Denying killers their fame: How the Ancient Greeks handled it

An interesting opinion piece by Vicki Leon was recently published in the L.A. Times entitled, ‘For mass killers, no name, no fame — forever: Take a lesson from 356B.C.: Infamy should not be headlined.’

In the article, Leon discusses how in 356 B.C. a citizen of the Greek city, Ephesus, shamelessly burnt down a temple and killed many citizens. He made no attempt to escape, and when caught he bragged about his name becoming immortalized. To deal with this, the Ephesians passed a law that decreed anyone who uttered his name would meet the death penalty. This ‘name ban’ apparently remained in place for a long time.

The article then goes on to suggest how if we could create some contemporary equivalent to this ban, then it would surely be worth a try.

I would be opposed to such a ban, personally, and for two reasons. Firstly, I find nothing wrong with names like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Richard Ramirez striking fear into our hearts. Let them serve as reminders as to what kind of people are ‘out there’, and let their names be yelled out and condemned by the families of their victims. Ironically, if you silence the killer’s name, you silence the memory of their victims.

Secondly, who cares if the egomaniacal killer loves all of the media attention? Should we silence the media just because the killer is loving his time in the spotlight? The media who are letting us know who was responsible, who he killed, how he killed, and where he was operating. A psychopathic killer is likely to feel a sick glee for what he’s done, regardless of attention. Provided that the media are sympathetic to the victims and law enforcement, I don’t see a problem with the mass proliferation of a killer’s name.

Laws that promote silence are never going to be a good thing.

Copyright Jack Pemment, 2013

3 thoughts on “Denying killers their fame: How the Ancient Greeks handled it

  1. rene cyr

    interesting point to reflect upon. When i first read the title i thought robbing serial killers of their notoriety a great concept, but after thinking about it i think that it is important that we use them and their acts as cautionary reminders to our society. I think we should put our energy towards raising our youth to have respect themselves and others.We should try our best to make sure everyone around us know they are loved and that they have a sense belonging. I think that people who feel loved and a part of their communities are much less inclined to acts of violence. If you want to live in a peaceful world, reach out to those around you that feel ostracized, abandoned or forgotten.


    1. Jack Pemment Post author

      You’re totally right, Rene. I think we could reduce a significant portion of crime by treating people with respect and love, but also showing them that we treat others with respect and love. There are some, however, who will only use your love and affection against you – the psychopathic and the narcissistic. You could argue that the right environment would prevent these people from becoming this way, but once they have, it is very hard to deal with them without becoming a victim of abuse. It should not be underestimated how much of a protective shield love is in the brain of a child.



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