Athenian Democracy using Random Numbers

Athenian democracy developed around the fifth century BC and is the first known democracy in the world. Citizens were selected for positions in the boule (council) or court juries using a primitive random number generator called a kleroterion. Essentially, this device was a slab of stone with rows of slots into which, each eligible citizen would insert a pinakia (a token unique to each candidate). Different coloured dice were then released one at a time with each die corresponding to a row of pinakia. The colour of the die determined the positions that the citizens of that row would be selected for.

The random selection was considered the most democratic method for selecting officeholders; elections were considered undemocratic because they would favour the rich noblemen.

In Ancient Greek mythology, it was believed that Zeus, Poseidon and Hades used randomisation to determine who would rule over which domains: Zeus acquired the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Find out more here.

Athens building