XXIX.7 Continuation of the same subject. The necessity of composing laws well

The law of ostra­cism was esta­bli­shed in Athens, in Argos,1 and in Syracuse. It har­med Syracuse in a thou­sand ways, because it was made without pru­dence. The prin­ci­pal citi­zens would banish each other by pla­cing a fig leaf in their hand,2 so that those who had some merit with­drew from acti­vity. In Athens, where the legis­la­tor had felt the exten­sion and the limits he nee­ded to give his law, ostra­cism was a won­de­rous thing : only a sin­gle per­son was ever sub­jec­ted to it,[[[The last per­son ostra­ci­zed was Hyperbolos, in 417 B.C.E.] and it took so many votes that it was unli­kely anyone would be exi­led unless his absence was neces­sary.

They could banish only every five years ; indeed, once ostra­cism could be invo­ked only against one great per­so­nage who struck fear in his com­pa­triots, it was not to be an eve­ry­day mat­ter.

Aristotle, Republic, book V, ch. iii.

Plutarch, Life of Dionysius. [The names of those to be expelled were written on olive leaves.]