display | more...

Zaleucus (7th century BC) Greek lawmaker

Although he does not carry the fame of Solon (Athens) and Lycurgus (Sparta), Zaleucus (or Zaleukos) is one of ancient Greek's legendary lawgivers. He arranged the Locrian codes of law in the 7th century BC. Zaleucus' law was later on widely adopted in Italy, embodied in the lex talionis (law of retaliation: eye for eye) and other severe features, best exemplified in the code of Draco.

One of Zaleucus' codes referred to adultery. Anyone who was found to be guilty of that, would have his eyes cut out. Zaleucus did see this rule carried out quite soon when his own son committed this crime! Zaleucus let indeed cut out one of his eyes and then sacrificed an eye of his own to save his son's sight.

This scene has been depicted in art many times. The Palazzo Sergardi and the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena have 16th century Domenico Beccafumi decorations of this draconic kind. Rafael has included a Zaleucus tableau in the Vatican's Stanza della Segnatura and also Mantua's Palazzo del Te, Amsterdam's Stadhuis op de Dam (also known as the Royal Palace) and Gdansk's Artus represent Zaleucus' sacrifice. Dutch painter Jan de Bray painted Het oordeel van Zaleukos (Zaleucus' verdict) in 1676, which you can see in Haarlem's city hall.