Murder Was Not a Crime: Homicide and Power in the Roman Republic

By Judy E. Gaughan | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The impetus for this book lies in a peculiar state of affairs I discovered some years ago in the process of researching and writing my dissertation: the Romans seem to have had a murder law during the monarchy but not during the republic.

When I set out to write the dissertation, I intended to explore the nature and development of Roman public law by examining the treatment of one crime over the course of the republic. I chose the crime of murder because it seemed that not much research had been done in that area. I quickly discovered, however, that there did not seem to be any such thing as murder actionable via public law during the Roman republic. I also soon discovered that the same did not seem to be true for the monarchy, when such an offense does seem to have been actionable. Immediately, no doubt, some of my more skeptical readers are thinking that any evidence I have for the monarchy, or indeed for the early centuries of the republic, is going to be unreliable. This fact has concerned me all along through this research.

Yet, it did not make sense to me simply to dismiss all alleged evidence about the monarchy, especially when that evidence seemed so alien to later Roman practice, and there did not seem to be any particularly good reason for the Romans to have fabricated it. The anomaly kept pestering me. I kept asking myself why would murder have been a matter for the government to handle during the monarchy and then subsequently not its responsibility during the republic? My contemplation of this question converted my research from the evolution of public law into the exploration of the nature and growth of republican government as revealed by the treatment of homicide. This book represents my conclusions.

The nature and quality of the evidence require the unorthodox approach of asking why something did not exist. I realize that this is a perilous approach to antiquity, yet I risk it because I believe the results help to dispel strongly held and misplaced assumptions. The first of these is the notion

-xv-

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Murder Was Not a Crime: Homicide and Power in the Roman Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Killing and the King 9
  • Two - Power of Life and Death 23
  • Three - Killing and the L Aw, 509–450 B.C.E 53
  • Four - Murder Was Not a Crime, 449–81 B.C.E 67
  • Five - Capital Jurisdiction, 449–81 B.C.E 90
  • Six - License to Kill 109
  • Seven - Centralization of P Ower and Sull An Ambiguity 126
  • Epilogue 141
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 191
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