demosthenes, In Timocratem, p. 744; Stobaeus, Florilegium, xliv. 20, 21, where the supposed preface of Zaleucus and the collection of laws as a whole is spurious; Suidas, E.V ., who makes him a native of Thurii; Cicero, De Legibus, ii. 6 . See also article Greek Law.