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Prisoners and POW

So, I’ve been reading The Age of Agade: Inventing an Empire in Ancient Mesopotamia by Benjamin R Foster and came across an interesting insight into Akkadian prison customs. That being that there is no current evidence to suggest that a prison - i.e. a place for the accused to await trial and for those convicted to be incarcerated - ever existed in Akkadian times. By most accounts, the local laws were punitive and were carried out through mutilations, fines, and seizure of property.This discussion spilled into prisoners of war, and the often graphic depiction of Akkadian kings (especially Rimush) slaughtering POWs by the thousands. However, this got me wondering about the actual real-life implications of this - obviously, POWs are a liability and drain on valuable resources in as they need food and water to survive and guards to keep them in check, so obviously killing them would have been a solution; but, one which likely lead to the resentment of the people and their high rates of rebellion under Akkadian rule. So, I was wondering how the devs plan to implement law and order? (sorry if this is a bit rambly)


My guess is that Neolithic Society would be like most other very small tribal societies. Immediate punishment, by decision of Elders or ipso facto leader.

A tiny Neolithic Society would not be able to support any form of prison. They probably wouldn’t capture anyone who attacked in a raid other than for the prospect of ritualistically sacrificing them or something to that effect.

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It will be interesting to know if they are planning to implement law and order at all. Most city building games don’t include that aspect of life. Currently, I only know of one that does.


@lotus253 I posted this in Bronze Age Expansion, not the main game.

@doxiediva Well, there was definitely a huge emergence of laws in the bronze age… maybe not in Europe, but I am more focused on the middle east… Hammurabi, Messilim, etc. And I can assure you that City Skylines and Tropico - two of the best city builders imo - do have fairly important prison systems…


I had not noticed that it was in the Bronze Age expansion. However, only in very large societies would it be much different.

I realize that. However, in Akkadian times (and before) we have instances of a bailiff and a trial-type judiciary system in each of the independent city states. This required a judge - elder or priest - and they had holding cells for the accused… all in all, I want to see this in the bronze age expansion to increase public order and happiness as well as to simulate ancient crimes.

Law in our word-sense probably not at first. Certain rules of living together probably already. The basis will be the interest of each NPC to gain prestige and symphacy within the group. Today is not different, many “like’s” - world is o.k…
The first court proceedings could have been similar to a family council. Serious offenses may have been rare. And under a country population the rough life was accustomed, hard punishments were to be expected. These again offered sufficient deterrence.
Prisoners were more likely to have been attacked. Had already written elsewhere that ransom (in the form of naturalies) or work for the societies were more sensible than to direct prisoners and kill them. In some cases, there was even the desire on both sides to integrate prisoners into the communion juice as a full member.
It much later then, what you described may have arisen. Presumably religion and / or the superiority-feeling of a culture played a role. Example: for the Romans, all non-Romans were “barbarians” - garbage.
At some point, the garbage has finally triumphed … Or Bible: "and God said, ye are chosen … blah blah, kill the Moabites, and Canaanite, and Baal’s worshipers, and, and …"
Always a question of “higher legitimation”. Thus “laws” arise.
Interesting and significant: All human-made laws must be made effective and punished by people. Natural laws, on the other hand, work out of themselves.
Did people at that time have pushed this difference in their definition?

Sorry, but I have a very hard time understanding you. It’s not your fault, but maybe you should post on HiNative before posting it here. Regardless, I think you have a misconception about primitive laws in bronze age Mesopotamia… which, I’m sorry to say, is flat out not true. Laws were varied and important parts of bronze age middle eastern life and governed taxes, farm rotations, votive offerings, murder, rape, corruption, extortion, purgery, violence, discrimination, and land ownership along with so much else. For some examples of post-Akkadian law codes based off of Akkadian laws, see:

Exile is also a common option.

  1. Exile means a criminal is someone eles problem.
  2. Exile is reversible.
  3. Exiles can serve as spies and even curry favour enough to return, which raises incentive to make restitution.
  4. Exile offers hope so a society which offers exile as a likely option encourages srrender of pursued criminals.

While exiles garner little trust abroad exiles can cause problems later if embittered or recruited by rival factions. This could add an interesting dynamic.

Because exile is relatively lenient and potentially problematic,execution solves more problems, exile is normally reserved for people of standing and can become a right for highborn criminals not accused of direct capital crimes like treason. A leader abolishes such privileges at risk.

An interesting mechanic ti include methinks.


exile would be interesting. banishment from one’s home was actually quite common in Akkadian times as a method and aftermath of land acquisition.

  1. your city rebels against the Sharrum
  2. the Sharrum defeats your city in open battle
  3. your Ensi is dethroned
  4. you are forced off of your land by the Sharrum or by the new Ensi

In Africa, the winning tribe pushed out the losing tribe and the losing tribe had to find a new home. In Greece and Rome, there was no such thing as POW. POW is a modern term. :slight_smile In Greece and Rome you just became a slave, the higher class came as something to show the home crowd what you did.

For Greek I am not sure but for roman time there were POW : during the 2nd punic war Hannibal capture a lot of roman soldiers and ask for ransom. The roman paid it until the battle of Cannea, after this battle they refuse to paid any ransom. At that time POW mostly end as slave so maybe you do not consider them as POW in the modern sense.

Prisoners nearly exists since the begining of war but does the word POW apply to them ? I am not a native english speaker so I would like to know what is according to you the difference between a prisoner and a POW ?

@Sargon: I’m not sure if you speak here of banishment or deportation. By “banishment” I suppose you mean someone could be forcibly driven to leave it’s home and go outside the borders of the kingdom, but I don’t remember having read anything on the subject.

However, what was common in Mesopotamia was deportation. In Mari tablets (Old Babylonian periode), there are very long lists of people being captured during wars or rebellions, that were used as slaves or displaced in an entirely new town.

Basically, in this period in Northern Mesopotamia, what you may feel in the letters is a great lack of workers, so that for example the King of Upper Mesopotamia Samsî-Addu could ask his son Yasmah-Addu to send him 5 carpenters because he needs them. His son Yasmah-Addu was himself very young when he became “vice”-king of Mari, and he often infuriated his father by receiving anybody in its palace, even workers that had fled his father’s palace, and make proper gigantic fests with former cookers or craftsmen, with litters and litters of beer, delicious grasshopers meals, tasty honey cakes and so on.

On a larger scale, you could have people having been vanquished transferred to an entirely new town. This could be a massive movement of population in the the late Assyrian and Babylonian era, the Jews exile in being the most famous example.
But in Mari tablets, you may see hundreds of names of “prisoners of war” being used as slaves in the royal palace (which by the way is very great for onomastics!). This is what permitted Zimrî-li’m of Mari to have 500 people in what has been called his “harem” (like David had in his own “harem” according to the Bible, if I remember correctly). In fact there were his two queens – daughters of important neighbor king he married to conclude alliances – servants, dancers, musicians and an awful lot of workers preparing the meals, working as craft(wo)men, etc.

There’s also a very funny letter where the “prime minister” of the kingdom of Mari ask the king what he should do with a former merchant from the Zalmaqum region. He could meet some people from his home region, so the Minister asks to the king if he should not put out his eyes and cut his tongue, so that he can’t contact anybody, but still be able to work. Because, well… A slave’s a slave, no reason to free him even if he’s a former prisoner of war and it’s now peace with the Zalmaqum!

The other common fate for anybody that was a prisoner, as noted above by fellow posters, is death. Assyrians were famous for their cruelties. The proper thing with the Assyrians is that it was clearly a demonstration of their power over the neighboring countries, so this acted as an example. And the most cruelty was used, the most efficient it was thought to be.

EDIT : regarding any sort of justice, there’s also a lot of evidences death penalty was not frown upon like it is today.
Human rights were not considered a thing at all, because when being born everybody was a member of a community: your fellow village inhabitants and your family were your protectors in case of any trouble. The case is the same for the king regarding relations with foreign countries: the king is a father for his people, so this explains why the year names mentions canal being dug out, temples being build to assure the gods were happy, and victories on neighbor kings.
But when making justice, the various courts didn’t feel reluctant to apply death penalty, as this is famously known by the code of Hammu-rabi of Babylone: “If a mason builds a house but the house collapse and kills the son of the owner, then the son of the mason son will be killed.” Knowing the code was a collection of jurisprudence cases, there’s no doubt death was considered a common penalty.

Old style city builders like Pharaoh, Caesar III, Zeus: Master of Olympus, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, or Children of the Nile, but also the Stronghold and Tropico (as @Sargon mentioned :wink: ) all incorporate judicial and police questions at some level. Mostly it’s just the building of courts and “police stations”, like in Pharaoh, but sometimes there is also a system of punishments and prevention, like in Stronghold, where the player builds structures to remind the citizens who is in charge, and that transgressions will be severely punished.

I know very little of concrete research in criminality in ancient or pre-ancient times, but I know that murder rates were much higher in pre-modern European societies. In societes where the state was weak, where getting caught was unlikely, and starvation a very common phenomenon, using force to attain certain resources, or security, was everything but rare. We see the same today, in societies where there is a state, but it’s very weak, and corruption is rife, and poverty great: Central America.

Thus I agree completely with @Elfryc writes, about the death penalty being much less frowned upon than in earlier times. God knows that the death penalty wansn’t really questioned systimatically till the Enlightment of the 18th century.

Exiling, banishing, or ostracising, was very prelevant among the Greeks. Slavery was, to my knowledge, quite common among most sedentary advanced states from the Atlantic to the Indus, if not further (though I don’t recognise it in China…? Before Qin, anyone…?). Indeed it continued in the Middle-East till the 20th century. But POWs in the modern sense are just that, a modern creation, brought forth by the growing internationalisation and large-scale warfare of the 19th and 20th centuries. Fredrick the Great of Prussia didn’t have to care much about prisoners one way or the other, while the same was not true for his descendant Wilhelm II of Germany. Before that… everything mentioned in this thread seems to have been more or less prevalant depending on region. As @louis.mervoyer points out, the giving of ransoms did occur, which explains why his country was somewhat impoverished, and the English enriched, by the latter’s victories at Crécy and Agincourt.

So far, it seems that when it comes to fighting abroad, or generally fighting foreign foes, other tribes and alike, as discussed in World Map thread (World Map), the player should have the choice between:

  • Executing all the prisoners (or the people inhabiting the city, village, or the tribe)

  • Banishing, exiling, unsettling or deporting them, driving them away from what was formerly “their” land, now “ours”.

  • Enslaving them, and either selling them outright on the spot, or taking them all back to the player’s city, to work for us (or send them to our colony, a mine, to toil?)

  • Assimilating them, by for example marrying each woman to our warriors, or killing off only the men of the right age, or something.

When it comes to criminality, meaning breaking the law here, at home, in the city, I guess what @Sargon points at in “his own” empire is probably the norm: harsh justice. As the city grows and becomes quite advanced (which of coure is far in the future), I guess there would be system of courts, some form militia or military unit to keep the peace, and of course laws, which I hope the player would be able to change between different pre-defined position, for example:

  • “Womens’ inheritance: none / meagre / substantial / equal”

  • “Private property: only the king / only nobles and priests / all citizens”

  • “Slavery: legal for criminals, debts and enemies / legal only for enemies / illegal”

  • “Slave status: inherited / not inherited”

  • “Citizenship: only children of a citizen / only children of a citizen and persons of a certain wealth / any free person”

… and many others.

Of course, the player should have the possibility to be a more “mild” ruler, or rather a more “draconian” one, like in Stronhold, or Tropico. At times, mass crucifixions or Mongol style genocides might serve a purpose, as the Pax Mongolica suggests. Or even the first ever unification of Mesopotamia, @Sargon (unless Enshakushanna counts, but I think he used the same tactic, to the same result). Certainly, any threat to our regime should be dealt with swiftly and harshly, Tropico style. But otherwise, a milder law and execution thereof might be appropriate. Or as Hammurabi would have said, around 1700 BC: “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak”.


@Sargon for Europe we don’t have any evidence, I believe, for the Bronze Age laws or punishment, sadly. For what I remember, there are no written sources from Minoan and Mycenaean period, that list any laws. Only taxations and storage lists from palaces. Evidences about punishment is mostly lost to us or just not discovered yet.
It is quite interesting the “Code of Ur-Nammu”. I have never heard of it and probably need to read about it now :slight_smile:

[quote=“Grigor, post:14, topic:1242, full:true”] […] the player should have the choice between:

  • Executing all the prisoners (or the people inhabiting the city, village, or the tribe)
  • Banishing, exiling, unsettling or deporting them, driving them away from what was formerly “their” land, now “ours”.
  • Enslaving them, and either selling them outright on the spot, or taking them all back to the player’s city, to work for us (or send them to our colony, a mine, to toil?)
  • Assimilating them, by for example marrying each woman to our warriors, or killing off only the men of the right age, or something.


I hope the player would be able to change between different pre-defined position, for example:

  • “Womens’ inheritance: none / meagre / substantial / equal”
  • “Private property: only the king / only nobles and priests / all citizens”
  • “Slavery: legal for criminals, debts and enemies / legal only for enemies / illegal”
  • “Slave status: inherited / not inherited”
  • “Citizenship: only children of a citizen / only children of a citizen and persons of a certain wealth / any free person”
    … and many others.

I took time to read your post, @Grigor, as I wanted to do since you posted to say I totally agree with you. I’d even be bolder: I think that those types of decisions should be one of the prominent features of the game.

In my view, those decisions should be linked to various situations (which is easy to script with triggers). One example: you’re lacking food, and the harsh and long winter prevents any harvesting. Fortunately, there are wild animals in the forests: wolves, bears, etc.
Who should be authorized to go hunting in the wild nature surrounding your settlement? Men and women, sure. Children, if you don’t frown upon “child work” (even if they’ll find one way or another to find food instead of die by hunger). What about other peoples in the village, either “prisoners”/“slaves” or any recent migrants you only half trust? Would you allow them to take weapons and go into the wild, taking the risk they don’t come back, or even turn against your own?

An awful lot of such situations may have arisen – and still arise today, as shown by every national newspaper everywhere in the world. That’s the common lot of any society facing a new situation and having to react for adaptation.

Aside of replayability given by the fact that different conditions = different choices, this would have one major benefit: it would allow you to forge a whole society, while keeping in the track of historical plausability.

On this topic, I have to answer by advance on critics that would be totally justified: there’s another city builder expected soon, that relies on such mechanics, making it even one of its core features: Frostpunk, by 11-bit Studio (the creators of This War of Mine). If you look at their website, you may find for example the chains of decisions linked to child work and adaptation to the harsh condition in this world.

There’s one major difference though with A.C.: in Frostpunk, you’re a group of survivor having to deal with a frozen, cyberpunk, 19th-century world. You’re in a “point A” (critical situation), and try to go to a “point B” (ideally an established society allowing decent survival in this given universe, by making choices that are morally disturbing).

A.C. places you in a very different situation, in that you don’t have any real society established (“point 0” instead of “A”) and the aim is to forge an entire society, historical plausible for Bronze Age (“point A” instead of “B”).
As such, this needs far more choices, regarding society, religion, politics, economy, religion, warfare, justice, diplomacy, etc.

Aside of that is the fact you have to deal with foreign influences: every situation creates debates. How they have to be dealt with is also one part of the decisions, as people may react more fiercely to such or such decision, impose a common decision or rely on the leader choices, etc.

As a conclusion: I think that this feature, conveniently done, would be an essential element to give A.C. its very soul. Because each of those decisions made is the common basis for a common live in any society, this also enlarges the short-term considerations: this creates rules and habits, customs, traditions, that will constitute the common ground of the nascent civilization you’re forging, creating debate when taking the decision, but also later between “traditionalists” and “pragmatists”/“modernists”.

A few examples of decisions that could appear in the game:

  • Society: Should warriors be given a prominent position in society when the common security relies on them, at the risk they show violent against others?
  • Society: How should be considered enemies defeated in fights? Prisoners, slaves, welcomed in the tribe? May adult men be considered on the same basis as women? And what of child or elders?
  • Religion: Should foreign gods “imported” by migrants be allowed at all? What in the case of a foreign priest having a violent religion but great medicinal knowledge?
  • Diplomacy: Should foreign tribes be considered as either enemies, submitted or allies; or should they be given any right to neutrality?
  • Society/Justice: How should thieving or murder be punished inside the tribe?
  • Society/Justice: Should internal family affairs (fights, violence against one member) be left to the family for settlement, or should the community has right to judge any member involved?
  • Politics: Should any person be allowed to make common rules by herself/himself (be a king or chief), or should the community discuss those matters at an Assembly? What should be the criteria to be a member of this Assembly: fathers, every adult, non-foreigners, warriors, elders…?
  • Economy: Should anybody be allowed to possess a granary or a field by him/herself if he builds/grows it and all others are destroyed by a climatic/natural event?
  • Society: Should parents of a disabled child be allow to kill/bring him up, if he’s alive, unable to work, needs a part of the meager food rations of the whole family and aside of that won’t survive more than a few months or years and be a burden for the community?

EDIT : as an afterthought, another game may be conveniently used for comparison: Stellaris, where there are policies allowing to take similar decisions: open/close the borders, attitude towards unadvanced civilizations, slavery, etc.
The troubles with this system are double in such a game as A.C. as I dream it:

  • Each policy in Stellaris is taken at a cost of “inluence”, meaning that if you don’t have enough influence left you can’t hire a new leader (scientist, governor, admiral), colonize a new planet, change your government form, etc. This limits their use and don’t allow any real sentiment of a change in your society. Instead of “influence”, I think a chief/ruler/king should have to use a part of his/her charisma (low charisma = lower chance to have it succeed); in the case of a collective decision as in an Assembly it should be in accordance with the opinion of the tribe members allowed to speak, whoever they are.
  • Each policy (in Stellaris) is quite static. In A.C., if ever implemented, it rather should be called “custom” or “tradition”, meaning it’s also there to be broken, frown upon, rebelled against. This would allow smooth mutations in the society, exactly like Assyrians were essentially merchants before facing a dire military situation driving them to grow increasingly militaristic, or Hebrews sharing a common faith with most people of the Near East before making the choice to rely entirely on one God.

(the end :blush: )


Hear, hear! I truly hope the developers read your reply @Elfryc, and the rest that has been written, even though we stray so much from the topic at hand: criminality and justice and prisoners.

Allowing the game to progress and develop with a logical randomness, built on the objective facts at hand (nature, climate, existence of resources), and the subjective feelings, observations, thoughts and wishes of the tribesmen, as well as the “invisible hand” of the player, would do the game a great service. It is possible that it couldn’t actually be made in the idealised version we dream of, owing both to time constraints and the level of computer power required, but if a base is established, more could be added in time. I seem to recall how the original WoW only had a few tens of quests, while it now boasts of several thousands of them (at least 23655, I believe). The same is true for the original Crusader Kings, which must have hundreds, if not thousands of times more events now than it had in 2004.

The developers have often stressed how important the individual tribesmen are to them in the making of the game, that the game should be based around the individuals and their wants and wishes. It seems to me that it would be logical to extend it into making the individuals, together with Mother Nature, and the player, the engines of the game.

More specifically, @Elfryc, about your suggestion of a currency, like “influence” or “charisma”, I think it could be a good idea in theory: people tend to follow and obey leaders that have earn their respect, legitimacy, either by deeds or by traits. This “capital” can be used to push through reforms, or keep them from happening. An example: if it is the established norm and law, that everybody agrees with, that the king’s oldest son inherits the throne, and this son has proven to be a wise and just man, the son will enjoy a lot of respect and legitimacy when he becomes king. With this currency, he can keep his vassals at bay, resist agreeing to certain things, and convince nobles and others to perform certain actions. Like when Caesar shame his mutinous legionaries into begging for forgiveness!

Thus, it could be in Ancient Cities: depending on your decisions and responses to different events, your people will agree more or less with you, which will make them more or less prone to accept your future decisions. If everyone wanted a criminal executed, and you let him go with a lenient sentence, your people would be quite unhappy. Not unhappy enough to rebel… but if it happens again? Maybe the tribe’s respect for you and your decision would disappear? They would take matters into their own hands? Do whatever they want? Even if it hurts you, and the tribe as a whole? Anarchy! Rebellion! Time for some Tropico-style shooting scenes for El Jefe :wink:


not sure it this had been mentioned or if this is the right thread
. but like exile , shunning , after sentencing the accused is totally and utterly ignored , its like they cess to exist.


Real interesting idea, which may open new fields given the socialization that will be emphasized in the game.

Also, I remember the Professeur of the Collège de France Jean-Marie Durand, one of the best specialists on Mari letters, told me once he was sure the Amurrites had tattoos that were used to recognize a man as a member of such clan or tribe, aside of peculiar cloth arrangements (even if I think I remember also he admitted he had no proof of that in the unpublished letters found at Mari).

Aside of that, I remember from a lesson by Dominique Charpin that slaves had “something”, translated as “iron”, which may have been a mark that a man was a slave.

In Ancient Egypt, there were also signs showing that someone was either a slave, a commoner or a noble (necklaces, wigs, etc.), and there were such things as cut noses and ears to show publicly someone could had been condemn for being a thief.

All that to say: if we have body painting in the game, it could be a good idea to have such practices as tattoos or peculiar pieces of cloth or jewelry that could show their social standing, and probably affect socialization.


Supposition: Neolithic slaves appear to have been usually women and teenaged children (e.g. Talheim Death Pit). If the taking of slaves is effectively a form of exogamy, it seems unlikely to me the women and children would be marked for the following speculative reasons:

  1. A mark is unnecessary in a small village as everyone knows everyone, and their status.

  2. Exogamy probably works better when the person who has transitioned into the new tribe is allowed to acclimate to the new tribe. They may not be holy accepted, but explicitly marking them may cause a permanent stigma and decrease the likelihood of maintaining tribal cohesion in a small group of people.

I actually visit this topic several times in my books as it appears to have been reasonably commonplace. It shows just how violent the Neolithic could be. =(

in fact, here is a scene which occurred in my first book. I never had this Illustrated due to the cost, but this was my original concept art sketch. The two women in the front are the heroes about to save the day, but the men in the back are escorting a group of captured women from a massacre. The women are unbranded for the simple fact that this would harm their cohesion in the new Village they are destined to live in… Unless someone saves them LOL

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