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Crime And Punishment: The Ancient World

In GCSE History, students will look at how crime and punishment has changed over the centuries. One era they will study is the ancient world.

The Romans are considered by many to be the most civilised of all cultures in the ancient world. They had a highly developed system of law, which to some extent, they were able to impose on outlying parts of their Empire. However, they practised slavery, and some of their forms of punishment for a crime would be considered barbaric by modern standards.

Find out more about crime and punishment in the ancient world in this revealing quiz.

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  1. Slaves had no legal identity and couldn't own property. Which special form of punishment was reserved for them?
    Other sections of society, like nobles and ordinary citizens, had their own certain punishments - reserved just for them!
  2. Which paid officials could fine people for selling underweight bread or leaving a mess in the street?
    Most of the powers of the Aediles were removed by the first Roman Emperor, Augustus
  3. Throughout the Empire religious toleration was the norm, but certain conditions applied. What were these?
    Breach of these conditions would provoke punishment like enslavement or confiscation of goods
  4. The punishment of fighting to the death in the arena was only imposed for exceptionally serious crimes, such as refusing to obey the Emperor's authority. What name was given to those with whom the condemned had to fight?
    These fights were of course always to the death. Entering the arena the men would shout in the direction of the Emperor: "Caesar! Those who are about to die salute you!"
  5. Who created the laws in the Roman Empire?
    From time to time a new code of laws was drawn up
  6. The Emperor was protected by a special guard, which only reacted with force to very serious threats to the Emperor's person - like assassination attempts. What was the name of this force?
    The Guard would deal savagely with any perceived threat
  7. In the provinces, the role of a police force was taken by which group?
    Rome hoped that crime and disorder would be rare, as the outlying parts of the Empire were (in Rome's view) leniently governed
  8. In Rome itself, slaves could be branded if they tried to escape, and put to death if they tried to kill their master. In the latter case, what form of execution was employed?
    This was public execution, designed to deter onlookers from committing a similar offence
  9. Which arena in Rome was regularly used for fights to the death between men or between men and animals?
    Such occasions were enormously popular with Romans
  10. Decimation was a punishment inflicted on whole legions (Roman military units). What did this punishment consist of?
    This form of collective punishment was regarded by the authorities as a useful deterrent

Author: Edward Towne

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