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(ŏs`trəsĭz'əm), ancient Athenian method of banishing a public figure. It was introduced after the fall of the family of PisistratusPisistratus
, 605?–527 B.C., Greek statesman, tyrant of Athens. His power was founded on the cohesion of the rural citizens, whom he consolidated with farseeing land laws. His coup (c.560 B.C.) was probably not unpopular.
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. 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. AristidesAristides
, d. c.468 B.C., Athenian statesman and general. He was one of the 10 generals who commanded the Athenians at the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) and in the next year became chief archon. In 483 he was ostracized because he opposed the naval policy of Themistocles.
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, CimonCimon
, d. 449 B.C., Athenian general and statesman; son of Miltiades. He fought at Salamis and shared command (with Aristides) of the fleet sent to rescue the Asian Greek cities from Persian domination. From 478 to 477 he helped Aristides form the Delian League.
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, 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in ancient Athens, the banishment of certain citizens by order of the popular assembly.

Ostracism was instituted by Cleisthenes at the end of the sixth century B.C. as a measure against the restoration of tyranny. First used in 488–487 B.C., it later became an instrument of political warfare. Once a year the popular assembly decided whether a vote of ostracism should be held. If the majority voted in favor of ostracism, a day was set for the procedure. Everyone having the right to vote in the popular assembly would write on a potsherd the name of any person who, in his opinion, was dangerous to the people. Any individual against whom at least 6,000 votes were cast was obliged to leave Athens within ten days, usually for a period of ten years. (According to other sources, 6,000 was the quorum necessary for the assembly.) Banished individuals did not lose their property or their rights as citizens.

Ostracism was not often practiced. Among those who were ostracized were Aristides (483–482 B.C.), Themistocles (471 B.C.), and the philosopher Damon, the teacher of Pericles (443 B.C.). The last known case of ostracism was in 417 B.C., when the demagogue Hyperbolus was banished from Athens. Similar institutions for banishing citizens existed in Argos, Syracuse, and certain other Greek cities.


Carcopino, J. L’Ostracisme athénien. Paris, 1935.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Ammonites are to be ostracized because they met you not with bread and Water (10) while the Moabites, who did sell bread and water, are to be ostracized because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor.
They include plans to deposit a severed chunk of oil pipeline somewhere in Afghanistan (The Treason of Images, 2001/2002); to erect a section of highway overpass in London's Green Park (This England, 1998/2002); to half-sink an industrial chimney in a Midlands reservoir (Coming up for air, 2001); to ferry Liverpool Biennial visitors around that city inside the contemporary, privatized equivalent of a Black Maria (The End of Art Theory, 2001/2002); and to fly the flags of three nations ostracized by UK diplomacy--Taiwan, Bhutan, and, of course, Iraq--from the dignified roof of Liverpool's Cunard b uilding (The Ambassadors, 2001/2002).
For his pains he was virtually ostracized in the House of Commons and also in sections of the daily press where a broadsheet actually called him a 'warmonger'.
The couple are seeking damages for personal injuries mainly for depression, loss of earnings caused by the boy's constant need for supervision, for losses from having to move houses due to being ostracized and to financial pressures and the cost of damage to their home caused by the boy that was deemed wilful by the insurance company.
At the same time, Teal said, students must design a facility for use by people who speak multiple languages and face both a low literacy rate "and the stigma of AIDS, where people are ostracized by their own family."
Hers is not a story of overt abuse but of losing her ancestors and roots upon relocation of her family from Japan to the United States, and in her youth to a small town in Kansas where she was taunted and ostracized by her classmates at school.
The whole group turned on Lisa, and she went from trusted pal to ostracized outcast overnight.
Ann Lee, who lived in the 18th-century, founded the Shaker religion and was ostracized for her convictions.
It is regarded not as a valuable learning experience but as a sign of ineptitude or moral turpitude with family members being ostracized and credit ratings ruined.
Wrote King, "[W]ith tens of thousands of Liberians slain, hundreds of thousands displaced throughout West Africa, a generation of young Liberian boys ruined by their conversion to child soldiers, women raped and mutilated, his country is in absolute ruins and is ostracized by the world community -- except for hustlers, mercenaries and the preacher/entrepreneur from Virginia Beach."
And suddenly, I am beginning to understand a little more of Jesus's love for the lepers, ostracized by society as Aids victims are today, and for the adulterous woman, the rich young man and the hardworking fishermen.