One of the atrocities of the Roman people was parricide, or killing of one’s parent or stepparent. This practice was seen as a heinous crime in Rome, and was punishable by death. There have been several instances of parricide throughout Roman history, so what lead to such a crime?
One theory is that the Roman people were influenced by Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, several gods killed either their fathers or their children. When it came to Roman literature, the authors borrowed and embellished upon traditional Greek tales.
Ancient Rome was also a highly patriarchal society. Fathers had total authority over their families, and were allowed to mete out punishments in their own way. This often led to child abuse and the degradation of women, which may have influenced the increase in parricide.
The highly militaristic society of Rome may have also played a role. Roman citizens had to serve in the military, defend the city from foreign invaders, and expand the empire’s territory. This caused friction between fathers and sons, and may have made some sons more likely to commit this crime.
Finally, Rome was a very superstitious society. This may have been a factor in the practice of parricide since many believed that killing one’s father would appease the gods and bring them luck.
Status Of Roman Women
The status of Roman women is largely seen as an important factor in the rise of parricide. Roman women had very few rights, and were not allowed to own property, vote, or inherit wealth. This led many women to be treated as second-class citizens and was a frequent cause of tension between men and women.
The situation was even worse for women who had been divorced or widowed. Women who were widowed often had to return to their families to live, while divorced women were seen as outcasts and were not given any support. This left many women in desperate financial and emotional situations, which may have been a factor in the rise of parricide.
In addition, Roman law prevented women from taking revenge for wrongs committed against them. This placed them in a difficult position, as they had to endure abuse and mistreatment but could take no action against it. It is likely that this injustice was a contributing factor in the increased number of cases of parricide in Rome.
Influence Of Religion
Religion also played a role in the rise of parricide in ancient Rome. The Roman gods were often presented as authoritative figures who had a great deal of control over the lives of their citizens. Over time, many Romans began to think of their own parents as gods, and this lead to a decline in respect for parents.
In addition, religion was used to justify the violent treatment of women. Many Roman gods were shown to treat their wives with brutality, and this often perpetuated the idea that it was acceptable to treat women harshly. This likely influenced the rise of parricide, as sons were taught that it was normal to disrespect their mothers.
Finally, Roman religion often presented fathers as all-powerful figures who could do no wrong. This made it difficult for sons to confront their fathers if they disagreed with them, and may have been a factor in the increase of parricide.
Relationships With Slaves
The practice of slavery was common in Rome and many Roman citizens owned slaves. This often caused tension between masters and their slaves, as slaves were seen as less than human and were not given rights or protection. It is believed that this may have been a contributing factor to the increase in cases of parricide.
Sons who were mistreated by their parents could easily turn to their slaves for comfort and support. This often led to resentment from the parents and could have been a contributing factor to the rise in parricide.
In addition, some fathers may have seen their sons as a threat to their power and position. Fathers would often punish their sons in order to maintain their power and authority, and this could have lead to sons killing their fathers out of fear or desperation.
Finally, some slaves may have been colluding with their owners’ sons in acts of parricide. Slaves were often desperate to escape their situation, and may have been willing to aid in the murder of their masters in return for their freedom.
Changes In Roman Law
Over the course of Roman history, the laws regarding the punishment of parricide changed numerous times. In the early years, parricide was harshly punished and those convicted of the crime were sentenced to death. Later, however, Roman law began to take into account factors such as if the perpetrator had been provoked or if he had suffered abuse from his parents.
This change in Roman law likely contributed to the rise of parricide in Rome. Previously, those contemplating this crime would have known that the punishment was very severe and may have been dissuaded from pursuing it. With the changes made to Roman law, however, those contemplating this crime may have been emboldened and thought that they could get away with it.
In addition, Roman laws began to protect women more, which may have been a factor in the rise of parricide. Women were now allowed to own property and to receive financial support, which may have reduced the amount of abuse and mistreatment that they suffered.
Finally, Roman law also began to penalize fathers more harshly for the mistreatment of their children. This likely made them less likely to mistreat their children, which could have contributed to a reduced number of cases of parricide.
Moral Decay Of Ancient Rome
The early Roman Republic was known for its strict moral code and harsh punishments for criminals. As the Republic began to decline, however, the moral standards of Roman society began to decline as well. This played a role in the increase in cases of parricide, as citizens became less respectful of their parents and more willing to break the law.
In addition, Roman society began to value material possessions more than moral values. This made citizens more likely to take what they wanted, regardless of the consequences, and is likely to have been a factor in the rise of parricide.
Finally, the decline of the Roman Republic caused a decrease in the effectiveness of the government. Corruption and bribery were rampant, and laws were often ignored or not enforced. This made it easier for citizens to commit crimes such as parricide, and likely contributed to the increase in cases.
Conclusion Of Roman Legacy
Although the Roman empire is no longer in existence, the legacy of its people lives on. The practice of parricide in ancient Rome serves as a reminder of the flaws in the Roman system and the harsh punishments for those who committed this crime.
It is clear that there were a variety of factors that contributed to the rise of parricide in ancient Rome. However, the decline of moral values, the decline in the effectiveness of government, and the changing laws were likely the primary factors that lead to this crime.