The third important institution was the popular courts, or dikasteria. Every day, more than 500 jurors were chosen by lot from a pool of male citizens older than 30. Of all the democratic institutions, Aristotle argued that the dikasteria “contributed most to the strength of democracy” because the jury had almost unlimited power. There were no police in Athens, so it was the demos themselves who brought court cases, argued for the prosecution and the defense, and delivered verdicts and sentences by majority rule. (There were also no rules about what kinds of cases could be prosecuted or what could and could not be said at trial, and so Athenian citizens frequently used the dikasteria to punish or embarrass their enemies.)
Jurors were paid a wage for their work, so that the job could be accessible to everyone and not just the wealthy (but, since the wage was less than what the average worker earned in a day, the typical juror was an elderly retiree). Since Athenians did not pay taxes, the money for these payments came from customs duties, contributions from allies and taxes levied on the metoikoi. The one exception to this rule was the leitourgia, or liturgy, which was a kind of tax that wealthy people volunteered to pay to sponsor major civic undertakings such as the maintenance of a navy ship (this liturgy was called the trierarchia) or the production of a play or choral performance at the city’s annual festival.