3D reconstruction of a kleroterion (KK1114)

Project Name
3D reconstruction of a kleroterion
Project Acronym
Project Purpose(s)
Project Outcome(s)
3d representation
Project Time Span
2022-10-18 — 2022-11-14
Project Description

The object of concern is a kleroterion (an allotment machine in ancient Greece for the distribution of the services at civic offices). Such fragments of kleroteria are found for example in ancient Agora of Athens for the election of the court judges (dikastai). The way of their function is reported by Aristoteles in his work Athenian Constitution. The front side of the kleroterion had a number of slots separated in columns (kanonides), where the bronze tokens (pinakia) with the names of the candidates were placed. Black and white cubes or most probably spheres, according to the new interpretations of Aristoteles’ text, were placed in the opening on the upper part of the machine to go through a bronze tube attached at one of the sides of the front side of a kleroterion. A result of a white sphere would symbolize the selection of the officials in contrast to a black sphere which would imply no assignments. However, it is not clear, if the lots were drawn for its row or for its name. The second hypothesis seems to be less probable, as the procedure would last for ages.

Most of the relative finds concern fragments of kleroteria made of marble and bronze tokens, dating in the 4th century BC. The description of Aristoteles refers also to their state and function during the 4th century BC in Athens. Taking everything into consideration, our digital reconstruction shows generally a kleroterion of the 4th century BC and it is based on the finds and sources related. At this point, it must be mentioned that no tube for the lottery spheres is either preserved or found. After studies of the machine and the traces of the tube left on the preserved fragments, it is considered to have been bronze. Besides, the tube must have been portable in contrast to the main part of kleroterion, a feature that is highlighted by Bishop’s article and proves that the tube with the conical part on the top of Dow’s drawing would be dysfunctional. Another factor is, that it is not known, how the lottery spheres in the tube would be controlled and picked individually every time. Dow and Bishop describe different ways. It was decided for our 3D model none of these ways to be presented, since no tube is survived. However, the tube itself was modeled, as it is a more certain feature of the ones assumed. The number of the slots and the columns are different on the fragments preserved, thus it is supposed that their form must have been different according to the kind of the civic assignment given. Another feature not preserved, but known through the sources, are the letters of the Greek alphabet over its column of slots. On other reconstructions, they are depicted inscribed or painted. On our 3D model the letters are depicted out of bronze and attached separately on the stone, a feature which would also explain, why they were not preserved (like in the case of the tube). On Dow’s drawing and on the other reconstructions the case of the selection of judges (dikastai) is represented. That would mean two kleroteria with 5 columns of slots each, because it is known that the Athenian tribes (phylae) were 10 and the dikastai came from each tribe. Our 3D model depicts such a kleroterion, too and follows Dow’s drawing: the number of slots is 250 in total and 50 for each column on one kleroterion. It is decided not to make a second kleroterion model, since the selection procedure of dikastai mentioned using two kleroteria is a hypothesis in the research and is not proved through the finds.

Even if there are many reconstructions, interpretations and papers concerning a kleroterion, we cannot be completely sure how it worked and how the exact lottery procedure took place. This model endeavors to suggest another example and to bring again in focus a relative unknown ancient machine of the first democratic city-state in history, Athens.