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The Murder Challenge in Argolicus Mysteries

Picture Murder in Argolicus Mysteries

The Dual Laws

The Argolicus Mysteries are set in early Sixth Century Italy. At that time the country was governed by two sets of laws. Native Italians (Romans) inherited a set a laws from the Roman Empire which had collapsed the century before. The Ostrogoths under King Theodoric held to their ancient tribal customs.

The Roman Rule

Neither of these sets of laws held murder as a crime as we understand it. For the Italians, murder was a family matter and was settled usually without any sort of judicial finding by the family. Because murder was not a crime there was no legal recourse. The family could not call on what we would call a police force to investigate. The family was responsible for discovering who had committed the murder,

The extent of the investigation was mainly based on the family’s wealth. If they could afford to hire individuals outside of the family, they had that much more help in solving the murder. Poor families were left to their own devices and often murders went unsolved.

One exception to involving public officials was if the murder had a direct impact on the public good. However, the determination of the direct impact was decided by ruling officials.

The Ostrogoth Rule

The ruling Ostrogoths valued human life according to position and station. If someone was murdered, the family was responsible for accusing the murderer. If the murderer was identified he had to pay a fine (wergild) to the family of the deceased. The tribal leader made the final decision. His throne was often a wooden chair covered by a bearskin. Underneath the bearskin was a human hide to remind him of his power over life and death. Once the wergild was paid, the matter was settled.

Argolicus and the Law

Argolicus has the skills a family would need to find a murderer–patience, an analytical mind, and a willingness to listen. Because of the challenge to Italians with obtaining what they feel are right consequences, he also helps them make decisions about what to do once the murderer is identified.

As a writer, I need to guide the character through the discovery process and finding a solution with what to do once the murderer is identified.

Zara Altair 

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.

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