A Long, Long Time Ago

200235995-001The need for effective communication between government functionaries and constituents in a representative democracy is clear from that social model’s earliest examples.  Public notice, the subject of this blog, has such a long history within democracies and representative government that it seems almost redundant to have to explain or justify its character and use.

The Greek city states routinely posted official documents in public places that reported the activities of government. [1] Since all citizens were expected to be well informed about public events before rendering a vote, or even speaking publicly about decisions to be made, it is no surprise that government documents were important to social life.

An example of the reasons given for the creating and keeping of such documents is part of an argument made by a well-known orator, Aeschines.He is reported to have said in 330 B.C.E., speaking to a law court, “A fine thing, my fellow Athenians, a fine thing is the preservation of public records. For records do not change, and they do not shift sides with traitors, but they grant to you, the people, the opportunity to know whenever you want, which men, once bad, through some transformation now claim to be good.”[2]

The reason seems good today as well.

[1] P.J. Rhodes, “Public documents In the Greek States: Archives and Inscriptions,” Greece & Rome, Vol. 48, No. 1. April 2001, pp. 33-44.

[2]James P. Sickinger, Public Records and Archiving in Classical Athens, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (1999) p. 1.


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