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p699 Lex Thoria

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp699‑700 of

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

LEX THORIA. This Agraria Lex is the subject of a very elaborate essay by Rudorff, "Das Ackergesetz des Spurius Thorius, Zeitschrift, vol. X."

This Lex was engraved on the back part of the same bronze tablet which contained the Servilia Lex which applied to the Judicia de Repetundis. The tablet was broken at some unknown time, and the lower which was perhaps the larger part is now lost. Seven fragments of the upper part were preserved, which as the tablet is written on both sides, make fourteen inscriptions, which were published by Fulvius Ursinus: the first five of the inscriptions, as they are numbered by him, belong to the Lex Thoria, and the seven last to the Lex Servilia. The largest and most important of the fragments are now in the Museo Borbonico. Their history is traced and their present condition described by Rudorff with great minuteness. Two of the fragments were copied by Sigonius when they were in the Museum of Cardinal Bembo; and the copy of the two fragments of the Lex Thoria, and also the copy of the two fragments of the Lex Servilia, are printed in the work of Sigonius, De Antiquo Jure Populi Romani Libri Undecim, Bononiae, 1574.

The title of the Lex does not appear from the mutilated inscription, but Rudorff shows that the Lex belongs to the period between the consulship of P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica and L. Calpurnius Piso Bestia, B.C. 111, and that of L. Julius Caesar, B.C. 90, within which space of twenty-two years p700five Agrarian laws were enacted, Boria, Thoria, Marcia, Apuleia, and Titia. It further appears from comparing two passages of Cicero (de Or. II.70; and Brutus, 36), in which he speaks of the Lex Thoria, with the fragments of this Lex whose title is lost, that the fragments are those of the Lex Thoria. Now the date of the Lex Thoria is fixed by Rudorff at the year of the city 643 or B.C. 111, which is consequently the date of the Lex on the bronze tablet, thus identified with the Lex Thoria. Proceeding on the assumption that the fragmentary Lex was the Plebiscitum, called the Lex Thoria, Sigonius restored the beginning of it according to the usual form of Roman Plebiscita: Sp. Thorivs . . . F. Tr. Pl. Plebem ivre rog. Plebesque ivre scivit Tribvs . . . Principivm fvit pro tribv Q. Fabivs. Q. F. primvs scivit.

The history of this inscription is curious. It was not cut on the rough back of the bronze tablet till after the other side, which is smooth, had been occupied by the Servilia Lex. The Servilia Lex is certainly not of earlier date than the year of the city 648, or B.C. 106, and consequently the Thoria could not have been cut on this tablet before the year 648. It seems that the tablet was large enough for the Lex Servilia, for which it was intended, but much too small for the Agrarian Law: "consequently, the characters of the Agrarian side of the tablet are remarkably small, the lines narrow, the abbreviations numerous, and the chapters only separated by two or three points, whereas on the other side the letters are uniform, large, and well made, the lines wide, the words written at full length, and the chapters of the Lex separated by superscriptions. Further, the lines (of the Agrarian Lex) are often so oblique that they cross the straight lines on the opposite side, which are cut very deep and consequently are visible on the side on which the Agrarian Lex is cut" (Rudorff).

The subject-matter of this Lex cannot be stated without entering into detail: the whole is examined by Rudorff with great care. The main subject of the Lex to which the first eighteen chapters or forty-three lines refer, is the Public land in Italy as far as the rivers Rubico and Macra. The second part of the Lex begins with the nineteenth chapter and the forty-fourth line, and extends to the fiftieth chapter and the ninety-sixth line: this part of the Lex relates to the Public and Private land in the Province of Africa. The third and last part of the Lex, from the fiftieth chapter and the ninety-sixth line to the end of the inscription, relates to the Roman Public land in the territory of Corinth.

Rudorff concludes that the Lex applied to other land also; and for two reasons. First, the Roman Agrarian Laws of the seventh century of the city, related to all the provinces of the empire, of which we have an example in the case of the Lex Servilia of Rullus. Secondly, the fragment of the Lex Thoria, which is preserved, is so broad compared with the height that we may conclude that the complete tablet contained three times as much as it does now; for nearly all the bronze tablets on which Roman laws are cut, are of an oblong form, with the height much greater than their width. Of the two-thirds of the tablet which it is concluded have been lost, not a trace has yet been discovered.

The essay of Rudorff contains a copy of the inscription, with the restoration of the passages that are defaced. The value of this attempt can only be estimated by an investigation as complete as that of the author.


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