First Murder & Ancient Roman Law and Punishment

Finger Pointing UpYou said Cain was mad.  It sounds like he was jealous of Abel because You discarded his offering and accepted Abel’s.   

I figure it happens with brothers, Cain probably got over it in a day or two, right?

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?  And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? 1

And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground“(Gen 4:8-10).

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 

Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.  And wherefore slew he him: because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn 3:11-12).

1. Cain kills Abel“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb 11:4).

1 Jn 8:44 & 13:2, 1 Jn 8:8, Rev 20:10.

Ancient Roman Law and Punishment

2. Valerius
Valerius Maximus was a Latin writer and author of a collection of historical anecdotes. He worked during the reign of Tiberius

Valerius Maximus in his Memorable Deeds and Sayings remarked that laws are not unlike spider webs: they catch the weak (the poor) and let the strong (the rich) through.

The legal system in ancient Rome was no different from today’s legal system in this regard.

There are quite a few fun facts about Roman law that are not very well recognized today. Some of the severity of the punishment of certain crimes received are quite shocking.

What happens when a slave kills his owner?

Tacitus in his Annals inform us of a case in which the city prefect by the name of Pedanius Secundus was assassinated by his slave.

The reasons are not clear: Pedanius might have backed out of an agreement to free his slave at a certain price or there might have been a sexual rivalry between the two men.

Anyhow, as ancient custom would have it whenever a slave murdered his owner, all slaves of the same household should be executed.

In this case the majority of these slaves were innocent women and children, but the Senate chose to adhere to the custom and in spite of public protests and appeals for mercy, all slaves of the household of Pedanius’s were slaughtered. Four hundred of them.

3. Publius Cornelius
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius

What happens when a person kills his or her father?

4. Hadrian
Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. In Latin, the full imperial title of Hadrian was also rendered as Tito Ael[io] Hadriano, just as it appears in ancient epigraphic records.

According to Justinian’s Digest, the customary punishment for parricide – the act of killing one’s father – was that the pesrson is whipped with blood-colored sticks, then sealed up in a sack with a rooster, a dog, a viper and a monkey.

They would then be cast into the deep sea. In case there was no sea nearby, they would simply be thrown before wild beasts. This law was passed by Emperor Hadrian the righteous.

On the contrary, Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his Roman Antiquitieswrites that in many periods of ancient Roman history, parents had the right to kill their children without explanation.

In some cases, they were required to rear all their male children and also their first-born daughters unless they were born crippled or with deformities.

In such cases, they were to be shown to at least five neighbors, and if all agreed the child could be killed.

What happens if one disrespects an office bearer?

5. Lucius Cassius Dio
Cassius Dio or Dio Cassius was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy

According to Cassius Dio’s Roman History, consul Servilius Isauricus was once treading a road in his usual swagger when he came across a man on horseback who was so bad-mannered that he did not dismount for the consul. The horseman literally galloped right past him.

When Isauricus later noticed the man on trial in court in the Forum, he went out of his way to bring up this incident before the jurors, and they consensually condemned the man without further ado.

Other Strange Laws of the Ancient Roman Court

6. Lucius Calpurnius
Lucius Cassius Dio, was a Roman consul and noted historian who wrote in Greek. Dio published a history of Rome in 80 volumes, beginning with the legendary arrival of Aeneas in Italy.

Lucius Piso was on trial for offending Rome’s allies. He was begging for mercy on the ground planting kisses on the jurors’ feet. Suddenly it started pouring with rain and it filled his mouth with mud. Upon seeing this the jurors were of the mind that Lucius had suffered enough and let him go. (Valerius Maximus Memorable Deeds and Sayings)

A boy was brought before the judge and was asked why he was crying. He was supposed to display fear and distress at the prospect of his father being cruelly punished, but instead he said he was crying because his attendant had just pinched him. Which was true by the way. (Quintilian Education of the Orator)

Quintilian condemned the practice of eating and drinking while giving a speech in court, but such pauses gave the speaker’s supporters a chance to applaud his efforts. The supporters were actually hired and were called Sophocleses from the Greek term sophōs, meaning bravo! or laudiceni, meaning ‘people who get a dinner for their praise’ (Pliny Letters)

Valerius Maximus writes in his Memorable Deeds and Sayings that Livius Salinator had no problem taking the voting rights from 34 of the 35 tribes when after having condemned him, they subsequently named him consul and censor. He was of the mind that they must be either irresponsible or corrupt. The Maecia was the one single tribe that he did not censor, which had neither condemned him nor judged him worthy of office.

7. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is among the most famous Romans. He is mentioned in the gospel of Luke:
In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This census took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.note
Because Jesus of Nazareth was born at the time of this census, this line from the Christmas story is well-known to many Christians.

According to Livy (History of Rome, Book 77), Publius Sulpicius Rufus was killed after Sulla had outlawed him in the 80s BC. The slave who gave away Publius’s whereabouts was rewarded and set free. Then he was thrown over a cliff for committing the crime of betrayal of his owner.

Pliny in his Natural History writes that a Roman judge would never rule against the obviously impossible if there was no law prohibiting it. For instance, when a woman claimed to have given birth to her child after 13 months of pregnancy, the judge accepted the claim, because there existed no statute limiting the time of a pregnancy.

8. Titus Livius
Titus Livius Patavinus —known as Livy in English—was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people.

Justinian’s Digest reports that in case a woman learned about her husband’s death after the statutory period of mourning was over, she was required to put on her mourning dress and then immediately take it off, because the mourning period started right after the person’s death regardless of the fact that no one might know about it. Also, men were not required to mourn the death of their spouses.

Apuleius, the author of the Golden Ass, wrote a treatise on aquatic creatures in which he used several technical terms deriving from Greek.

As a consequence, he was tried for witchcraft, and accused of having used magic spells to persuade a

rich widow to marry him.

Justinian’s Digest reports that the testimony of a slave was considered as evidence in a court of law only if it had been acquired through torture.

Lucius Domitius, Governor of Sicily, issued an edict in which he prohibited the possession of weapons in an attempt to get rid of highway robbery that was undermining regular life in his province. 

Now, when an extremely large wild boar was served him for lunch, he summoned the shepherd to tell him how he had managed to kill the boar.

Polybius was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail.
The work describes the rise of the Roman Republic to ‘world power’ (i.e. domination over the Mediterranean world).
Polybius is also renowned for his ideas concerning the separation of powers in government, later used in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws and in the drafting of the United States Constitution.
9. Apuleius
Apuleius was a Latin-language prose writer.

He was a Numidian Berber and lived under the Roman Empire. He was from Madaurus.


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