In the midst of debate over the death penalty, it's interesting to me to look at the perspectives of other cultures. A common argument by those opposed to the death penalty is that execution is less humane than lengthy - or perpetual - incarceration. The ancient Greeks took just the opposite view: they found incarceration inhumane in the extreme. They had prisons, but one was not, for example, ever given a life sentence there. For them, either exile or death was far preferable to the long-term imprisonment of a human being.
Now, I'm not saying one position is necessarily better than another. I'm just offering a different perspective. We often tend to take it as a given that long-term imprisonment is inherently better than execution. It is a usually unquestioned assumption. Other cultures at other times, however, would have found it highly objectionable.