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proscription


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The publication of a notice, esp. a list of Roman citizens who were declared outlaws and whose goods were confiscated. This procedure was used by Sulla in 82–81 bc, and by Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), Aemilius Lepidus 2, and Octavian in 43–42 as a means of getting rid of personal and political opponents and obtaining funds and land in virtue, or anticipation, of special powers of inappellable jurisdiction conferred on them as dictator and triumviri respectively. The proscribed were hunted down and executed in Rome and throughout Italy by squads of soldiers, and the co‐operation of the victims' families and slaves and of the general public was sought by means of rewards and punishments.

Despite some wild exaggeration in ancient sources and modern calculations, Sulla's proscription, in part an act of revenge for massacres in 87 and 82 by Marius and his son, targeted no more than perhaps 520 persons. The lists were closed on 1 June 81. The sons and grandsons of the proscribed were debarred from public life until restored by Caesar in 49. The impression left was profound, and similar conduct was feared from Caesar or Pompey, whichever should win the Civil War: as it was, Caesar's clemency was made an excuse for the proscriptions of the triumvirs: ‘If traitors who had begged for mercy had not obtained it, and then conspired against their benefactors, Caesar would not have been killed by those he had saved by his clemency.’ Their lists included about 300 senators and equestrians; but many escaped, and some of them, including a fair proportion of senators, were afterwards restored.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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