ostracism (ŏsˈtrəsĭzˌəm) [key], ancient Athenian method of banishing a public figure. It was introduced after the fall of the family of Pisistratus. Each year the assembly took a preliminary vote to decide whether a vote of ostracism should be held. If a majority approved holding an ostracism, a day was set for the voting. When the polling took place, each voter put into an urn a potsherd ( ostrakon ) marked with the name of a person he wished ostracized. The man named on the most ostraka was exiled, unless fewer than 6,000 votes were cast (some authorities believe that a total of 6,000 votes was necessary to ostracize a person). The exile lasted normally 10 years with no confiscation. Aristides, Cimon, and others were recalled before 10 years were up. The last ostracism was probably that of Hyperbolus (416? B.C.), a demagogue of humble origin. Other cities used ostracism also. Numerous ostraka have been found in modern excavations, many bearing the names of Aristides and Themistocles.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Greece