Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Law, Democracy and Rape

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Law, Democracy and Rape

Article excerpt

'This was the rule for men that Zeus established: whereas fish, beasts and birds eat each other, since there is no law among them, to men he gave law, which is by far the best thing' (the Greek farmer-poet Hesiod, 7th century bc). Given the hostile reaction to the convicted rapist Ched Evans's desire to return to his job as a footballer after serving his sentence, one wonders whether the fish, beasts and birds might not be on to something.

The 4th century bc statesman and orator Demosthenes pursued Hesiod's line of thought when he said, 'If laws are abolished and each individual is given powers to do what he likes, not only does our communal organisation vanish but our very life would be in no way different from that of animals.' That was what he feared. The Athenian 'judiciary' consisted of the very Athenians who both made the laws in the democratic Assembly and then as jurors in the courts passed judgement on defendants, without guidance from judges, barristers or clerks. That was real people-power, but it meant they could make it up as they went along, if they wanted to. …

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