Were There Police in Ancient Times?

Throughout history, the concept of law enforcement has taken many different forms. Although modern-day police forces are a relatively recent development, some form of policing has existed since ancient times. Let’s take a closer look at the history of policing and how it has evolved over the centuries.

The Earliest Forms of Policing

The earliest known form of policing can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs employed a security force to maintain order and protect their wealth. In ancient Greece, city-states had their own police forces called “astynomoi,” who were responsible for enforcing laws and maintaining order.

In ancient Rome, the responsibility for law enforcement fell to both the army and citizens themselves. The military was responsible for keeping peace in the provinces, while Roman citizens acted as vigilantes to protect their property and maintain social order.

Medieval Times

During medieval times, communities were responsible for their own safety and security. Villages and towns would appoint constables or sheriffs to act as local guardians of the peace. These individuals were tasked with catching criminals, settling disputes between neighbors, and maintaining law and order.

In England during this time, each parish was required to provide men for what was called “the hue and cry.” This system involved calling out all able-bodied men in pursuit of a criminal who had been caught in the act.

The Birth of Modern Policing

The modern police force as we know it today began to take shape during the 19th century. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force in London. This new force was made up of professional police officers who were paid by taxes rather than relying on private citizens or volunteers.

The introduction of modern policing techniques quickly spread throughout Europe and North America. By the mid-1800s, most major cities had established professional police forces.

Ancient Policing vs. Modern Policing

Although there are similarities between ancient and modern policing, there are also significant differences. Ancient policing was often a local affair, with communities responsible for their own safety and security. Modern policing, on the other hand, is typically carried out by professional police officers who are trained to enforce the law and maintain order on a larger scale.

Another key difference between ancient and modern policing is the use of force. In ancient times, punishment for crimes was often severe and brutal. Today, police officers are required to use only the amount of force necessary to apprehend a suspect or protect themselves or others from harm.


In conclusion, while the concept of law enforcement has existed since ancient times in various forms, modern-day policing has evolved significantly over the centuries. From local constables to professional police forces, the role of law enforcement has become more centralized and specialized. Today’s police officers are highly trained professionals who play a critical role in maintaining law and order in our society.