Historum - History Forums  

Go Back   Historum - History Forums > World History Forum > Ancient History
Register Forums Blogs Social Groups Mark Forums Read

Ancient History Ancient History Forum - Greece, Rome, Carthage, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and all other civilizations of antiquity, to include Prehistory and Archaeology discussions

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old November 20th, 2012, 01:22 AM   #11

AlpinLuke's Avatar
Joined: Oct 2011
From: Lago Maggiore, Italy
Posts: 19,463
Blog Entries: 19

Originally Posted by Rasta View Post
Trial by ordeal used to be popular and dates back to at least the Bronze age Trial by ordeal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I was just thinking to the ordeal, "ordaluim", as a quite unconventional way to run a trial [unconventional for us ...].

The fantasy in inventing hurting proves was infinite.

A similar prove was the duel, which I do prefer, even if it's obvious it privileged who was trained to fight [a knight, a lord ... in general won the duel against a common guy].

This form of trial was based on the principal of the "iudicium Dei". In a few words, if you were right, you was a common farmer, even fighting against a tough knight, God would have given you the victory.
AlpinLuke is offline  
Remove Ads
Old November 20th, 2012, 01:35 AM   #12

Scaeva's Avatar
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 4,890

I'm guessing most criminal cases revolved around witness testimony. After all without any forensic science, that is all you'd have to go on to solve them.
Scaeva is offline  
Old November 20th, 2012, 02:45 AM   #13

Sankari's Avatar
What we have, we hold
Joined: Mar 2011
From: 6th Century Constantinople
Posts: 3,340
Blog Entries: 1
Thumbs up

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQjT3z0ti6U]Stone Age criminal investigation[/ame]
Sankari is offline  
Old November 28th, 2012, 04:17 PM   #14

ghostexorcist's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2011
From: Midwest
Posts: 737
Blog Entries: 69

I'm not sure if you are confining this discussion to a particular culture, but Chinese works on forensic science predate those of Europe by at least 400 years. The oldest extant work on forensic science in the world is The Washing Away of Wrongs (洗冤集录, 1247 CE) by Song Ci (宋慈). The book discusses the duty of the coroner to the public, how to conduct an inquest, how to exhume bodies, how to prep them for autopsy, how to resuscitate a dead person, and, among other things, how to identify whether a person died of murder or natural causes. Regarding the latter point, I will transcribe an example concerning death by hanging vs. death by strangulation:
“As to suicide by hanging, it can easily be distinguished from cases where the victim was strangled by someone else or died through plotted murder with the death passed off as suicide. Where the victim has really killed himself by hanging, tying up a rope or some such thing and hanging himself, the flesh where the rope crosses over behind the ears will be deep purple in color, the eyes will be closed, the lips open, the hands clenched, and the teeth exposed. If the rope passed high on the throat, then the tongue will be pressed against the teeth. If low on the throat, the tongue often will protrude a long way, and there will be spittle on the chest. Behind the buttocks, feces will have been excreted. If another man strangled the victim and tried to pass it off as suicide, the mouth and eyes will be open, the hands apart, and the hair in disorder. The circulation of blood will have been interrupted at the base of the throat, the scares will be shallow and faint in color, and the tongue will neither protrude nor will it be pressed against the teeth. On the neck there will be scratches inflicted by the victim’s fingernails, and on the body there may be other mortal wounds. There may be difficulty distinguishing cases where the victim was half-strangled and then hung up, with the death passed off as suicide. When anything suspicious appears in the description of the evidence, the best course is to investigate it as a case of murder by hanging and set a time limit for apprehension of the criminal” (McKnight, The Washing Away of Wrongs, pp. 112-113)
This part of the chapter continues on to talk about what the scars of various strangling items will look like, how to determine whether a person was bound before they were strangled, whether bruises are pre- or post-mortem, or whether their body was moved or not. It has other chapters dealing with death by beating, stabbing, drowning, poison, fire, illness, animal, insect or reptile bites, consumption, etc. Needless to say, it's really interesting.
ghostexorcist is offline  
Old November 29th, 2012, 02:18 AM   #15

HackneyedScribe's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2011
Posts: 4,921
Blog Entries: 2

You beat me to it, ghostexorcist. But I will proceed to write down part of the Qin law texts that is relevant (~200 BC). The following is from the tomb of administrator Xi.
"Interrogation: In all cases of legal interrogation one should first listen to the testimony and write it down, letting each person questioned set out his own statement. Although the investigator may recognize that a person is stating lies, there is no need to challenge each of them. Once the statement has been completed, as it will not be cogent, insist then on those points that can be challenged. Once again attend fully to the response and then examine those points that remain unexplained, insisting on them. If one has insisted to the limit and the person has repeatedly lied, changing his words and refusing to submit, then, in cases where the statutes permit, the subject may be flogged. When a person is flogged, a written record must state: "Recorded herewith: Because X has repeatedly changed his statement and failed to provide a cogent explanation, he has been interrogated by flogging."

Trial: If in trying lawsuits it is possible by means of documents to track down the defendant's words, obtaining the facts without flogging, this is the best means. Flogging is an inferior method, for when there is fear, everything is spoiled."
There were also recorded cases found in the tomb documenting how various cases were solved (or unsolved). Alas, I do not have them with me.
HackneyedScribe is offline  
Old November 29th, 2012, 03:21 AM   #16

caldrail's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 4,674
Blog Entries: 15

Originally Posted by Ashiusx View Post
What were the techniques for various civilization?
There was nothing fancy in Roman society about finding a culprit. You simply asked around until someone told you something useful. Remember that anonymity is something we take for granted in the modern day but back then everyone knew your business and strangers were an object of scrutiny until they'd been accepted into the community.

Testimony from slaves was unacceptable unless it was torture was used - that was the law - because a slave might be telling the investigator what his owner wanted him to.

I should point out however that investigation such as we see in popular literature would not have been a common occurence. When a crime was committed, the culprit was usually obvious and all that was need was confirmation. So in the example of a woman falling from a high window to her death, the husband (whose arguments had been heard) was quickly condemned as her killer.

In general the authorities acted against someone not when a crime was committed, but when a culprit had been named. Thus Augustus asked Tiberius to investigate how many men were avoiding military service by hiding in slave barracks, or Jesus arrested and hauled before the Roman governor of Judaea (Pontius Pilate had the right and duty to oversee local law as well as Roman), or Tiberius ordering soldiers to end the ransoming of a centurion's corpse (the townsfolk wanted funeral games and some got their own funeral as a result)

Suetonius refers to Livia as potentially being a multiple murderer for political reasons. No doubt many also thought so. Whether or not she actually was made no difference - there was no direct report of her having poisoned anyone (as if anyone would dare accuse the wife of Augustus).

Accusing soldiers of illegal appropriation (and they did - it's mentioned in the sources) got the plaintiff nowhere, and quite possibly a beating by irate soldiers who didn't like their mate put in front of "A judge in boots" (military tribunal, which did not have the reputation for legal niceties or fairness)

Many crimes simply went unreported or uninvestigated. Thus we have sicarii in dark alleys becoming a constant threat of which we hear little retribution handed out for their killings. Also an account of Nero's party on the barge, in which wealthy women were forced to act as prostitutes for free men and slaves alike and some were found to have been suffiocated by their 'clients' (revenge of a disgruntled slave?) - yet no-one is described as being brought to trial. Who ordered slaves to re-ignite the fires in ad64? Reported but not investigated.

Social status affected the situation greatly. As I've already mentioned, those in power were given considerable largesse in committing what might be seen as criminal. Thus we read of Caligula experimenting with poisons and deliberately killing gladiators in practice bouts. He even had a foreign king executed for wearing a fine purple cloak. Who was going to stop him? yet when conspirators did act at their own volition, they were quickly dealt with - it all became pretty obvious to observers who had done what.
caldrail is offline  
Old December 2nd, 2012, 08:52 AM   #17

benzev's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2011
From: Scotland
Posts: 707

Quite apart fom the priviliges of Emperors, and in fact putting Romans to one side for a moment, it is important to realise that as we look back in time, we see through the glass darkly via the prism of today's society. This can affect our thought and assumptions, distorting them. It is important not to suffer from 'Flintstone Syndrome', by which I mean a tendency to assume that ancient societies must have been like ours, just dumbed down a bit and less technologically advanced.

Today's societies represent a great deal of social evelution as well as technological progress, and whilst we can naturally see glimmerings that reflect what was to come, there are often serious differences. Having said which, I was really surprised and impressed with the quotes on Chinese investigation of deaths, albeit I dont think it changes what I have to say.

Today there is usually one class of citizens (though some societies may give privilege to wealth and power or political party), no slaves, law enforcement authority and a state prosecution apparatus. Ancient societies were not like this. There might be several strata or classes of citizen, usually a slave class, no law enforcementr agency and no state prosector.

Higher classes could usually lean on lower classes with near impunity, prosecutions would be private, not state matters (if you had the money) and there was no such thing as a policeman. Justice might be impossible to achieve, or required appeal to the local tribal authority or magistrate, how might have a few warriors, lictors or soldiers to support his authority.

It therefore came down to reliance upon the family, tribe or elders or local magistrate, with such authority as they might have and such interest as they deigned to give. In Rome, the patron/client system was particularly important to give you some sort of protection, effectively joining a large 'gang'.

Such investigation as might be undertaken would be no more than interviewing witnesses (The Old Testament specifies that more than one is necessary in serious matters). With no real concept of science (it was beginning to develop in the hellenistic world but was throttled by the Romans), forensics, other than the most obvious physical evidence, was never an option.
benzev is offline  
Old December 8th, 2012, 01:07 AM   #18

caldrail's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 4,674
Blog Entries: 15

I also draw attention to the murder of a senior Roman officer (a relation of Marius himself) by a common soldier, Trebonius. Everyone in the camp knew he'd killed the man, but nothing was done until Marius returned and Trebonius was immediately arrested for tribunal.

Trebonius spoke in his own defence and brought forward many witnesses to the officers attempts to subborn him into a sexual relationship. Although many of the witnesses were actually hostile to Trebonius, it does appear that honesty was prevalent. The matter had come to a head when Trebonius was summoned to the officers tent, and knowing full well he was about to receive another attempt and a relationship, he nonetheless obeyed the order (it was a potential death sentence to disobey). The officer attempted to use violence to get what he wanted and in the ensuing struggle was killed by Trebonius - the killing was never denied.

Marius ruled that whilst the killing was against legionary regulations, Trebonius had nonetheless displayed courage and honour and was acquitted.
caldrail is offline  
Old December 8th, 2012, 05:26 AM   #19

Gudenrath's Avatar
Joined: May 2012
From: Denmark
Posts: 2,626

I can recommend Ciceros speeches in relation to his work as a lawyer in various murder trials. Penguin has collected them in a cheap volume:

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Trials-Penguin-Classics-Tullius/dp/014044288X"]Murder Trials (Penguin Classics): Marcus Tullius Cicero, Michael Grant: 9780140442885: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51F%2B7eRAbhL.@@AMEPARAM@@51F%2B7eRAbhL[/ame]

It reveals a lot about how the Romans conducted criminal investigations as well as how they were tried. And a lot of it reads just like a modern crime novel, it is generally very interesting stuff.
Gudenrath is offline  
Old December 8th, 2012, 05:58 AM   #20

Linschoten's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2010
From: Wessex
Posts: 12,752
Blog Entries: 11

Prior to reforms of 18th to 19th Centuries, the inquisitorial processes on the Continent relied largely on extracting a confession, since the standards of evidence were high. If the examining judge thought that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a suspect might well be guilty, he could hold in detention indefinitely; the suspect had no access to a defence lawyer until the judge's final report and recommendations were submitted, and indeed he was not required to be told the precise nature of the charge on which he was being held. There was thus ample opportunity for psychological pressure to be exerted, and confessions could be extracted eventually in a surprisingly large proportion of cases. The threat of torture lay at hand, and could be carried into effect if it was thought necessary. Many jurists thought that at least the threat of torture was essential if confessions were to be extracted, but it did not in fact make an enormous difference when torture was abolished (at different times in different jurisdictions). The actual investigation of crimes was crude and haphazard, relying on witness evidence, and material evidence; on occasion, the material evidence could be quite damning, e.g. discovery of a body in man's barn in which that man had been seen with the victim, but it was very rare for the evidence to suffice for conviction on a capital charge without a confession. To incur a capital sentence without a confession, on the basis of witness evidence, a suspect needed to be unlucky or stupid.
Linschoten is online now  

  Historum > World History Forum > Ancient History

anicents, crimes, modern, science, solve

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Help me to solve this archaeological mystery sven.kriti Ancient History 10 October 15th, 2012 08:18 AM
Do revolutions ever solve anything? irishcrusader95 General History 10 May 1st, 2012 02:01 PM
The challenges surrounding the birth of modern science. choptop Natural Environment 14 February 22nd, 2012 12:40 PM
Normal Science is Lamp-Post Science coberst Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology 1 August 11th, 2008 07:47 PM
the only way to solve mankind's problems JerseyPerson14 General History 21 June 9th, 2007 12:59 PM

Copyright © 2006-2013 Historum. All rights reserved.