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vīs


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Latin word, means neutrally ‘force’ and pejoratively ‘violence’. It is the latter sense that is treated here. For Greece see under violence.(a) Political Violence. Apart from the major non‐violent secessions, ‘the Struggle of the Orders’ in the early republic (see rome (history), 1.2) seems to have involved small‐scale violence between the plebeians, defending each other and their tribunes, and the patricians supported by their clients (see tribuni plebis). However, in the last century of the republic violence became an ever‐increasing factor, as a political weapon largely exploited by magistrates for limited ends. The notion of a police authority was alien to republican thought, and, if violence became serious, often the only counter was a state of emergency (see senatus consultum ultimum). From 78 bc vīs was an offence. Laws passed by violence were sometimes annulled by the senate. Comprehensive legislation against all political violence was provided by a lex Iūlia dē vī pūblicā of Augustus; practical security was provided for by Augustus' creation of the urban cohorts (see cohortes urbanae) and the vigiles. See also police.(b) Private Violence. For the ordinary citizen both Rome and the Italian countryside were often violent places where it was necessary to defend oneself with the assistance of family, friends, patrons, or clients. Self‐help was also originally recognized in the procedures of private law from the time of the Twelve Tables onwards, most obviously as a means of bringing a reluctant opponent to court. In the later republic we find a particular interest in the restriction of violence in property disputes. After Sulla an interdict was instituted specifically against the use of armed gangs, also actions for the recovery of property taken by armed gangs and extorted by force or menaces. In addition to these measures providing restitution and compensation, a lex Iūlia dē vī prīvātā established penalties. It is uncertain whether violence actually declined under the emperors.

(a) Political Violence. Apart from the major non‐violent secessions, ‘the Struggle of the Orders’ in the early republic (see rome (history), 1.2) seems to have involved small‐scale violence between the plebeians, defending each other and their tribunes, and the patricians supported by their clients (see tribuni plebis). However, in the last century of the republic violence became an ever‐increasing factor, as a political weapon largely exploited by magistrates for limited ends. The notion of a police authority was alien to republican thought, and, if violence became serious, often the only counter was a state of emergency (see senatus consultum ultimum). From 78 bc vīs was an offence. Laws passed by violence were sometimes annulled by the senate. Comprehensive legislation against all political violence was provided by a lex Iūlia dē vī pūblicā of Augustus; practical security was provided for by Augustus' creation of the urban cohorts (see cohortes urbanae) and the vigiles. See also police.

(b) Private Violence. For the ordinary citizen both Rome and the Italian countryside were often violent places where it was necessary to defend oneself with the assistance of family, friends, patrons, or clients. Self‐help was also originally recognized in the procedures of private law from the time of the Twelve Tables onwards, most obviously as a means of bringing a reluctant opponent to court. In the later republic we find a particular interest in the restriction of violence in property disputes. After Sulla an interdict was instituted specifically against the use of armed gangs, also actions for the recovery of property taken by armed gangs and extorted by force or menaces. In addition to these measures providing restitution and compensation, a lex Iūlia dē vī prīvātā established penalties. It is uncertain whether violence actually declined under the emperors.

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Subjects: Classical Studies.


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