Plato's Penal Code: Tradition, Controversy, and Reform in Greek Penology

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The ancient Greeks were vigorous critics of their own culture. Their literature is full of debate about punishment: who should inflict it on whom, for what offence, and in what form. Yet few questioned the traditional orthodoxy that it ought to be primarily retributive. The great exception was Plato. Building on certain insights of Socrates and Protagoras, he advocated a strictly reformative penology, cast in medical terms and designed to `cure' the offender's mental state. This book traces the development of Greek ideas and controversies about punishement from Homer to Plato. It then demonstrates in detail how in his Laws Plato attempts to give concrete expression to his radical new penology by in effect rewriting the Athenian penal code. The ancient problem of the purpose of punishment is still of relevance to contempary society. This expostion of Plato's instructive and important attempt to solve it is therefore written with the needs of non-specialists very much in mind. The complex material is lucidly set out, and key Greek terms are transliterated and explained.