Terrorism is an old phenomenon in human civilization. Terminologically, it comes from Latin, but this scourge also fully manifested itself in Roman civilization, throughout its history. This study seeks to fill a bibliographic gap on this criminal phenomenon, most studies of it starting with the Middle Ages, without any reference to Ancient Rome, which is unfair, especially since Rome was confronted with this phenomenon, which it defined terminologically and to which it responded with the necessary force, thus transforming its defence policy.
The first forms of terrorism emerged in Rome during the Kingdom, when, at the beginning of its political organization, Rome faced numerous terrorist manifestations, especially from outside the Roman state. The Gauls were, at the beginning of the Republic, genuine agents of terrorism in Rome through their plundering expeditions that caused real terror. Etruscan pirates were terrorists, too, for the Roman trade, the struggle of the plebeians and their withdrawal with barricades in order to obtain political rights meant real political terror at that time, then Spartacus’ revolt and his march which spread terror throughout Rome, the civil wars which bled Rome became genuine forms of internal terrorism, especially because of the assassination of Roman state leaders, as well as the corruption masterly unmasked by Cicero.
The forms of external terrorism were also present, the most notorious episode being the Punic wars, in particular the war of Hannibal, the most effective terrorist for Rome, the Dacians’ plundering expeditions in the Roman garrisons in Moesia, the battles with the Parthians and the Britons are as many forms of the terrorism that Rome faced during its history, which compelled it into creating new forces capable of responding to this new way of fighting. We believe that the Praetorian Guard, with all its units, was the most effective counter-terrorist force in combating the terrorist phenomenon strongly manifested in Rome. Therefore Rome, knowing the phenomenon, defined it most precisely, a definition that still applies today.