The horrors of peace

Some ancients can feel horror at acts of barbarity in war, but in Rome such was their thirst for blood that even in peace they were willing to pay to see an innocent man executed and such was the poverty that there were people who volunteered to be executed so long as their family got some money.

Or maybe this was just an ancient urban myth.

παρὰ δὲ τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις προτίθεσθαι πέντε μνᾶς τοῖς ὑπομένειν βουλομένοις τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποκοπῆναι πελέκει, ὥστε τοὺς κληρονόμους κομίσασθαι τὸ ἆθλον: καὶ πολλάκις ἀπογραφομένους πλείους δικαιολογεῖσθαι καθ᾽ ὃ δικαιότατός ἐστιν ἕκαστος αὐτῶν ἀποτυμπανισθῆναι.

Among the Romans five minas are offered to those who are willing to endure having their heads cut off with an axe on condition that their heirs get the reward. And often too many are enrolled and they argue as who has the greatest right to be executed.

Athenaeus 154c

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