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

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University of Texas Press, Jan 1, 2010 - History - 214 pages

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.


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User Review  - unittj - LibraryThing

This is a well-written book about a fascinating subject. Okay, it is a bit dense in parts, stretching the concentration, but this is easily forgiven as the author gets to her point. The thrust of the ... Read full review


One Killing and the King
Pater and Res Publica
Three Killing and the Law 509450 BCE
Four Murder Was Not a Crime 44981 BCE
Five Capital Jurisdiction 44981 BCE
Six License to Kill
Seven Centralization of Power and Sullan Ambiguity

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About the author (2010)

JUDY E. GAUGHAN is Assistant Professor of History at Colorado State University.

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