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Arbitrary RuleSlavery, Tyranny, and the Power of Life and Death$
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Mary Nyquist

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226015538

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226015675.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The Power of Life and Death

The Power of Life and Death

(p.193) CHAPTER SIX The Power of Life and Death
Arbitrary Rule

Mary Nyquist

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses the power of life and death, and how such a grand phrase could come to stand for something so brutal as killing. Also known as the sword of justice, the right to take life and to grant reprieves was long considered central to magistracy. In early modern discussions of sovereignty in the state, the power of life and death was conceived as a disciplinary power, tied—in ways that were contested—to official legislative and judicial bodies. The phrase itself translates the Latin potestas vitae necisque, which was often used of a lawful discretionary power ancient Roman fathers purportedly held over their children. Only one of the Roman father's rights, the right to take or grant life, typified patria potestas, power the Roman paterfamilias held over his children even during their adulthood.

Keywords:   sword of justice, magistracy, disciplinary power, judicial bodies, potestas vitae necisque, patria potestas, paterfamilias

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