Dr Kathryn Tempest of Roehampton University excavates the roots of one of history's most powerful legal concepts, that slaves would only confess the truth if they had been tortured.
'What is Truth?' asked Pilate, examining one of the most famous prisoners of all, and he might also have reflected on that perennial legal problem 'How do we get at it?' If Jesus had been a slave, the prefect of Judaea would have had an easy option open to him - torture followed by confession. In the ancient world, confession rested on an unholy assumption about truth: that slaves would only confess the truth if they had been tortured. The master of a slave was a rational creature, and could choose whether to tell or cover up the truth. But the slave was thought of as little above a brute beast who, incapable of such subterfuge, could be forced by violence to disgorge whole what he had seen - truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but only by torture. This was the sordid back-drop to justice which orators like Cicero drew upon when they rose to address the courts of Ancient Rome. Dr Kathryn Tempest of Roehampton University excavates the roots of one of the most powerful legal concepts of all time.
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