Private Security in Ancient Rome
The assessment of the effectiveness of Roman private security obviously has to take into account a set of features particular to the Roman mind and way of life: • the relative, though debatable, lack of any official, political and institutionalised police force (in the modern sense); • the distinctive perception and notion of privacy in a society built on ostentation and self-representation; • the pervading trust in and fear of supernatural intervention in daily life, and reliance on magic protection. Much of the most relevant archaeological evidence comes from a personal survey in Pompeii, one of the few Roman towns to remain intact on a sufficiently important level to provide statistically meaningful conclusions on physical defenses. The diversity of evidence documented in this dissertation establishes that, faced with a real and immediate threat, Roman private residents and homeowners efficiently resorted to a variety of protective and defensive measures, prompted by legal procedures, practical ingenuity, religious confidence and social solidarity. Although the actual effectiveness of Roman prevention of low-level crime will always remain disputable, and many will see Roman citizens as largely left to their own devices, it is the author’s conviction that they were not more helpless and exposed to wrongdoing than modern householders.