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p13 Actor

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p13 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ACTOR signified generally a plaintiff. In a civil or private action, the plaintiff was often called petitor; in a public action (causa publica), he was called accusator (Cic. ad Att. I.16). The defendant was called reus, both in private and public causes: this term, however, according to Cicero (De Orat. II.43), might signify either party, as indeed we might conclude from the word itself. In a private action, the defendant was often called adversarius, but either party might be called adversarius with respect to the other. Originally, no person who was not sui juris could maintain an action; a filius familias, therefore, and a slave, could not maintain an action; but in course of time certain actions were allowed to a filius familias in the absence of his parent or his procurator, and also in case the parent was incompetent to act from madness or other like cause (Dig. 47 tit. 10 s17). Wards (pupilli) brought their actions by their tutor (tutor); and in case they wished to bring an action against their tutor, the praetor named a tutor for the purpose (I.184). Peregrini, or aliens, originally brought their action through their patronus; but afterwards in their own name, by a fiction of law, that they were Roman citizens. A Roman citizen might also generally bring his action by means of a cognitor or procurator [Actio.] A universitas or corporate body, sued and was sued by their actor or syndicus (Dig. 3 tit. 4).

Actor has also the sense of an agent or manager of another's business generally. The actor publicus was an officer who had the superintendence or care of slaves belonging to the state. Lipsius says that the actor publicus was a slave or freedman. A slave could acquire property for others, though not for himself. In the case mentioned by Pliny (Ep. VII.18), the actor publicus was the representative of the community (respublica) of Comum. (Tacit. Ann. II.30, III.67; Lips. Excurs. ad Tacit. Ann. II.30.)

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Page updated: 17 Jan 09