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Thémis en diplomatie

 | 
Éric Schnakenbourg
, 
Nicolas Drocourt

Troisième partie. Droit et sauvegarde des acteurs des relations internationales

Défection et trahison. Les transfuges entre la législation et la diplomatie de l’Antiquité tardive

Defection and Treason: Fugitives between Legislation and Diplomacy in Late Antiquity

Ekaterina Nechaeva

Résumé

This article examines the juridical and diplomatic aspects of various forms of emigration in both military and civil contexts. Fleeing, defecting and especially collaborating with enemies against the Roman cause were considered high treason and Roman legislation punished these crimes most severely. This study compares the evidence on legal responses to various questions of emigration with the available information on how diplomacy treated the same issues.
The common practice of international relations of the time was that conclusion of a treaty resulted in obligations on all sides side to stop protecting and giving asylum to those who were considered enemies and traitors by diplomatic partners. Using the exceptionally detailed evidence from Procopius about two fugitive princes (of the Lombards and of the Gepids (Procop. BG. 3.35; 4.27), this article examines the opposition between diplomatic and legal rules and the norms of honour and hospitality. The solution to this contradiction between a duty to protect the ἱκέται and an obligation to extradite was found in clandestine diplomacy.
A clause of a Roman-Persian diplomatic agreement concluded in 562 treated the problem of deserters (Menander 6.1). This text reveals a notable dissimilarity in the attitude and treatment of the two major categories of fugitives. The so-called ‘civil emigrants’ continued to be perceived as defectors and, hence, as those committing an unpardonable treason against their home country. However, desertion during a military conflict was regarded as a less terrible crime, pardonable in certain circumstances. The notion and the practice of such a distinction seem to have gradually been accepted first by diplomatic circles and much later by the judicial system. In the Byzantine judicial system, one finds a considerable shift towards indulgence: some categories of deserters/fugitives returning into their home country were granted a pardon (New Constitution of Leo, 67). This mismatch in time probably demonstrates the gap between ‘Realpolitik’, using diplomacy to adjust to the situation and needs of the moment, and the inert judicial machine. It seems possible to assume that practical diplomacy reacted to the circumstances of the moment much more promptly and flexibly. The clause of the Roman-Persian treaty quoted by Menander may be an indication that sixth-century diplomacy was more progressive in this aspect than legislation. It took another three centuries for law-making to adjust to what had probably long been a reality.

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Extrait du texte

Des fuites de population de l’Empire romain vers le territoire de l’ennemi ou dans la direction inverse se produisaient assez fréquemment, tant pendant la guerre que pendant la paix, tant au niveau individuel, qu’au niveau collectif. L’importance de ces évasions et le danger qu’elles représentaient, quand il s’agissait des individus, étaient tout d’abord liés au problème de l’information, c’est-à-dire des renseignements livrés à l’adversaire. Accueillir des fugitifs de haut statut, venant de la noblesse ou des élites locales, donnait des possibilités d’influence ou même d’intervention dans les affaires de l’adversaire. Les évasions des groupes de personnes assez nombreuses conduisaient à l’épuisement de main-d’œuvre et à la transmission vers les adversaires des techniques et des compétences. Parfois les sources parlent des fuites massives au niveau tribal, ce que doit être interprété plutôt comme des chang...

Auteur

Collegium Helveticum, Zurich

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016

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