The Reign of Terror (6 September 1793 – 28 July 1794), also known as The Terror (French: la Terreur), was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between two rival political factions, the Girondins and The Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of “enemies of the revolution”. The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris), and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.
The guillotine (called the “National Razor”) became the symbol of the revolutionary cause, strengthened by a string of executions: King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, the Girondins, Philippe Égalité (Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans), and Madame Roland, and others such as pioneering chemist Antoine Lavoisier, lost their lives under its blade. During 1794, revolutionary France was beset with conspiracies by internal and foreign enemies. Within France, the revolution was opposed by the French nobility, which had lost its inherited privileges. The Roman Catholic Church opposed the revolution, which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation (through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). In addition, the French First Republic was engaged in a series of wars with neighbouring powers, and parts of France were engaging in civil war against the republican regime.
The extension of civil war and the advance of foreign armies on national territory produced a political crisis and increased the already present rivalry between the Girondins and the more radical Jacobins. The latter were eventually grouped in the parliamentary faction called the Mountain, and they had the support of the Parisian population. The French government established the Committee of Public Safety, which took its final form on 6 September 1793, in order to suppress internal counter-revolutionary activities and raise additional French military forces.
Through the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Terror’s leaders exercised broad powers and used them to eliminate the internal and external enemies of the republic. The repression accelerated in June and July 1794, a period called la Grande Terreur (the Great Terror), and ended in the coup of 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), leading to the Thermidorian Reaction, in which several instigators of the Reign of Terror were executed, including Saint-Just and Robespierre.