Judicious ancients

If we really wanted to find common DNA traits among the Greeks, lawsuit mania would be a good place to start. Every year, half a million legal actions are filed in Greece. In fact, the Justice Ministry once considered levying a small charge of some 10 euros from plaintiffs in the hope that this would make people think twice. The ancient Greeks were also equally fond of litigation, and even Aristophanes felt compelled to satirize them in his plays. In order to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits being filed, the ancient Athenians came up with a plan: If the plaintiff failed to receive at least one-fifth of the votes of the presiding judges, then he would be obliged to compensate the defendant with one obol for each drachma he was demanding in his suit (one obol was worth one-sixth of a drachma). So, returning to the present, Andreas Vgenopoulos is demanding 1 million euros from Alexis Tsipras. Fine. If, however, he loses the case, if he fails to find a judge who is willing to be a hostage to politics, then he should have to pay the Synaspismos Radical Left Coalition party compensation to the tune of 166,666 euros (with which Panathinaikos could buy a whole new team, plus substitutes). Similarly, Vgenopoulos is demanding 2 million euros from George Papandreou. Fine again. But if he loses, if the judges refuse to allow our democracy to degenerate from a presidential one to a judicial one, then he should have to pay the chief of the opposition party 333,333 euros. This is far less than the 200 million euros which, according to Papandreou, Vgenopoulos made by acting as middleman in the sale of OTE shares and with which his beloved Panathinaikos could buy even Kaka, Messi and Ronaldo. Maybe the rule of the ancients should be applied in modern times before fear of litigation makes us all fall silent.