How Were Crimes Punished in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, crime and punishment were intricately linked to the societal norms and values of the time. While some crimes were punishable by death, others required only a monetary fine or public humiliation. Let’s take a closer look at how crimes were punished in ancient Greece.

Crime and Punishment in Ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks believed that crime was a result of poor moral character, and so punishment was seen as a way to restore moral balance to society. Crimes were categorized as either private or public, with private crimes being those committed against individuals or families, while public crimes were those committed against the state.

Private Crimes

Private crimes included theft, adultery, and assault. Punishments for these crimes varied depending on the severity of the offense.

For example, theft was punishable by fines or even slavery if the offender could not pay. Adultery was also a serious offense that could lead to exile or even death.

Assault was punished differently depending on whether it was premeditated or not. If it was premeditated, the offender could be sentenced to death. If it was not premeditated, then compensation would be paid to the victim.

Public Crimes

Public crimes included treason and corruption. These offenses were considered more serious than private crimes as they threatened the stability of the state itself.

Treason often led to execution or exile. Corruption was also dealt with severely as it undermined public trust in government officials. Punishments for corruption included fines and loss of citizenship.

The Role of Courts

Courts played an important role in determining guilt and administering punishment in ancient Greece. There were two main types of courts: popular courts and aristocratic courts.

Popular courts were made up of ordinary citizens and were used for minor offenses. Aristocratic courts, on the other hand, were used for more serious crimes and were made up of wealthy and influential individuals.

The judges in these courts were not legal professionals, but rather citizens who were chosen by lot. This ensured that the court was impartial and that all citizens had a fair chance to serve as judges.


In conclusion, crime and punishment in ancient Greece were closely tied to the prevailing values and norms of society. Punishments ranged from fines to public humiliation to death. The role of the courts was also important in ensuring that justice was served fairly and impartially.