Attitudes for crime and punishments have changed over time. Methods of punishments that used to be used are now accepted as harsh and cruel. Why did the punishments changed during time? What factors led to the strict rules and varied crimes of the past? In this text, I will be discussing the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Tudor, Victorian and Modern era’s behaviour towards crimes and punishments that were considered appropriate for those times. From crucifixion to dismemberment; transportation to prison. Societies have always found a way to punish criminal behaviour.
During 500 BC to 400 AD, the Romans ruled most of the the world we know today. Rome, the city itself, had a great population of 45 million people, so it was easy for people to commit the most common crime in Roman times, thefts. The Romans were very harsh and cruel, but as time went on they started to use fines. People also committed murder.
A group of people, called the Vigiles, usually dealt with the crime as there was no policemen in the Roman times. They were 7000 of them and they also put out fires as there were no fire brigade either!
Punishments were dealt out to those caught red-handed for crimes depending on there status in Roman society. Over time, their punishments grew more and more violent, but the most common punishments were fines and whipping. Some criminals would have to wear wooden plaques around their neck and uncomfortable wooden shoes so it is hard to escape.
The Anglo-Saxons were not as harsh as the Romans. Major crimes such as treason against a king or betraying a lord would carry very harsh consequences such as a death penalty, whereas smaller crimes, such as a theft or murder, it would lead to fines. Regular criminals were punished harshly and could get limbs cut off.
When a jury couldn’t decide if someone was guilty or innocent, they would let God decide. This took form of an “ordeal”; where the prisoner would have to endure painful or scarring ordeals; such as holding a hot bar, walking nine feet on hot coals or placing their hand in boiling water to retrieve a stone.
The Tudors spanned from 1485 to 1603 CE. Whipping was a common punishment for a variety of crimes. Vagrants, thieves who stole goods less than a shillings worth and people who refused to attend church could all be whipped. Branding with read hot iron was also a common punishment for Tudor times. Other punishments included : the stocks, the scold’s bridle, the ducking stool.
Stocks were placed in the centre of a village as they were used to humiliate criminals. The scold’s bridle was used when people were gossiping or talking to loudly. The ducking stool was used if you were accused of being a witch(witchcraft). This is always by water such as a pond, river or lake. If you float above the water, you are a witch and you’re burned, but if you sink, are not a witch but you would drown, so when they figure out, it’s already to late!