According to picktrue, there are as many Greek rights as there are cities in Greece: only a small part of the συμπολιτεία which links several cities in a federation, translates into laws having effect in all associated cities; but also the territorial extension of the federations usually does not exceed that of the major cities. However, the fundamental juridical ideas are common to all Greeks, although in each community they are variously completed and derogated: even in countries where the autonomous evolution has proceeded further, as in Athens, the persistence of the original nucleus is always recognizable. On the other hand, the most damaging effects of particularism are often avoided by means of treaties (σύμβολα or συμβολαί) which guarantee legal protection in relations between citizens of different cities; sometimes determining on a case-by-case basis whether personal or local law should be applied, but more often referring to a pre-existing identity of norms. Other common rules are determined, even without treaties, by the needs of trade. These unitary tendencies somehow make up for the scarcity of epigraphic data, the almost absolute lack of properly legal literature, the ambiguity of the orators’ testimonies: the very ancient law of Gortina in Crete illuminates what the orators affirm about the position of slaves; hereditary law finds precise documentation in the testamentary tablets of the Achaean colonies in Italy and in a law of the colony of Dura-Europo in Mesopotamia; the admirable fragment on the sale, the only survivor of the work of Theophrastus Περὶ νόμων, finds its commentary in the great Alexandrian papyrus of Halle (δικαιώματα) and in inscriptions from Rhodes and Cyrene.
Essentially customary, primeval law presented itself to the spirit of the Greeks as a divine norm (ϑεσμός); and it is probable that in the tradition on the pris legislators of which the cities boasted (Lycurgus in Sparta, Dracone in Athens, Minos in Crete, Zaleuco in Locri Epizefirî, Caronda in other colonies of Italy but also in cities of Asia Minor) are contained mythological elements. Their laws contained some paradigm, which developed by analogy in legal negotiations and in court decisions. But, when the oligarchy prevailed over the king and the common people, and even more when the parties were formed within the oligarchy, the need was felt to subtract justice from the arbitrary, and the spread of culture suggested the written drafting of the new human right, νόμος. Theoretically, only popular assemblies can legislate; but, apart from the legislative activity exercised in the century. Street. C. by tyrants, it is frequent to grant full powers (for example to Solon), and in any case the law almost always refers to the authority of a magistrate or party leader, and usually bears his name. The laws are still integrated, over the centuries, by the customs of commerce, by the evolutionary interpretation of the courts, by the search for new contractual and testamentary clauses.
The law of each city is in force for citizens, πολῖται, as participants in the sovereign community and other minors (file, demi, phrenia): hence the political rights, which in democratic states are summarized in participation in assemblies (ἐκκλησιάζειν), to the judiciary (δικάζειν) and to the judiciary (ἄρχειν); but hence also private rights, in particular the right to own real estate (ἔγκτησις) and to contract legitimate marriage (ἐπιγαμία). Potentially, a citizen born of a just marriage, which requires (apart from the special concessions of ἐπιγαμία) that both parents belong to the city; but whoever finds himself in this condition is ἀστός, not always πολίτης: a true citizen becomes the male when, at the age of 18, he is enrolled among the ephebes; the woman never becomes. But also those born of concubine ἀστή can reach citizenship, when the father declares them as such in the phratry, and also the illegitimate of uncertain father, when the mother is ἀστή and her relatives make the declaration to the brothers. On the other hand, the granting to foreigners of the potestative right to become πολῖται of a city (or of any one of the cities of a federation) by residing there or purchasing goods is widespread. Outside the category of πολῖται, there is originally no legal capacity: while for minors one soon comes to represent the situation as a simple inability to act, the subjection of women to κύριος still retains the characteristics of a true inability of law in historical age. Moreover, this was threatened also to a real citizen, when by crime or due to debts towards the state he incurred atymia; but as time progressed the atymia was reduced to the confines of political rights. Conversely, the juridical capacity of communities and colleges, public and private, was recognized very quickly: the Greeks recognized innumerable types.
Even outside citizenship, legal protection was increasingly extended. Apart from the broad categories of indigenous people not recognized as full citizens, whose position varies from total or partial exclusion from political rights to denial of land ownership or even serfdom, and apart from the protection afforded to foreigners in under treaties and commercial customs, many cities made a separate category of resident foreigners, meteci (μέτοικοι). They too are registered, in separate lists, with the demi, upon presentation of a patron; but the function of this in the exercise and defense of rights is soon obliterated, and the meteco defends for himself his movable property and his credit rights.