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Latrocinium (from Latin latro, "bandit", ultimately from Greek latron, "pay" or "hire"[1]) was a war not preceded by a formal declaration of war as understood in Roman law; thus guerrilla warfare conducted against Rome was a form of latrocinium.[2] It is typically translated into English as "banditry" or "brigandage", but in antiquity encompassed a wider range of subversive or anti-authoritarian actions, especially slave rebellions organized under charismatic leaders.[3] In designating acts of violence that have ideological motives instead of or in addition to material gain, the modern distinction between terrorism and war may be a more illuminating comparison for the 21st century.[4] The Greek term was leisteia; Plato and Aristotle regarded banditry as a way of life, like fishing or hunting.[5]

Ecclesiastical councils as latrocinia[edit]

In ecclesiastical Latin, latrocinium was a term of abuse for ecumenical councils regarded as renegade or subversive of canon law, especially the second Council of Ephesus - dubbed the "Robber Council". (Latrocinium Ephesinum) in 449.[6] The third Council of Sirmium in 357, the Council of Hieria in 754, and the Synod of Pistoia in 1786, were also each described by their opponents as a latrocinium. Some also regarded the fourth Council of Constantinople (879-880) as a latrocinium.[7]

Medieval usage[edit]

In the Middle Ages, latrocinium was a war without just cause, or piracy.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Larceny". Webster's Online Dictionary. 
  2. ^ Grunewald, Thomas (2004). Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and Reality. Taylor & Francis. p. 40. ISBN 9780415327442. 
  3. ^ Grunewald, Bandits in the Roman Empire, pp. 10ff., 58, et passim.
  4. ^ Michael Gaddis, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (University of California Press, 2005), pp. 20, 151.
  5. ^ Giardina, Andrea, ed. (1993). The Romans. University of Chicago Press. p. 305. ISBN 9780226290492. 
  6. ^ Gaddis, Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire, p. 75.
  7. ^ John-Peter Pham, Heirs of the Fisherman : Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 296.
  8. ^ Russell, Frederick H. (1977). The Just War in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780521292764. 

External links[edit]