Ancient Stories of Cheating

Cheaters of Times Long Past

Cheating has been with us since the ancient times. It is not a new phenomenon and neither is it a modern occurrence. This is blatantly obvious for why would ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, China, India, and many others provide specific punishments for adulterers and cheaters? Without any doubt, ancient cheaters have walked the halls of history, alongside legendary heroes.

Zeus, the god from the Greek mythology is depicted as a god who has many lovers including goddesses and mortal women. He is the perfect personification of a man who cheats because he can. In the real Greco-Roman world, the adultery laws were very strict on women while husbands were afforded legal immunity. Among those who took advantage of this is Verus, the imperial colleague of Marcus Aurelius, who had sex with slaves and unmarried women because married men were allowed to. The Greek Lycurgus encouraged the practice of wife lending or sharing. The idea that men owed the same fidelity as demanded from wives slowly gained ground in the later part of Roman history.

Ancient cheaters of this era were punished with banishment which required the guilty parties to be sent to different islands while part of their property was confiscated. Fathers are given permission to kill their daughters who cheated on their husbands including their lovers. Husbands are required to divorce their cheating wives and allowed to kill their wives’ lovers under certain circumstances.

China’s ancient cheaters are also given severe punishment for their acts. Cheating husbands were punished with castration while cheating wives were punished with confinement. Castration is a harsh punishment as it entailed cutting off the penis and the testicles with a knife at the same time. Other ancient civilizations provided punishment by body mutilation or death.

The story of Paris and Helena combines fact with fiction in its development. When Paris took the already married Helena to become Helen of Troy, he indirectly started the eminent fall of Troy and Paris himself. Helena goes back to Sparta and happily spends the rest of her life with her husband.

The royalties of England, France, Russia and Poland have been known to maintain mistresses. The kings in France usually had more than one thus the need for formal designation such as official royal mistress for the head mistress. Philip IV of France had to have his daughters-in-law imprisoned on the grounds of adultery. Adultery specifically with the king’s wife, the eldest son’s wife, and the eldest unmarried daughter is considered high treason because of the possibility that a bastard would succeed to the crown. Caught lovers are immediately executed. Joan II of Navarre had to contend with paternity and succession rights all her life because of similar circumstances.

The existence of infidelity in early times just confirms the fact that it can happen to just about anyone. Having ancient cheaters as well as present-day cheaters tend to lend credence to the belief that humans were never meant for monogamous relationships. It is however in preserving a semblance of order by preventing unlimited freedom that women and men are forced to tow the line.

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