History of criminal law among the Romans

Classical Bulletin
Special Issue 2, 2018
doi: 10.33909/cb/94.2018.02.43
History of criminal law among the Romans
by Green Carin
Univ St Thomas, St Paul, MN 55105 USA.

Perhaps it is worth the interest of a judicial organization that one might suppose to have lent itself to the cruelties of a Tiberius or to the fury of a Caligula. The period of servitude and debasement, condemned to submit to these detestable princes, presents to us only penal legislation dishonored by despotism, and very different from that which had seen the good times of Rome; but we still find there, with useful lessons, the vestiges of the institutions formerly protecting the liberty of the citizens, then diverted from their primitive sense, and we can measure the importance of these forms formerly so respected, by the efforts what some emperors did to distort or destroy them. This study therefore offers, even from this point of view, lessons that can not be neglected. One of the causes of the little favor it gets is indicated in a recently published pamphlet on this subject; the author rightly points out that the teaching of this part of the criminal law holds very little place in our law schools; the Institutes of Justinian which serve as a basis for the teaching of Roman law devote a very incomplete title to a simple sketch of the Roman procedure and penalty. Moreover, books are also lacking on this interesting subject, and the authors who wrote in the sixteenth century are still an indispensable resource for the study of this subject; we must cite, in the first line, the work of Sigonius, many times abridged or commented, and that of this excellent Pierre Ayrault which contains, it is true, a less sure erudition, but whose reading is so endearing because of the profound and the author's sincere love for the just and the true, and the courage with which he alone defended the rights of humanity at a time when they were so odiously ignored. Let us mention again with M. Laboulaye, Paul Manuce and Hotoman who were writing at the same time, as well as Ferratius, summarized by Beaufort, who had already propagated Sigonius's book in the same way.
Keywords: historical, Romans, law and crime