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p731 Manus Injectio

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp731‑732 of

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

MANUS INJECTIO is one of the five modi or forms of the Legis Actio according to Gaius (IV.12). It was in effect in some cases a kind of execution. The judicati manus injectio was given by the Twelve Tables. The plaintiff (actor) laid hold of the defendant, using the formal words "Quod tu mihi judicatus sive damnatus es sestertium p732X milia quae dolo malo non solvisti ob eam rem ego tibi sestertium X milia judicati manus injicio." The defendant who had been condemned in a certain sum, had thirty days allowed him to make payment in, and after that time he was liable to the manus injectio. The defendant was not permitted to make any resistance, and his only mode of defence was to find some responsible person (vindex) who would undertake his defence (pro eo lege agere). If he found no vindex, the plaintiff might carry the defendant to his house and keep him in confinement for sixty days, during which time his name and the amount of his debt were proclaimed at three successive nundinae. If no one paid the debt, the defendant might be put to death or sold (Gell. XX.1). According to the words of the Twelve Tables, the person must be brought before the Praetor (in jus), which of course means that he must be seized first: if when brought before the praetor, he did not pay the money (ni judicatum solvit) or find a vindex, he might be carried off and put in chains, apparently without the formality of an addictio. The Lex Publilia, evidently following the analogy of the Twelve Tables, allowed the manus injectio in the case of money paid by a sponsor, if the sponsor was not repaid in six months. The Lex Furia de Sponsu allowed it against him who had exacted from a sponsor more than his just proportion (virilis pars). These and other leges allowed the manus injectio pro judicato, because in these cases the claim of the plaintiff was equivalent to a claim of a res judicata. Other leges granted the manus injectio pura, that is, non pro judicato, as the Lex Furia Testamentaria and the Marcia adversus feneratores. But in these cases the defendant might withdraw himself from the manus injectio (manum sibi depellere), and defend his cause; but it would appear that he could only relieve himself from this seizure, by actually undertaking to defend himself by legal means. Accordingly, if we follow the analogy of the old law, it was in these cases an execution if the defendant chose to let it be so; if he did not, it was the same as serving him with process to appear before the Praetor. A lex, the name of which is obliterated in Gaius, allowed the person seized to defend his own cause except in the case of a "judicatus," and "is pro quo depensum est;" and consequently in the two latter cases even after the passing of this lex, a man was bound to find a vindex. This continued the practice so long as the Legis Actiones were in use; "whence," says Gaius (IV.25), "in our time a man 'cum quo judicati depensive agitur' is compelled to give security 'judicatum solvi.' " From this we may conclude that the vindex in the old time was liable to pay, if he could find no good defence to the plaintiff's claim; for as the vindex could "lege agere," though the defendant could not, we must assume that he might show, if he could, that the plaintiff had no ground of complaint; as, for instance, that he had been paid; and that if he had no good defence, he must pay the debt himself. The subject of the manus injectio is discussed by Puchta, Inst. II. § 160, 162, 179, III. § 269.

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Page updated: 12 Oct 06