From the end of 312 onwards, the irruption of Christian values into Constantinian imperial discourse and their growing societal importance, due to the multiplication of conversions and the enrichment of the churches after 370, was certainly the most innovative and important aspect of the rhetorical culture of Late Antiquity. But while the bishop’s local power increased in the fourth century as the leader of a growing Christian community, patron of the poor, and civil judge in the audientia episcopalis, criminal justice remained the responsibility of the Roman state and provincial governors. The relationship between Christian values and Roman criminal justice is developed here on the basis of three examples known from Augustine’s correspondence concerning either common law crimes or crimes in a religious context by Donatists or pagans: his willingness to limit the use of torture in trials, even if the use of judicial violence seemed to him to be in accordance with the laws; his willingness to avoid capital punishment at the end of trials, in order to allow for amendment; and finally, a more original point, the use of a Christian lexicon by Nectarius, a prominant pagan, Augustine’s interlocutor in the Calama case (408-409).
Keywords: Augustine of Hippo, Nectarius of Calama, Rhetoric, Christian Values, Torture, Death Penalty.
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