ATHENIAN FORGIVENESS, AMERICAN ERINYES: Capital Punishment's Brutal American Exceptionalism
17 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020 Last revised: 11 Jun 2021
Date Written: December 28, 2020
This paper juxtaposes two schemes of capital punishment: (1) the ancient Athenian scheme and (2) the contemporary American one. I attempt to demonstrate that, though moderners assume our civilization has universally improved upon past societies, such chauvinism is misguided. Athenian justice was not obviously crueler than American justice. Exile was an option, escape was habitually encouraged even after sentencing, and incarceration was rarely if ever used. Although class played a formalized role in Athens repugnant to our modern sense of justice, the transparent role class played in antiquity may render Athenian class-differentials less dishonest than the American, where class plays an opaque role.
Keywords: trial of socrates, plato, the apology, capital punishment, eighth amendment, prieto v. clarke, cruel and unusual punishment, apotympanismos, kakourgoi, ancient law, solitary confinement, athenian criminal law, death row, michael morton, wrongful convictions, incapacitation, exile, mass incarceration
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