Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Roman Executions

Perhaps the most unpleasant of all the events that took place in the Roman arena were the executions of the noxii, prisoners condemned to death by the magistrates. It is not just to modern sensibilities that the gruesome executions appear offensive, some Romans found them fairly repellent. For these were not straightforward public executions by beheading or hanging. Every refinement of cruelty and agony of which the Roman mind was capable was brought to bear on the noxii. And the Roman mind could be most imaginative.

Public executions were nothing unusual in the ancient world. In most societies they continued until just two centuries ago and in some countries continue today. The death penalty has been, and remains in many countries, the ultimate sanction of the state judicial system. For those crimes judged by society to be so terrible that there is no hope of redemption for the guilty person and in those places where the punishment ethic is strong, death is the only appropriate penalty. For some people certain crimes are so awful that the perpetrator must be destroyed and must be seen to be destroyed. Public execution is felt to be the ultimate sanction of society on its most anti-social elements.

For the Romans it became a public spectacle.

 by Rupert Matthews

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