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A Greek word meaning an inviolable refuge for persons fleeing from pursuit. Among the Greeks all holy shrines were Asylums, and any pursuer who should remove a suppliant by force was regarded as a transgressor against the gods. The term asylum was especially applied to such shrines as secured to the suppliants absolute security within their limits, which were often considerable. The priests and the community in each case watched jealously over this right. The sanctuary of Zeus Lycaeus in Arcadia, of Poseidon in the island of Calauria, and of Apollo in Delos, are excellent examples of such asylums. These sanctuaries were exceptionally numerous in Asia. In Rome there was an asylum of great antiquity, said to have been founded by Romulus, in a grove of oaks on the Capitoline Hill. (See VEIOVIS.) The erection of buildings in its neighbourhood gradually rendered it inaccessible. During the Roman period the right of asylum attaching to Greek sanctuaries was, at first, maintained and even confirmed by Roman commanders. But its abuse led to a considerable reduction of the number of asylums under Tiberius. The right of asylum was now confined to such shrines as could found their claims upon ancient tradition. During the imperial period, however, the custom arose of making the statues of the emperors refuges against momentary acts of violence. Armies in the field used the eagles of the legions for the same purpose.
Type: Standard
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