Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Those Poor Monkeys

March 9th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Earlier this year, I read The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, an occasionally entertaining account of the Roman Empire’s formative years. (Capsule review: The crazy emperors were fun to read about; the technocrats, not so much.) The thing that stays with me the most is not Caligula’s excess, or Augustus’s judiciousness, but rather how the Romans saw fit to punish parricides:

Parricides were sewn up in a sack with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey, and thrown into the sea or a river.

What confuses me here is the addition of the monkey to the punishment mix. I mean, were that really that many monkeys in Rome? I’d reckon they had to import the unfortunate primates from Africa. Doesn’t the whole sack treatment seem like a waste?

More than you need to know about Roman cruelty can be found in Donald Kyle’s Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome. Empathy was not the Romans’ strong suit.


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  • The Man Who Heard Voices

    […] The legal system obviously needs more flexible criteria to determine whether or not schizophrenic defendants are truly, morally responsible for their felonious actions. One good place to start: a rule-of-thumb that determines whether the motive was spurred by delusion, not whether the perpetrator couldn’t comprehend the finality of death. But Microkhan realizes the odds of this happening are slim to none; the desire for vengeance usually trumps the yen to spread rationality, at least when it comes to parricide. […]