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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reconstructs the legal underpinnings of repressive responses to fundamental threats to the Roman political order: sedition, conspiracies, riots and provincial revolts. It outlines the legal and ethical limitations on state power that were invoked in relation to acts of repression. It argues that there was a tension in Roman civilization between ideas about the appropriate limitations on the exercise of state violence against the individual and the need to deal with fundamental political threats. With the growth of autocracy in the later Empire, the ethics of rulers’ responses to fundamental threats to the political order came to be emphasized rather than the legal rights of the rebellious. The chapter argues that attempts were made to downgrade legally or discursively the civic statuses of individuals accused of threatening the political order. Such attempts aimed to reduce concerns about repressive actions that would have been considered illegal or unethical.

Keywords: sedition, conspiracies, riots, provincial revolts, senatus consultum ultimum, provocatio, hostis declaration, clementia, crudelitas

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