Romans' Conquering of Crime
Intro: What type of crimes did they have?
Romans had many types of crimes. Here are some examples:>theft
>fraud (selling underweight goods e.g. bread)
>keeping streets clean.
Some of these are similar to today's crimes and some are different.
There is still theft, murder, and fraud today. Keeping streets clean
isn't a crime
today but it can't be too dirty otherwise its
How did the Romans
try to stop crime?
The Romans had detailed laws covering all aspects of life. For
example, the crimes were outlined clearly,
>Cheating in trade.
>Keeping streets clean.
Over time the laws got more and more detailed. The Twelve Tables and
The Digest of the Roman Laws were introduced. They also had different
courts for minor and major crimes. The minor crimes were held in the
Magistrates courts and the major crimes were held in jury trials.
People thought the Roman justice system was fair. This is because any
Roman citizen could bring a case to court and the defendant was
innocent until proven guilty, but the slaves may not have thought this
as fair as they did not have these rights. This shows that the Romans
tried to prevent crime by making the laws more detailed and by making
sure that they had a fair legal system opened to every citizen, if not
Were there any measures they didn't try?
Firstly the Romans didn't believe it was the state's responsibility to
prevent crime, so they didn't have any police force. They had VIGILES
but they were not responsible for catching criminals. The victim could
bring the accused to court for a trial and could gather evidence to
support his accusation otherwise there was nothing you could do about
it. They didn't have prisons, as there was no police force.
Who caught the criminals?
The victims and their families had to catch the criminals and find
evidence on them. For example, if a theft was committed the victim had
to gather evidence and summon the defendant to court. There were 2
types of cases minors and majors. These were held in different courts,
magistrates court and jury trials. The minor cases, such as theft, the
victim had to gather their own evidence and take the culprit to the
Magistrates courts, but for major crimes, such as murder, the
defendant had to be heard before a jury. It was hard for the poor as
it isn't easy to catch a criminal as an individual. Also not many
people would believe them, as they didn't have much money. People may
have thought the poor wanted compensation money.
How do we know how much crime there was?
We know how much crime there was from historians, books and sources
such as JUVENAL. Because there are no statistics and none of the
crimes were recorded we have to rely on writers like JUVENAL. Rome was
the biggest city of its day so it was easier to commit crimes in
crowded areas where people didn't really know each other. As there
were no police forces it was easier to get away with crime. However,
JUVENAL also has exaggerated because he wanted to persuade people to
change the Government. This means that the source is not completely
Was it the same in the rest of the empire?
The Roman law applied throughout the empire, which meant that the
victims still had to catch the criminals themselves. In Britain the
evidence was taken to the local centurion to try the case. We also
know that the crimes in Rome and in Britain were similar, such as
theft, murder, mugging, and etc. The laws, courts and punishments were
all the same in Britain and Rome.
Conclusion: Why didn't the Romans conquer crime?
The Romans didn't conquer crime for many good reasons. The harsh
punishments were enough for some people; the detailed laws, the courts
and the juries were part of the reason for not conquering
other part was because the Romans didn't have a police force as they
thought it wasn't their responsibility to prevent crime. It was also
too difficult to catch the criminals and prosecute them, as it was
hard to get enough evidence. I think the main reason the Romans didn't
conquer crime was because of the harsh punishments.