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Response to Constantin Pop, Review of Early Greek Lawgivers. CJ Online 

CJ Online 2009.09.07

I have only now seen this review of my book, hence my tardiness in 
responding. Early Greek Lawgivers is very short—74 pages of text, not 
including a timeline, map, study questions, bibliography and index—but 
the 37 pages (pp. 11–47, not 50 pages as stated by Pop) concerning the 
sources and context necessary to understand the lawgivers are not as 
neglectful of the issues, or as sloppy in their explanation, as Pop 

Pop states that the “meanings of the two Greek words [nomos and ethos]” 
are not given and that their functions are blurred. We can argue about the 
blurring of their functions—which in the archaic period may not have been 
as clear as Pop thinks—but here is what I wrote about their meanings. 
Early on (p. 14) I described some problems involved in discussing the 
narrow and wide senses of nomos, of nomos as “law” versus “a law,” 
as “custom,” etc. Later, regarding Hesiod, I wrote (p. 30):

Nomos means “law,” but this too has wide and narrow meanings. Widely, 
it means certain standards, or broad norms from which particular decisions 
may be derived; it is the customs on which a society is based, which may or 
may not be written…. In later times, however, nomos will take on a 
narrower meaning. The nomoi are general principles and rules, arrived at by 
an accepted process of deliberation, carved into stone in public view, 
enforced as laws, and immutable except by special act.

I go on to note that there are many problems associated with dike, themis, 
and nomos that could not be covered, and that there are

many complexities and qualifications to be grasped, but in broad terms 
themis is the overall order governing the community which is established by 
the gods and the decrees of rulers; dikê is the balance between disputing 
parties, as well as a way to resolve actual disputes, under an order proper 
to human beings; and nomos (or a nomos) is the law (or a law) that is 
instituted to accomplish this.

I follow this with a brief mention of the genealogy of the gods in the 
Theogony, so that students might know where to turn for Hesiod’s views. 
Then, on p. 32, I state:

There is a sense of order in Homer’s men, for instance, but it has not 
been defined in a set of laws. On a deep level it is not in nomos, but 
rather in ethos: the unwritten customs and habits that underlie human life 
and action.

One may disagree with these formulations, which would require one to read 
the text associated with them, but it is not the case that I have not given 
the meanings of the words.

Pop is also wrong when he states that I described sophrosune as “good 
cheer” (p. 33). In fact, I thus described euphrosune, a different word 
entirely. Pop also claims that I describe hubris as “harm done to another 
person” (p. 29). But I actually describe hubris as an “‘outrage,’ 
an attack on the honour, possessions or status of another person.”

If readers are interested in my views on my topic—the Greek lawgivers, 
not Greek law—I urge them to consult the book itself rather than Pop’s 

Duke University

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