The Imaginative Roman Tradition For Serving Justice To Criminals Guilty Of Parricide


Ancient Rome had a grisly fondness for showy executions, but the punishment for someone who confessed to parricide, the murder of a parent or close relative, was especially grandiose. The traditional sentence for parricide was so extravagant that Augustus allegedly warned a man who was guilty of the crime not to confess because, without the confession, the trial and punishment would proceed as with any other capital offense.

If, however, a person did confess to parricide, their last moments were fated to be quite bizarre. At the time of execution, the confessed criminal was forced into a huge sack. The bag was so large because the criminal would not be alone inside. Before the sack was sealed, the executioners brought in a wide variety of small animals. From this macabre zoo, a rooster, a snake, a dog, and even a monkey were supposedly crammed into the sack with the condemned criminal. Finally, when the sewing was complete, the stuffed bag was tossed into a body of water, with the criminal and animals still trapped inside.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

Picture Attribution: (Image from History of Rome and of the Roman people, from its origin to the Invasion of the Barbarians (1883), [Public Domain] via Flickr and Creative Commons).


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