Criminal Intent and Spectacular Punishment

Paul Friedland

in Seeing Justice Done

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592692
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741852 | DOI:
Criminal Intent and Spectacular Punishment

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Although customary and Roman law are often thought of as two entirely different bodies of law, this chapter charts the intrusion of Roman legal concepts—especially malice aforethought and exemplary deterrence—into customary law. From the twelfth century onward, punishment became increasingly spectacular and violent. New methods of execution, such as drawing and quartering, burning, boiling, beheading, live burial, and the wheel, were invented or borrowed from ancient Rome in order to transform the practice of punishment into a graphic exercise in exemplary deterrence. As the staging of punishment became more complex, fewer jurisdictions were entrusted with the authority to execute capital sentences, with the result that the practice of punishment gradually became less local in character. An increasingly powerful monarchy encouraged judicial discretion as a means of circumventing local irregularities and instituting a more homogenous, national system of punishment.

Keywords: spectacular punishment; Roman law; customary law; malice aforethought; exemplary deterrence; methods of execution

Chapter.  11405 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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