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Roman Crime And Punishment


Roman Crime And Punishment
Hold on to your coin purse and take a trip down the mean streets of ancient Rome
During the first century CE it is estimated that the city of Rome supported 1 million inhabitants. As with any city, densely populated areas with wide class divides can easily become criminal hotspots. The foundation of Roman law was known as the Twelve Tables, a dozen rules that every citizen had to obey. The Twelve Tables were so important that schoolchildren learnt to read and write by copying laws down and reciting them. While some soldiers, volunteers and officials were tasked with keeping the peace, the city had no dedicated police force, so upholding the law could be difficult. Harsh punishments were the main deterrents, ranging from a brutal beheading to elaborate public executions at the Colosseum.

The crimes committed and punishments received often depended on the social standing of the accused. High-class citizens convicted of major crimes were often given the option of exile rather than execution. Slaves, on the other hand, were punished harshly. If one slave was caught committing a crime, it was not uncommon for all the other slaves of the household to be punished as well, to discourage uprisings.

Roman Crime And PunishmentKeeping The Peace
While there was no official police force in Ancient Rome, leaders enlisted some groups to be in charge of crime prevention. Vigiles were volunteers who performed the dual role of police and fire fighters. They patrolled the city at night, scouting for potential criminals or runaway slaves, while also helping to extinguish fi res. Urban cohorts were soldiers that played the role of riot police. Rather than patrolling the streets, they were only summoned if a situation got out of hand.
The Praetorian Guard was responsible for protecting the Emperor, like bodyguards. Despite only having a single person to protect, at times the Praetorian Guard consisted of over 1,000 men. None of these groups were tasked with catching criminals after a crime was committed. If Roman citizens were victims of crime, it was their responsibility to catch the perpetrator and take him or her to the magistrate for a trial.