Methods of court procedure differed among the several Grecian States no less than their various systems of government. Private suits were almost unknown in Sparta. The so-called laws of Lycurgus by their provisions for the community of property did away, in the main, with courts and lawyers. There were no regular courts, in the ordinary sense of the term, in that city.

The adjective law of Athens, on the contrary, was highly developed. The course of procedure in an Athenian law suit was divided into five stages; 1st, the summons, 2nd, the appearance, 3rd, the preliminary hearing, 4th, the trial and, 5th, the judgment. The summons could be served by the plaintiff in person, who under certain circumstances could arrest the defendant. If upon being served the defendant failed to appear before the magistrate, he was defaulted. If the defendant appeared, it seems that the plaintiff must show that he had a good cause of action in order to have the case entered upon the docket of cases. If this was done the day of the preliminary hearing was determined by lot. This so-called preliminary hearing was the real trial. At this time the pleadings, including those in cross-actions, were filed, and witnesses were examined. The Athenians had established rules as to the competency of witnesses. Neither close friends or known enemies of either party could testify. If the testimony at this preliminary hearing was overwhelming in favor of either side, the judge could decide the case. In general, however, he merely prepared a report to be submitted at the final trial before the dicastery. The dicastery was in a sense a jury, consisting of a large but variable number of members. Several hundred might sit in the trial of a case. This trial was merely a display of oratory. The dicastery voted twice; first as to the merits of the case, and next as to the amount of damages. The vote of a majority controlled. The execution of a judgment, as under the laws of most ancient countries, was mainly left to the exertions of the successful party himself.