At times, the term traitor has been used as a political epithet, regardless of any verifiable treasonable action. In a civil war or insurrection, the winners may deem the losers to be traitors. Likewise the term traitor is used in heated political discussion – typically as a slur against political dissidents, or against officials in power who are perceived as failing to act in the best interest of their constituents. In certain cases, as with the Dolchstoßlegende (Stab-in-the-back myth), the accusation of treason towards a large group of people can be a unifying political message. Treason is considered to be different and on many occasions a separate charge from "treasonable felony" in many parts of the world.
In English law, high treason was punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered (men) or burnt at the stake (women), although beheading could be substituted by royal command (usually for royalty and nobility). Those penalties were abolished in 1814, 1790 and 1973 respectively. The penalty was used by later monarchs against people who could reasonably be called traitors, although most modern jurists would call it excessive. Many of them would now just be considered dissidents.
In William Shakespeare's play King Lear (c. 1600), when the King learns that his daughter Regan has publicly dishonoured him, he says "They could not, would not do 't; 'tis worse than murder": a conventional attitude at that time. In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, the ninth and lowest circle of Hell is reserved for traitors; Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, suffers the worst torments of all: being constantly gnawed at by one of Lucifer's own three mouths. His treachery is considered so notorious that his name has long been synonymous with traitor, a fate he shares with Benedict Arnold, Vidkun Quisling, Marcus Junius Brutus (who too is depicted in Dante's Inferno, suffering the same fate as Judas along with Cassius Longinus). Indeed, the etymology of the word traitor originates with Judas' handing over of Jesus to the chief priests, captains of the temple and elders (Luke 22:52): the word is derived from the Latin traditor which means "one who delivers." Christian theology and political thinking until after the Enlightenment considered treason and blasphemy as synonymous, as it challenged both the state and the will of God. Kings were considered chosen by God, and to betray one's country was to do the work of Satan.
Many nations' laws mention various types of treason. "Crimes Related to Insurrection" is the internal treason, and may include a coup d'etat. "Crimes Related to Foreign Aggression" is the treason of cooperating with foreign aggression positively regardless of the national inside and outside. "Crimes Related to inducement of Foreign Aggression" is the crime of communicating with aliens secretly to cause foreign aggression or menace. Depending on a country, conspiracy is added to these. In Japan, the application of "Crimes Related to Insurrection" was considered about Aum Shinrikyo cult which caused religious terrorism.
In Australia, there are federal and state laws against treason, specifically in the states of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Similarly to Treason laws in the United States, citizens of Australia owe allegiance to their sovereign, the federal and state level.
The federal law defining treason in Australia is provided under section 80.1 of the Criminal Code, contained in the schedule of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. It defines treason as follows:
A person commits an offence, called treason, if the person: