Short of being klilled what happened to community assholes & undesirables in ancient times?

Let’s say it’s 100 AD and the following scenarios apply.

A Local working man/peasant is a bully and goes around getting drunk and beating people (other peasants) up.

Local working woman/peasant sleeps with other women’s husbands and is nasty to people.

A husband is well behaved in public but beats the hell out his wife and kids privately.

A woman makes up lies about people to start drama.

Short of killing them what options did a village have to control people who behaved this way?

Would exile be an issue? Would they just be punished physically with the expectation they would men their ways. If thrown out of the village could they just pick up and travel freely to another town and be accepted? How were things like this enforced and implemented on a local level?

100 AD?

The local bully gets his hands cut off.

The local slut gets stoned.

The abusive husband/father gets to be tyrant in his home.

The drama queen gets shunned.

An exile might come back and burn down your hovel. People tolerated a lot to avoid such situations and then turned to violence. Exile might be a way to settle a personal dispute between two people or families, one guy leaves town so there doesn’t have to be a blood feud, but it’s not the way to deal with bullies and assholes. It could be very difficult to be accepted in another village, there would be immediate suspicion as to why you aren’t in your own village. Someone in that position might wander for a while until they found a place to settle.

People now have forgotten the danger of ostracization. When you break the social contract with someone they’ll have no reason to maintain it themselves and readily act out violently.

For thieves and such, the Norse has the concept of outlawry: The village declared someone to be an outlaw. They had to leave. They were no longer protected by the law (the original meaning). Since the person was outside the law, a villager could kill the outlaw if they wanted to when encountering them later. This discouraged return visits.

A peasant, kicked off the estate was in big trouble. Food resources were limited and many were under someone else’s control. Fishing, poaching, gathering nuts, etc. would usually be a significant crime. The death penalty was freely applied.

Hence, an exiled low end person was likely to either starve to death and resort to a criminal life that resulted in death.

The best thing for a strong, nasty brute to fall into is to join some other group as a soldier. Not a profession with the highest life expectancy.

For a woman, get thee to a largish town and become a prostitute.

First, there would would be a mod note. Then, there would be a warning. After a few warnings, the undesirable individual would be banned from the village. If they tried to sneak back in, wearing a trench coat and a false mustache, they would be banned again, more forcefully. For things like disagreements that escalated to violence, every village had a pit. The combatants would be thrown in there and left to sort out their differences.

Actually, though, for stuff like this:

They were presumably dealt with in the same way that we deal with these things today. It’s not like we involve the police for that. These things are handled privately, or in the local community. They might have been handled a bit more hands-on. My impression is that the bar for resorting to violence was a bit lower in ancient times, in most places.

For the husband beating his wife: Yes, he would presumably keep at it being the house tyrant.

For the guy going around beating people up, and also robbers, thieves and stuff: More interesting.

Anyway, villages aren’t really my area. But let’s have a look at the city of Rome, which had about a million people in 100 AD, and was in many ways much like any large modern urban area. (Seriously, why are we talking about hovels? The ancient world was urban and sophisticated. That is, if you didn’t live in the boonies, like… I dunno, Germany. But who wants to live there? Unless you’re German, I mean.) A lot of the time, the answer will be: Vigilante justice. One of the most amazing things to me about the Romans is all the things they were able to do without. The city of Rome went for the longest time without a police force. (One unfortunate consequence of this was that at times, mobs or gangs were able to more or less take over the city. They could be handy as a political tool.)

By 100 AD, though, it had acquired a police force. Actually, two: The vigiles and the urban cohorts. The vigiles were the night watch and fire department, and would also deal with disturbances of the peace, petty crimes, and things like chasing down escaped slaves that couldn’t run fast enough. The urban cohorts would do more heavy-duty stuff like riot control.

Even so, good luck finding someone to investigate your robbery or even your homicide. If you could find the perp, though, and also find someone to hold him down, you could drag him into court yourself. If you had wealth to protect, you would probably want to spend some of it on bodyguards. Also, you probably wouldn’t go outside after dark if you had any sense. No street lighting.

Punishments: No prison system. Death, floggings, fines, restoration of nicked stuff. Also, quite a bit of exile. Hope you have some friends in the next couple of provinces over. I also hope you won’t miss your property, because we confiscated all of it. Good luck.

Laws and a legal system have been in place forever. I think in Egypt they have records of laws and punishments going back to 3000 BC. The Roman Empire had laws and courts. However, I suspect there was lot more “take matters into your own hands” back then than now. If you aggravated your community too much, they would turn on you and chuck you out or kill you.

It still happens. Remember Ken McElroy, in Skitmore, Missouri:

In the late middle ages until about 1750, people could be put in stockades when the public could throw rotten tomatoes at them, or even slop buckets, depending on how vile the crime. How long you had to spend there, and whether you were brought food and watch during the ordeal, depended on whether it was a first, second, third, etc., offense. If you were declared incorrigible, you might be imprisoned, or cast out (with supplies to live on your own), depending on your social standing. High-standing people might end up under a kind of house arrest, where they still had they servants, and they general lifestyle, they either weren’t allowed to leave, or have to wear a sign labeling them as a gossip, adulter, heathen, whatever. Puritans brought this kind of justice to the Americas with gusto. Fall asleep in church, and you were awakened bu a bonk on the head with basically a long-stemmed cudgel; do it again, and you sent to the stockade for the afternoon.

Women tended to be shunned more than men, and men exiled more than women.

Exactly. Sorry if I made it sound upthread like a legal system was one of the things that the Romans did without. Obviously not. They had courts, and a legal system complex and sophisticated enough to make your eyes bleed.

I’m not sure if crime or legal systems is what the OP is getting at, though. Let’s try this angle, just for fun: Was there ever a time and place where you could, say, nominate any person you didn’t like to be exiled from town for ten years? Then the citizens would get together and hold a vote, and if they agreed that the person needed to get lost, they would have to leave, no further questions asked?

Bonkers, right? Actually, the answer is “yes”. The place was democratic Athens, in the fifth century BC. (The word “ostracism”, BTW, comes from ostrakon, meaning potsherd. It refers to the broken off pieces of pottery used to jot down the names of whoever you wanted exiled.)

Was it ever used to get rid of the bad husband, the drama queen or the drunk? Hell, no. It was a political tool, used to remove anyone seen as a potential tyrant.


Medieval Europe used a kind of noisy demonstration called charivari to express social disapproval.

The Wikipedia article speaks of it primarily in terms of adultery, unmarried couples, and such, but I recall when I was studying history reading that villagers also used it to demonstrate against other types of transgressions like public drunkenness.

There were female-specific torture instruments like the scold’s bridle to keep them “properly” submissive.

As for women “sleeping around”, IIRC they’d be executed for fornication. Same if they were raped, too.

There’s really no ‘one thing’ that was done to anyone in ancient times for any of these issues. Undesirables were dealt with or not depending on the status of the times. Some informally, some most formally.

Hell, it’s not even ancient times. Less than 100 years ago in the USA an ‘undesirable’ - unemployed, black or latino, what-have-you - could be required to self-exile by being outside of a cities borders by sundown.

Its all fun and games until someone gets “klilled”. :rolleyes:

I do think it’s a big problem in our society. It’s seen in school shootings because kids can’t just move away and start over. We don’t engage people who are ‘different’, there’s no role for them and they can see they are treated as outcasts.

I’m sure there was rule of law for citizens of Rome, for those who lived in cities that had government structure of some kind, but just as in some places in the world now, justice was available only for the privileged.

I often wonder how violent the ancient world actually was. I feel like we portray ancient Rome, medieval Europe or feudal Japan the same way people 500 years from now might portray our world as constant gang fights, race riots, terrorist attacks and cyber-crime.

From what I’ve read about people who commit mass shootings, they are “different” in the sense that they are mentally ill. Isolated narcissists who are unable to connect with other people, living in a self-made fantasy world where they build up anger over some perceived transgression, ultimately unleashing that anger against the world.

This didn’t happen in the old days because the ancients didn’t have weapons that any dork could pick up and kill a dozen people with.

Lemme fix that for you: “This didn’t happen in the old days because the ancients didn’t have weapons that any dork could pick up and kill fifty people with.”

It’s my understanding that in very small communities–50 or fewer people–there is tremendous effort put into building consensus because disagreement can be so dangerous. You’re not going to get the same model of asshole you get in the modern workplace, because they are being raised in such an utterly different context–everyone has known everyone since birth. I am sure they had different social challenges and issues, but it’s hard to make direct comparison.

For example, the man beating his wife is also beating everyone else’s daughter/cousin/friend/sister; that changes things. The making up stories thing would not work in that small of a community–every lie would get discovered, starting in childhood.

It’s a little difficult because so few detailed records exist. But most researchers agree that, in general, violent crime rates have been declining for centuries.

Or pull the licenses out of their wallets, head to address of their homes and kill their Entire Blood Line. But I digress… please… go on…