Uncovering the Dark Underbelly of Ancient Rome: The Crime Capital of Roman Empire

Uncovering the Dark Underbelly of Ancient Rome: The Crime Capital of Roman Empire


The ancient city of Rome is famous for many things, from its impressive architecture to its sophisticated political system. However, one aspect of Roman life that is often overlooked is the high rate of crime that plagued the city. Although many measures were taken to curb crime, it continued to thrive in the city, leaving its citizens in a constant state of fear and uncertainty. In this article, we’ll explore the crime capital of ancient Rome, where murder and fraud were everyday occurrences.

The Crime Capital of Roman Empire: An Overview

The city of Rome is known for its rich history and ancient ruins, but it was also once considered the crime capital of the world during the height of the Roman Empire. The city’s population was over a million, and with the increase in population, came an increase in crime. Murder was a common occurrences in the city, and many people lived in constant fear. Apart from murder, another criminal activity that was prevalent during the Roman Empire was fraud.

The crime rate was so high that the government had to create a special unit called the Vigiles Urbani, which was responsible for maintaining law and order. However, this unit was often corrupt and was known to extort money from the very people they were meant to protect. Many people would pretend to be wealthy or have connections to the ruling elite in order to gain access to money and resources. Some even went as far as impersonating high-ranking officials to scam people.

Despite the high crime rate, the city of Rome was still a bustling and prosperous metropolis. The wealthy class would often hire private guards to protect themselves, while the poor had to rely on the government’s law enforcement units. In short, the city of Rome was once considered the crime capital of the world during the height of the Roman Empire. The high population density, along with the vast wealth and corruption, created a breeding ground for criminal activity.

Crime in Ancient Rome

Despite being a center of civilization, Ancient Rome was not immune to crime. In fact, crime was rampant in the city, and it is estimated that the murder rate was as high as 10 per 100,000 people per year. This is higher than many modern cities, including New York City, which has a murder rate of around 3 per 100,000 people per year.

The Types of Crime in Ancient Rome

Murder was just one of many types of crime that plagued ancient Rome. Fraud, theft, and assault were also common. Fraud was especially prevalent, as it was relatively easy to deceive people in an era before modern record-keeping and background checks. Many Romans were victims of financial fraud, such as Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes, which left them bankrupt and ruined.

The Causes of Crime in Ancient Rome

There were many factors that contributed to the high rate of crime in ancient Rome. Poverty was one of the main causes, as many Romans lived in squalid conditions with little to no income. This led some to turn to crime as a means of survival. Additionally, the lack of a strong police force and the prevalence of corruption within the government meant that criminals were often able to get away with their crimes.

Punishments for Crime in Ancient Rome

The punishment for a crime in ancient Rome varied depending on the severity of the offense. Minor crimes, such as theft, were often punished with fines or forced labor. More serious crimes, such as murder or treason, were punished with death. The most common method of execution was crucifixion, but beheading, burning, and drowning were also used.

Famous Criminals of Ancient Rome

There were many infamous criminals in ancient Rome, including serial killers like Locusta, who was known for her poisonings, and Sporus, who was a notorious highwayman. However, the most famous criminal of ancient Rome was probably the emperor Nero, who was accused of numerous crimes including murder, arson, and treason.

One of the most notorious criminal organizations during this time was the Colosseum Gang, which was known for its brutal and violent tactics. They were involved in various criminal activities, including robbery, murder, and even kidnapping. They would often target wealthy citizens and demand a ransom in exchange for their release.


The ancient city of Rome may have been the center of the Western world, but it was also the capital of crime. Murder and fraud were everyday occurrences, and many Romans lived in fear of being victimized. Despite the efforts of the government and law enforcement officials, crime continued to plague the city until its eventual decline and fall. The legacy of crime in ancient Rome serves as a reminder of the darker side of human nature and the need for strong institutions to prevent criminal behavior.

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