Archive for January 8th, 2014

January 8, 2014

Fiat justitia ruat caelum


Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall.’ The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences. In ‘De Ira (On Anger),’ Seneca tells of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, a Roman governor and lawmaker who ordered the execution of a soldier that had returned from a leave of absence without his comrade, on the grounds that he had presumably killed the latter. As the condemned man was presenting his neck to the executioner’s sword, there suddenly appeared the very comrade who was supposedly murdered.

The centurion overseeing the execution halted the proceedings and led the condemned man back to Piso, expecting a reprieve. But Piso mounted the tribunal in a rage, and ordered the three soldiers to be executed. He ordered the death of the man who was to have been executed, because the sentence had already been passed; he also ordered the death of the centurion who was in charge of the original execution, for failing to perform his duty; and finally, he ordered the death of the man who had been supposed to have been murdered, because he had been the cause of the death of two innocent men.

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