Lecture 1 - Introduction

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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2301A/B
Randall Pogorzelski

1 LECTURE 1: INTRODUCTION TO CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME Claudius and the Sacred Chickens • In 249 BCE, the Roman consul Publius Claudius Pulcher used the sacred chickens to see if the gods favored an attack on the Carthaginian fleet • Sacred chickens test – Provide sacred chickens with food; if the chickens eat the food that they are given, this showed that the gods were in favor • When Claudius performed the test, the chickens refused to eat. So he let them “drink”, and ordered them to be thrown into the sea • Claudius carried out the attack, and suffered a major defeat in which he lost 93 of his 123 ships • When he returned to Rome, his political enemies charged him with capital treason • By law, the trial had to be completed in a single day but a storm interrupted the trial and the assembly was forced to abandon proceedings • Since the trial had not been completed in a day, Claudius could not be convicted and could not be charged again. But he could, however, be charged for the same crime but this time, not capitally • He was later convicted and fined 12,000 denarii • What does this story tell us about crime and punishment in Ancient Rome? o Similarities between Ancient Rome and modern crime/punishment:  Issue of double jeopardy – once Claudius had been tried, he could not be tried again on the same charge for the same crime, even if he was only acquitted by a technicality  The punishment, in this case, was initially execution; but ultimately, it was a fine – both of which are punishments in modern courts  The charge was treason – also a modern crime o Differences between Ancient Rome and modern crime/punishment  Charge involved a religious matter  Although this crime was a war crime, it was tried in the same courts as any other crime  Trial held outdoors in a forum before a formal assembly of Roman people, rather than in a courtroom in the presence of a jury Ancient World • Ancient records must be pieced together from scattered, and sometimes, fragmentary sources – there is a lot we don’t know • The written records that we do have mostly deal with wealthy, adult men as they were the only ones that had access to the courts and were most involved with the law • In many ways, the laws of ancient Rome and Greece were designed for the elite – the poorer classes, women, children and slaves were
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