Roman Emperors Order Certain Prisoners be Released on Easter

Roman Emperors Order Certain Prisoners be Released on Easter

Emperor Theodosius I

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Emperors Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius I declare that prisoners should be released on Easter. Exceptions are made for people who have committed treason, murder, adultery, rape, incest, poison-making, or counterfeiting, as well as repeat offenders.

This decree says:

"The day of Easter joy permits not even criminals to fear, so the prison should be opened to unaccustomed light.

We decree, however, that this grant of pardon will not apply to anyone who has been incited against the imperial Majesty, who has been seized by a parricidal madness, who is defiled by the killing of any man, who has invaded the marriage bed or couch of another, who has been a ravisher of virginal modesty, who has violated the revered bond of cognate blood by unholy incest, who has compounded poisons for mind and body, or who has sacrilegiously coined the venerable images of our imperial Majesty.

Furthermore, only those crimes shall be pardoned which have been committed only once, so that Our generosity will not be extended again to those who use their impunity for an old crime, not for the purpose of reformation, but for the purpose of habitual criminality." [CT 9.38.6]

Roman emperors issues regular decrees providing some sort of amnesty around the time of Easter; the amnesties always exclude the same list of crimes.


Emperors of Rome: Theodosius I

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