been a Roman citizen, He could not have been legally crucified,rnbecause citizens were exempt from this mode of execution.rnThat is why Paul, who was a citizen and who claims hisrnrights as one in the New Testament, was beheaded. Pontius Pilaternunderstood this point before signing Christ’s death warrant.rnIncidentally, it is still not generally recognized in the Westrnthat Pontius is venerated as a saint in the Ethiopian Churchrn(feast day, June 25).rnAs with various other punishments, cruciHxion was reservedrnfor foreigners and slaves. The Romans did not play down itsrnhorrors. It was intended to be the deterrent. A Roman lawrnstates that it was designed “so that others might be deterred bvrnits sight from the same crimes.” Did it work? Well, after thern6,000 survivors of Spartacus’s slave rebellion were executed inrn70 B.C., there were no more slave uprisings on such a scale. Dornwe attribute this to the efficacy of punishment or to the Romans’rnamelioration of a slave’s lot in life?rnThis whole question of deterrence is a notorious bugbear.rnToo often, it degenerates into both sides of the argument wa’-rning lists of statistics to prove their respective points. Whilernagreeing that it does not clinch anything, I will wave one of myrnown, taken from a July 2, 1995, article by Angela Ellis-Jones inrnthe London Sunday Telegraph. In the period 1959-63 inrnBritain, where the death penalty was abolished in 1965, therernwas an annual average of 284 murders and manslaughters. Therncorresponding figure for 1989-93 was 613. What no figuresrnshow, of course, because they cannot, are the murders that werernnot committed by criminals who were deterred by the fear ofrnexecution.rnWe have no figures for crime from any period of Greek or Romanrnhistory—I examined the matter manv vears ago in an essavrnon crime and criminals in the Graeco-Roman world. Butrnthere is a cognate issue here. Advocates of gun control alwaysrnridicule the formula of the National Rifle Association: gunsrndon’t kill, people do. The Romans, however, who had no guns,rnseem in principle to support the NRA, for another of their lawsrnstates that “Those who carrv weapons for the sake of protectingrntheir own safety do not appear to carry weapons for the sake ofrnkilling men.” It is notable that the catalog of horrors of life inrnRome (it sounds roughly like an ancient Detroit where Robocoprnwould fear to go) compiled by the satirist Juvenal circa A.D.rn100 makes no mention of criminals or honest citizens usingrnweapons. By contrast, according to the historian Thucydides,rnin classical Creece, Athens was the first community where therncitizens voluntarily gave up the right to bear arms. But we knowrnfrom Athenian historians and law-court speeches that violentrncrime did not disappear as a result.rnThe Romans are, of course, famous for their laws, above allrnthose bearing on crime and property. The notion of condignrnpunishment is there from the beginning, in the earliest set ofrnlaws (mid-fifth century B.C.) established in the new Republic,rnthe Twelve Tables—two more than Moses if you like your wisdomrndispensed in tablet form. Modern farmers might like therndeath penalty prescribed for black magicians who moved theirrnneighbors’ standing crops into their own fields—rustling corn,rnindeed! M’ own favorite is the one that had arsonists burnedrnalive.rnSuch strains of what may technically be called (in textbooks,rnit often is) judicial savagery extend from Babylon throughrnGreece and Rome to late antiquity, then to Byzantium and medievalrnEurope. It is notable that the first Byzantine law codern(that of Leo III, A.D. 717-40) to prescribe blinding and otherrnmutilations for specific crimes was promulgated exactly at therntime that the Byzantines came into forcible contact with thernnew power and religion of Islam, the strict Sharia version ofrnwhose justice famously lops off the hands of thieves.rnIt was likewise in medieval Europe, and in England down tornat least the Tudor period. In the words of the best modern writerrnon this subject (J.G. Bellamy, Crime and Public Order in thernLater Middle Ages):rnThere is little evidence that the mass of medieval menrnobjected to the use made of imprisonment. It was a socialrnand legal necessity. As well as being a tool of secularrnrulers, it was popular with ecclesiastics. That all criminalsrnshould be punished was an axiom which few menrndenied. Most medieval Englishmen agreed that on convictionrna misdoer should be punished as quickly as possiblernand that the punishment should be so arranged thatrnall should notice it.rnIt can here be subjoined that the notion of prison as a punishmentrnwas not an ancient one. Bellamy also shows from the copiousrnmedieval records three other pertinent things: the mostrnferocious punishments available to judge and jury were not alwaysrnused; care was taken that prison guards were decent men,rnnot brutes; and there were complaints that prisons were oftenrntoo luxurious, especially when compared to the poor conditionsrnof many a free man, a situation all too recognizable nowadays.rnIn the last few years, politicians of many stripes in many countriesrnhave called for the restoration of capital punishment,rnalso corporal punishment, and the stiffening of conditions forrnparole. Currently in Canada, a Liberal (not a right-winger)rnMember of Parliament (John Nunziata) is pushing for a measurernthat will make it harder, if not impossible, for murderers tornbe released from prison on the say-so of a social worker or psychiatrist.rnIt does not matter what one thinks of these particularrnpoliticians or their other policies. Whether or not we have thernright or duty to take the life of somebody who has taken that ofrnsomebody else has always been and remains a cosmic moral issue.rnOpponents of the death penalty always trot out three objections:rnan absolutist “thou shalt not kill”; the possibility of executingrnan innocent person; the lack of proof that capital punishmentrnis a deterrent. The first one is a comfortingly glibrnprescription, but how can it reasonably be used to protectrnsomeone who has already broken it by committing murder?rnAnd does it mean that no one may ever be killed in any circumstances?rnIf someone had had the chance to bump offrnHitler before he had killed more millions, would it have beenrnmorally superior not to do so? Furthermore, “thou shalt notrnkill” is one sentence in the Bible, a religious text which largernnumbers of people do not believe. We are already selectivernabout which of the Ten Commandments we follow: “Honorrnthe Sabbath Day” went out the window long ago. The inconsistencyrnof liberals on this is typical and total. On the one hand,rnthev demand a secular society, no prayers in public schools. Onrnthe other, they do not scruple to reach in for one sentence outrnof a book they otherwise despise.rnThe argument that a jury of fallible humans may convict anrninnocent person is a red herring. We simply use commonrnsense. Whenever there is the slightest doubt about a defendant’srnguilt, the death penalty should not be used. Whenrn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn