Ostracism refers to the condemnation to exile suffered by those people who were not considered benign for the democracy of Ancient Greece.


Generally speaking, ostracism refers to social isolation. It happens when a person, for different reasons, withdraws from social life; although imposition is more common than self-imposition.

The term has its origin in Ancient Greece, and it was the exile suffered by people who were considered harmful to public life. Likewise, it also applies to other fields such as politics or social relations.

Origin of ostracism

As mentioned at the beginning, the term comes from Ancient Greece, but it has a very peculiar origin.

Etymologically, ostracism comes from the Greek ostrakismós , which in turn comes from óstrakon , which was a piece of pottery where the names of possible exiles were written.

In the 6th century a. C. developed, in Athens, the law of ostracism, by which a specific person was sentenced to exile. The operation was as follows: once a year, the assembly met and voted by show of hands if it was convenient to apply ostracism. A few months later, it would meet again, together with a total of 6000 citizens and each of them wrote, on the ceramic fragments that we mentioned earlier, the name of who they proposed for exile. The person who had the stipulated number of votes had to leave the polis.

The term that the citizen had to leave the city was ten days, and the extension of the sentence was ten years. It seems a penalty that was not excessively harsh, since the exile retained his citizenship and could be readmitted by popular vote before the end of said term. In the beginning, the law was applied to stop the abusive and tyrannical practices of those who held power. But, over the years, it became a political weapon with which political adversaries were eliminated.

As we have just seen, the term underlies the peculiar coincidence that the votes were made with broken fragments of the ceramics that the artisans made. Since the voting was carried out in the area where they had their workshops.

Political ostracism

Ostracism is still very present in the field of politics, but not in the way that happened in Greece. In this sense, it occurs when a person from a certain party begins to be separated within their own formation.

Some of the causes for what this happens can be:

  • Dissent with the political program used in certain elections.
  • Disagreement with the alliances and pacts proposed by the party leadership.
  • The criticism that can be made with the functioning of the party or its government.
  • The discrepancy before the ideological evolution of the party.

Social ostracism

The term ostracism, as we know and as we have seen with the example of Ancient Greece, also applies to the social sphere. If this is "imposed" by other people, it is synonymous with exclusion, following the line of the previous section. It is suffered by those people who enjoyed certain relationships and social activities but who, for a number of reasons, have been removed from them. The rest of the people with whom he shared this activity put it aside in order for him to abandon said practice.

If, on the other hand, it is self-imposed, it refers to voluntary isolation for reasons such as fame and the impossibility of leading a normal life. It is carried out by numerous celebrities from worlds such as art and sports, for having an introverted character that collides head-on with the fame derived from their profession. The development of their daily life is largely reduced to the family and work environment, leaving activities that may involve excessive social contact.