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p686 Leges Corneliae

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp686‑687 of

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

LEGES CORNELIAE. Various leges passed in the dictatorship of Sulla and by his influence, are so called (Liv. Epit. 89).

Agraria, by which many of the inhabitants of Etruria and Latium were deprived of the complete civitas and retained only the commercium, and a large part of their lands were made Publicum and given to military colonists (Cic. in Rull. II.28, III.2, 3).

De Civitate. (Liv. Epit. 86; Cic. pro Dom. 30, pro Caecin. 33, 35; Sall. Hist. Frag. lib. I. Orat. Lepidi.)

De Falsis. [Falsum.]

De Injuriis. [Injuria.]

Judiciaria. [Judex, p650A.]

De Magistratibus (Appian, Bell. Civ. I.100, 101), partly a renewal of old Plebiscita (Liv. VII.42, X.13).

Majestatis. [Majestas.] p687

Nummaria. [Falsum.]

De Proscriptione et Proscriptis. [Proscriptio.]

De Provinciis Ordinandis. (Cic. ad Fam. I.9, III.6, 8, 10).

De Parricidio. [See below, Lex de Sicariis.]

De Rejectione Judicum (Cic. Verr. II.31; and Orelli Onomasticon).

De Repetundis (Cic. pro Rabir. 4).

De Sacerdotiis. [Sacerdotia.]

De Sententia Ferenda (Cic. pro Cluent. cc20, 27). This was probably only a chapter in a Lex Judiciaria.

De Sicariis et Veneficis. A law of the Twelve Tables contained some provision as to homicide (Plin. H. N. XVIII.3), but this is all that we know. It is generally assumed that the law of Numa Pompilius, quoted by Festus (s.v. Parici Quaestores), "Si quis hominem liberum dolo sciens morti duit paricida esto," was incorporated in the Twelve Tables, and is the law of homicide to which Pliny refers; but this cannot be proved. It is generally supposed that the laws of the Twelve Tables contained provisions against incantations (malum carmen) and poisoning, both of which offences were also included under parricidium: the murderer of a parent was sewed up in a sack (culeus or culleus) and thrown into a river. It was under the provisions of some old law that the senate by a consultum ordered the consuls P. Scipio and D. Brutus (B.C. 138) to inquire into the murder in the Silvia Scantia (Silva Sila, Cic. Brutus, 22). The lex Cornelia de sicariis et veneficis was passed in the time of the dictator Sulla, B.C. 82. The lex contained provisions as to death or fire caused by dolus malus, and against persons going about armed with the intention of killing or thieving. The law not only provided for cases of poisoning, but contained provisions against those who made, sold, bought, possessed, or gave poison for the purpose of poisoning; also against a magistratus or senator who conspired in order that a person might be condemned in a judicium publicum, &c. (Compare Cic. pro Cluent. c54, with Dig.49 8). To the provisions of this law was subsequently added a senatusconsultum against mala sacrificia, otherwise called impia sacrificia, the agents in which were brought within the provisions of this lex. The punishment inflicted by the law was the interdictio aquae et ignis, according to some modern writers. Marcian (Dig.49 tit. 8 s8) says that the punishment was deportatio in insulam et bonorum ademtio. These statements are reconcilable when we consider that the deportatio under the emperors took the place of the interdictio, and the expression in the Digest was suited to the times of the writers or the compilers. Besides, it appears that the lex was modified by various senatusconsulta and imperial rescripts.

The Lex Pompeia de Parricidiis, passed in the time of Cn. Pompeius, extended the crime of parricide to the killing (dolo malo) of a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, and many other relations enumerated by Marcianus (Dig.49 tit. 9 s1); this enumeration also comprises vitricus, noverca, privignus, privigna, patronus, patrona, and avus who killed a nepos, and a mother who killed a filius or filia; but it did not extend to a father. All privies to the crime were also punished by the law, and attempts at the crime also came within its provisions. The punishment was the same as that affixed by the lex Cornelia de sicariis (Dig. l.c.), by which must be meant the same punishment that the lex Cornelia affixed to crimes of the same kind. He who killed a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, was punished (more majorum) by being whipped till he bled, sewn up in a sack with a dog, cock, viper, and ape, and thrown into the sea, if the sea was at hand, and if not, by a constitution of Hadrian, he was exposed to wild beasts, or, in the time of Paulus, to be burnt. The ape would appear to be a late addition. The murderers of a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother only were punished in this manner (Modest. Dig.49 tit. 9 s9); other parricides were simply put to death. From this it is clear that the lex Cornelia contained a provision against parricide, if we are rightly informed as to the provisions de sicariis et veneficis, unless there was a separate Cornelia lex de parricidiis. As already observed, the provisions of those two leges were modified in various ways under the emperors.

It appears from the law of Numa, quoted by Festus (s.v. Parici Quaestores), that a parricida was any one who killed another dolo malo. Cicero (pro Rosc. Am. c25) appears to use the word in its limited sense, as he speaks of the punishment of the culleus. In this limited sense there seems no impropriety in Catilina being called parricida, with reference to his country; and the day of the dictator Caesar's death might be called a parricidium, considering the circumstances under which the name was given (Suet. Caes. c88). If the original meaning of parricida be what Festus says, it may be doubted if the etymology of the word (pater and caedo) is correct; for it appears that paricida or parricida meant murderer generally, and afterwards the murderer of certain persons in a near relationship. If the word was originally patricida, the law intended to make all malicious killing as great an offence as parricide, though it would appear that parricide, properly so called, was, from the time of the Twelve Tables at least, specially punished with the culleus, and other murders not. (Dig.49 8, 9; Paulus, Recept. Sentent. V tit. 24; Dirksen, Uebersicht, &c. der Zwölftafelgesetze, Leipzig.)

Sumtuariae. [Sumtuariae Leges.]

Testamentaria. [Falsum.]

Tribunicia, which diminished the power of the Tribuni Plebis (Vell. Pat. II.30; Appian, Bell. Civ. II.29; Caes. Bell. Civ. I.7).

Unciaria, appears to have been a lex which lowered the rate of interest, and to have been passed about the same time with the Leges Sumtuariae of Sulla (Festus, s.v. Unciaria).

De Vadimonio. [Vadimonium.]

De Vi Publica. [Vis Publica.]

There were other Leges Corneliae, such as that de Sponsoribus [Intercessio], which may be Leges of L. Cornelius Sulla.

There were also Leges Corneliae which were proposed by the Tribune C. Cornelius about B.C. 67, and limited the Edictal power by compelling the Praetors Jus dicere ex edictis suis perpetuis (Ascon. in Cic. Cornel. p58; Dion Cass. XXXVI.23). [Edictum.]

Anyone Lex of the same Tribune enacted that no one "legibus solveretur," unless such a measure was agreed on in a meeting of the Senate at which p688two hundred members were present and afterwards approved by the people; and it enacted that no Tribune should put his veto on such a Senatusconsultum (Ascon. in Cic. Cornel. pp57, 58).

There was also a Lex Cornelia concerning the wills of those Roman citizens who died in captivity (apud hostes). [Legatum, p676B; Postliminium.]


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