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NAUTO´DICAE (ναυτοκίκαι) were judicial authorities in disputes between merchants (ἔμποροι) who carried on traffic by sea, and in suits against foreigners who usurped the rights of citizenship; in other words, in the δίκαι ἐμπορικαι and δίκαι ξενίας. The connexion of the two classes of cases may be explained by the fact that the trading metoecs were just the most likely men to get themselves wrongly enrolled as citizens (Schömann, Antiq. 1.474, E. T.). The nautodicae were appointed every year by lot in the month of Gamelion (Lys. Or. 17, περὶ δημος. ἀδίκ., § 5), and probably attended to the δίκαι ἐμπορικαὶ only during the winter, when navigation ceased, whereas the δίκαι ξενίας might be brought before them all the year round. There can be no doubt that they dated from an early period of Athenian history, when it was sufficient for a man to be a citizen if only his father was a citizen, whatever his mother might be; that is, previous to the time of Pericles (Plut. Per. 37; compare CIVITAS p. 444 b).

In what precise capacity they administered these suits was formerly a matter of dispute, some grammarians calling them δικασταὶ or jurymen (Hesych. s. v.; Lex Seguer. p. 283, 3), others ἀρχαὶ or εἰσαγωγεῖς, presiding magistrates (Poll. 8.126; Harpocrat., Suid., Lex. Rhet. s. v.). The weight of authority was in favour of the latter view; but a difficulty was found in the fact that, in the time of Demosthenes and the orators contemporary with Philip of Macedon, the suits in question are shown to have been tried before the Thesmothetae. The only orator who mentions the nautodicae belongs to an earlier period (Lys. l.c. § § 5, 8), and is clearly in favour of their having been an ἀρχή. But in all the speeches of Demosthenes no trace occurs of them, and in that against Lacritus (p. 940.47 f.), where all the courts are mentioned before whom such a case as that of Lacritus might be brought, the orator could scarcely have failed to include the nautodicae if they had still existed in his time. Hence Boeckh (P. E. p. 49, and with slight modification in his later view, Sthh3 1.64) thought that the thesmothetae had the ἡγεμονία δικαστηρίου, while the nautodicae sat as a jury under them. The better attested opinion that they were a magistracy is now shown to be correct by an inscription (C. I. A. 1.29, οἱ ναυτοδ[ἱκαι . . . τ]ὸ δικαστήριον παρεχόντων, i. e. shall be the εἰσαγωγεῖς of the case; Lips. Att. Process, p. 96; Fränkel, n. 92 on Boeckh). The difficulty vanishes if we suppose that the δίκαι ἐμπορικαὶ in the middle of the 4th century, when they became δίκαι ἔμμηνοι [EMMENOI DIKAI], were taken from the nautodicae and transferred to the thesmothetae; and that as the principal occupation of the former was gone, the δίκαι ξενίας were likewise transferred to the thesmothetae, and the office of the nautodicae was abolished. If Lucian mentions them in a dialogue supposed to have taken place after the death of Alexander, this is not the only similar anachronism in his writings (Lucian, Dial. Meretr. 2.2 = p. 282 R.; Lipsius, Att. Proc. p. 97 n.). The notion of Schömann (Antiq. l.c.) that the nautodicae judged the ἐμπορικαὶ δίκαι themselves, while they prepared δίκαι ξενίας for trial and brought them before the Heliastic courts, is an unnecessary attempt to reconcile the grammarians; for we find δικάζειν and δικαστὴς occasionally used of magistrates in their capacity of εἰσαγωγεῖς (cf. Att. Process, p. 43 Lips.). (Baumstark, de Curatoribus Emporii et Nautodicis apud Athenienses, Freiburg in Breisgau, 1828, pp. 65-78; Att. Process, pp. 95-98 Lips.; the old edition pp. 83-86 is much less satisfactory.)

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