Roman Punishment

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Punishment
What were the greatest crimes in Ancient Rome and what were the punishments? Criminal law was in many instances more severe for the Romans than it is at the present day. Thus adultery, which now only subjects the offender to a civil suit, was by the Romans, as well as the ancient Jews, punished corporally.

The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Roman Punishment.

Roman Punishment - Punishments given to Roman Slaves
In Ancient Rome the slaves had no rights at all. The were thought of, treated like, merchandise. However, slaves did cost money to buy so many of the punishments did not inflict lasting damage.  The lash was the most common punishment. When slaves were beaten, they were suspended with a weight tied to their feet, that they might not move them. Another punishment was to be branded in the forehead. An alternative punishment included the slave being forced to carry a piece of wood round their necks wherever they went. This was called furca; and whichever slave had been subjected to the punishment was ever afterwards called furcifer. Slaves were also, by way of punishment, often confined in a work-house, or house of correction, where they were obliged to turn a mill for grinding corn. When punished for any capital offence, they were commonly crucified; but this was eventually prohibited under the rule of the Emperor Constantine. 

Roman Punishment - Forgery
Forgery was not punished with death, unless the culprit was a slave; but freemen guilty of that crime were subject to banishment, which deprived them of their property and privileges; and false testimony, coining, and those offences which we term misdemeanours, exposed them to an interdiction from fire and water, or in fact an excommunication from society, which necessarily drove them into banishment.

Roman Punishment - Different Types of Punishment for Romans
The different types of punishments inflicted among the Romans, were fines, (damnum,) bonds, (vincula,) stripes, (verbera,) retaliation, (talio,) infamy, (ignominia,) banishment, (exilium,) slavery, (servitus,) and death. A Roman citizen could not be sentenced to death unless he was found guilty of treason. A Roman citizen had the right to be tried in Romeif accused of treason. If sentenced to death, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to  be crucified.

Roman Punishment by Death
The Roman methods of inflicting death were various, in the time of Nero, the punishment for treason was, to be stripped stark naked, and with the head held up by a fork to be whipped to death. The most common punishment were as follows:

  • Beheading (percussio securi)
  • Strangling in prison (strangulatio)
  • Throwing a criminal from that part of the prison called Robur (precipitatio de robore)
  • Throwing a criminal from the Tarpeian rock (dejectio e rupe Tarpeia)
  • Crucifixion (in crucem actio)
  • Burying a person alive
  • Throwing a criminal into the river (projectio in profluentem).

Roman Punishment for Patricide
The last-mentioned punishment (throwing a criminal into the river (projectio in profluentem) was inflicted for patricide or killing your father. As soon as any one was convicted of patricide he was immediately blindfolded as unworthy of the light, and in the next place the person were taken to the field of Mars outside Rome, stripped of everything then whipped with rods. He was then sewed up in a sack, and thrown into the sea. Later in time, to add to the punishment for patricide, a serpent was put in the sack; and still later, an ape, a dog and a cock. The sack which held the criminal was called Culeus, on which account the punishment itself is often signified by the same name.

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