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Juvinile Dliquency In The Grec0Roman World Essay

Juvinile Dliquency In The Grec0-Roman World Essay, Research Paper

Juvenile Delinquency Existence in the Greco-Roman World

Juvenile delinquency is a social problem that is widely recognized by

sociologists as well as the general public. This problem of juvenile delinquency has

not only existed in current history, but is one that probably predates even ancient

history. As for this study I will concentrate on juvenile delinquency’s existence in the

Greco-Roman world and at times I will draw some comparisons to today’s society.

There were many social situations of the Greco-Roman world that contributed to the

existence of juvenile delinquency. In regards to this paper juvenile delinquency can be

defined as “any act committed by a juvenile that is, according to the legal system of

the time, punishable by law”.

First let me give attention to the fact that in the Greco-Roman world

there was no such classification as “Juvenile Delinquency”. The reason for this non-

recognition was:

“do chiefly to the fact that the ancient world was almost wholly incapable

of identifying a social trend, formulating a social theory or implementing a

social policy. What the modern world identifies as “social ills” such as

vagrancy, homelessness, divorce, illegitimacy, and delinquency, could only

be discussed on the individual and personnel level. They(the social ills)

could not be perceived as phenomena embedded in society as a whole.

Nor could they be discussed within a conceptual or theoretical framework,

due largely to the simple fact that the Greeks and Romans did not keep

statistics on such matters.” (Garland, 1-2)

Social trends were not recognized or recorded, therefore juvenile delinquency is a

difficult topic to investigate but through other sources some conclusions can be made.

These other sources include descriptions of the people, events of the times, as well as

popular mythology of the time. Even without a formal recognition, it does become

clear that juvenile delinquency was a large problem that existed in both Greece and

Rome. Dealing first in Greece, the story of Ariston as told by the orator and politician

Demosthenes, is a clear example.

Ariston, a young man living in classical Greece, had been the victim of

an unprovoked attack while walking late one night through the heart of the Athenian

city. After the assault, Ariston indicted the father of the chief assailant, a man called

Konon. Konon’s son, Ktesias, had made a habit of getting drunk at lunch-time,

ignoring warnings from his commander, and amusing himself by pouring the contents

of his chamber pot over slaves heads. Ktesias’ disrespectful actions were

representations of the lack of discipline given to him by his military commander as

well as his father, in fact Ktesias’ father Konon was even involved in the assault.

The assault on Ariston included tearing his cloak off, pushing him into the mud,

striking him so violently that his eye swelled up and his lip bled, and then verbal

assaulting him while he lied helpless. During the attack Konon stood next to his son

and encouraged his son’s actions by imitating the sounds made by fighting cocks after

they have been victorious. Fortunately for Ariston, he was picked up by others passing


The parallels to today’s times are easy to draw. First the attack like

many in today’s society was triggered by alcohol, Konon and his son had previously

been to a drinking party. Secondly Athenian military service, because of its loose

discipline, fostered the tendency to commit acts of senseless violence instead of acting

as a safe outlet for youths. This is one current argument today in the explanation of


When Ariston addressed the jury he warned them that they were likely

to hear Konon try to defend his son along the “boys will be boys tradition”. Ariston

expressed his belief that Konan would try to portray Ktesias as no different then other

young people in Athens who come from good backgrounds and become infatuated

with prostitutes and then come to blows over them. In relation to other’s behavior

Konon was going to try to show that his son’s behavior was perfectly normal. Ariston

stressed the fact that prostitutes had nothing to do with the assault but that his attacker

was nurturing a grudge against him for telling tales to his commander. How the case

turned out or to what level in actuality Ariston brought the attack upon himself does

not present my point. The point is that this incident was not an isolated one and that

the defendants characterization of young Athenian males can be look at as an accurate

one. Young manhood in Greece was typically characterized by combativeness,

drunkenness, and sexual excess. Their rivalry must have featured prominently in a

society highly competitive in all its forms of social expression.

Another way juvenile delinquency in the Greco-Roman world is

presented is within Greek mythology. Greek mythology leads us to suspect that the

Greek c