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by Archaeology Newsroom

The punishing Odysseus.The origin of the death penalty in Greece

This is a summary of a lecture given by the author in the Center for the Study of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic Law of the Panteion University in Athens. The death penalty in the Homeric Epos represents the origins of the Law which later governs similar penalties, during the political era of the polis (the city-state). Thus, the death penalties in Athens are directly related with the ways of execution carried out in the House of Odysseus.

The city-state accepted the domestic ways of punishing the criminals and transferred them from the house to the square; from private to public. Not all penalties, however, but only those destined for men since the state did not seem to be interested in women even when they were to be punished. Hanging continued to be a way of executing women, although it was never included in the ways of executing men who were sentenced to death by the city-state. On the contrary, the domestic ways of executing men soon left the home grounds and were fully adopted by the city-state in the case of death penalties.