Roman Law Releases Prisoners on Easter

Roman Law Releases Prisoners on Easter

Theodosius I
Source: Erine

Emperors Valentinian I, Arcadius, and Theodosius I issue a new law stating that prisoners are to be released on Easter.

This new edict states:

"Three is no time more fitting for imperial piety on this sacred day [Easter]. ...We extend the aid of Our sacred imperial mind to free almost all held in bondage by the law... We relieve them from their chains, We free them from exile, We remove them from the mines, and We liberate them from the exile of deportation...

For in the midst of festive ceremonies and the venerable rites of a sacred season it is not seemly that the dissonant voices of the unfortunate should resound; that accused persons, with disheveled hair in deathly disorder should be dragged as objects of the common pity; that groans from the depths of the heart should be heard, although sacred and joyful occasions are in harmony with each other. It is not fitting, in the midst of the serene prayers and pious voices to feel, to hear, or to see anything sad. ...

We open the prisons, We lay aside the chains, and We abolish the occasion for uncombed hair in the dark, filthy prisons. We snatch all from execution except those who cannot be helped because of the gravity of their crimes.

Those crimes which have been excepted from the general indulgences shall have their own fate, and the legally specified sentence shall be imposed on all guilty of the greater crimes." [CS 8]

The referenced exceptions from clemency are: murder, treason, rape, adultery, counterfeiting, astrology, magic, and poisoning. No such general releases of prisoners occur on the holy days of the Jews or pagans, only those of the Christians of the Roman Empire.


Emperors of Rome: Valentinian I

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