Our spring sale is on! Use promo code SPRING24 at checkout to save 50% on any order!

Explores the formation of clemency as a human and social value in the Roman Empire

Look Inside

Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


When the Roman democratic republic fell and the monarchical empire rose, a new vocabulary of power was needed to help balance the awesome abilities of the state to inflict harm and the need of its people for individual protection. In Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World, Melissa Barden Dowling explores the formation of clemency as a human and social value in the Roman Empire, a topic that has been curiously neglected despite its obvious importance to our understanding of Roman society and the workings of the penal system.

In this first thorough study of the origins of clemency, Dowling provides a vivid look at the ideology of clemency and new philosophies of mercy and cruelty in Western society, through an examination of ancient art, literature, historical documents, and archaeological artifacts. By illuminating the emergence of mercy and forgiveness as social concepts, and the mechanisms by which peoples are transformed in response to changes in power structures, Dowling makes an important contribution to the study of the ancient Roman world, as well as to modern Western culture.

Melissa Barden Dowling is Associate Professor of Classics and History, Southern Methodist University.