Date of Award
In either 103 or 100 B.C., a concept known as Maiestas minuta populi Romani (diminution of the majesty of the Roman people) is invented by Saturninus to accompany charges of perduellio (treason). Just over a century later, this same law is used by Tiberius to criminalize behavior and speech that he found disrespectful. This thesis offers an answer to the question as to how the maiestas law evolved during the late republic and early empire to present the threat that it did to Tiberius' political enemies. First, the application of Roman precedent in regards to judicial decisions will be examined, as it plays a guiding role in the transformation of the law. Next, I will discuss how the law was invented in the late republic, and increasingly used for autocratic purposes. The bulk of the thesis will focus on maiestas proceedings in Tacitus' Annales, in which a total of ten men lose their lives. The most striking trial that will be investigated is the one involving Cremutius Cordus, who praised Brutus and Cassius, referring to them as the Last of the Romans. However, does this make him a traitor who belongs in Dante's ninth circle along with Brutus, Cassius, and Judas?
Myers, Hunter R., "Brutus, Cassius, Judas, And Cremutius Cordus: How Shifting Precedents Allowed The Lex Maiestatis to Group Writers with Traitors" (2018). Honors Theses. 392.