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The chapter examines the broad contours of violence in the Roman world, from the private, personal plane of violence in social relations (where self-help was the order of the day) to criminality and the law, to the ideological underpinnings of applying violence to those perceived as threats to the community. Various facets of the Romans’ socio-political landscape had an impact on how they viewed and practised violence. Romans had an ideology of dominance inherent in empire. They accepted the brutalities of mass slavery, a hierarchical social system that ranked people according to group membership and assigned personal worth (or lack of it) based on that membership. Violence reflected and enforced these systems. What emerges is a picture of a world where violence was, in no small measure, the language of rank and status.
The first in a four-volume set, The Cambridge World History of Violence, volume I provides a comprehensive examination of violence in prehistory and the ancient world. Covering the period through to the end of classical antiquity, the chapters take a global perspective spanning sub-Saharan Africa, the Near East, Europe, India, China, Japan and Central America. Unlike many previous works, this book does not focus only on warfare but examines violence as a broader phenomenon. The historical approach complements, and in some cases critiques, previous research on the anthropology and psychology of violence in the human story. Written by a team of contributors who are experts in each of their respective fields, this volume will be of particular interest to anyone fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world.