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


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and new philosophies of mercy and cruelty in Western society, through an examination of ancient art, literature, historical documents, and archaeological artifacts.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.

Praise / Awards

  • "Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World fills a gap in our understanding of ancient history by surveying the emergence of clemency as an uniquely Roman concept and tracing its gradual development from the experience on the battlefield and in the law courts to the arena of civil war, victory, and dictatorship. The book is incisively written, comprehensively documented, and compellingly argued."
    —Robert Gurval, Associate Professor of Roman Politics and Culture, Roman Numismatics, UCLA
  • ". . . a well-crafted and argued book which deserves a wide readership among teachers of the Roman world."
    —Stephen Chambers, Oundle School

  • "Melissa Barden Dowling does us a large favor with her new study, the first significant investigation of the concept and use of clemency...Her journey over this terrain is deep and determined, making for a serious encounter between the author's prose and thoughts."
    Correction Managers' Report

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

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 400pp.
  • 53 B&W photograph section.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2005
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11515-0

Add to Cart
  • $99.95 U.S.