Embarking on a unique study of Roman criminal law, Judy Gaughan
has developed a novel understanding of the nature of social and
political power dynamics in republican government. Revealing the
significant relationship between political power and attitudes
toward homicide in the Roman republic, Murder Was Not a
Crime describes a legal system through which families
(rather than the government) were given the power to mete out
punishment for murder.
With implications that could modify the most fundamental beliefs
about the Roman republic, Gaughan's research maintains that Roman
criminal law did not contain a specific enactment against murder,
although it had done so prior to the overthrow of the monarchy.
While kings felt an imperative to hold monopoly over the power to
kill, Gaughan argues, the republic phase ushered in a form of
decentralized government that did not see itself as vulnerable to
challenge by an act of murder. And the power possessed by
individual families ensured that the government would not attain
the responsibility for punishing homicidal violence.
Drawing on surviving Roman laws and literary sources,
Murder Was Not a Crime also explores the dictator
Sulla's "murder law," arguing that it lacked any government concept
of murder and was instead simply a collection of earlier statutes
repressing poisoning, arson, and the carrying of weapons.
Reinterpreting a spectrum of scenarios, Gaughan makes new
distinctions between the paternal head of household and his power
over life and death, versus the power of consuls and praetors to
command and kill.
Subjects: History, Law
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