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p986 Repetundae

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp986‑987 of

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

REPETUNDAE, or PECUNIAE REPETUNDAE. Repetundae Pecuniae in its widest sense was the term used to designate such sums of money as the Socii of the Roman State or individuals claimed to recover from magistratus, Judices, or Publici Curatores, which they had improperly taken or received in the Provinciae, or in the Urbs Roma, either in the discharge of their Jurisdictio, or in their capacity of Judices, or in respect of any other public function. Sometimes the word Repetundae was used to express the illegal act for which compensation was sought, as in the phrase "Repetundarum insimulari, damnari;" and Pecuniae meant not only money, but anything that had value. The expression which the Greek writers sometimes use for Repetundae is δίκη δώρων (Plut. Sulla, 5).

It is stated by Livy (XLII.1) that before the year B.C. 173, no complaints were made by the Socii of being put to any cost or charge by the Roman magistratus. When complaints of exactions were made, an inquiry was instituted into this offence extra ordinem ex Senatusconsulto as appears from the case of P. Furius Philus and M. Matienus, who were accused of this offence by the Hispani (Liv. XLIII.2). The first Lex on this subject was the Calpurnia, which was proposed and then carried by the Tribunus Plebis, L. Calpurnius Piso (B.C. 149), who also distinguished himself as an historical writer. By this Lex a Praetor was appointed for trying persons charged with this crime (Cic. de Off. II.21, Brut. 27). This Lex only applied to Provincial magistratus, because in the year B.C. 141 according to Cicero (de Fin. II.16) the like offence in a Magistratus Urbanus was the subject of a Quaestio extra ordinem. It seems that the penalties of the Lex Calpurnia were merely pecuniary, and at least did not comprise exsilium, for L. Cornelius Lentulus who was Censor B.C. 147, had been convicted on a charge of Repetundae in the previous year. The pecuniary penalty was ascertained by the litis aestimatio, or taking an account of all the sums of money which the convicted party had illegally received.

Various leges de repetundis were passed after the Lex Calpurnia, and the penalties were continually made heavier. The Lex Junia was passed probably about B.C. 126 on the proposal of M. Junius Pennus, Tribunus Plebis. It is probable that this was the Lex under which C. Cato, Proconsul of Macedonia, was living in exile at Tarraco (Cic. pro Balbo, 11; Vell. Pat. II.8); for at least exsilium was not a penalty imposed by the Calpurnia Lex, but was added by some later Lex. This Lex Junia and the Lex Calpurnia are mentioned in the Lex Servilia.

The Lex Servilia Glauca was proposed and carried by C. Servilius Glauca, Praetor B.C. 100. This Lex applied to any magistratus who had improperly taken or received money from any private person; but a magistratus could not be accused during the term of office. The Lex enacted that the Praetor Peregrinus should annually appoint 450 judices for the trial of this offence: the judices were not to be senators. The penalties of the Lex were pecuniary and exsilium; the law allowed a comperendinatio (Cic. in Verr. I.9). Before the Lex Servilia, the pecuniary penalty was simple restitution of what had been wrongfully taken; this Lex seems to have raised the penalty to double the amount of what had been wrongfully taken; and subsequently it was made quadruple. Exsilium was only the punishment in case a man did not abide his trial, but withdrew from Rome (Savigny, Von dem Schutz der Mind., Zeitschrift, X.). Under this Lex were tried M' Aquillius, P. Rutilius, M. Scaurus, and Q. Metellus Numidicus. The Lex gave the Civitas to any person on whose complaint a person was convicted of Repetundae (Cic. pro Balbo, 23, 24).

The Lex Acilia,a which seems to be of uncertain date (probably B.C. 101), was proposed and carried by M' Acilius Glabrio, a Tribunus Plebis, which enacted that there should be neither ampliatio nor comperendinatio. It is conjectured that this is the Lex Caecilia mentioned by Valerius Maximus (VI.9.10), in which passage if the conjecture is correct, we should read Acilia for Caecilia (Cic. in Verr. Act. I.17, in Verr. I.9). It has sometimes been doubted whether the Acilia or Servilia was first enacted, but it appears that the Acilia took away the comperendinatio which the Servilia allowed.

The Lex Cornelia was passed in the dictatorship of Sulla B.C. 81, and continued in force to the time of C. Julius Caesar. It extended the penalties of Repetundae to other illegal acts committed in the provinces, and to judices who received bribes, to those to whose hands the money came, and to those who did not give into the Aerarium their Proconsular accounts (proconsulares rationes). The Praetor who presided over this quaestio chose the judges by lot from the Senators, whence it appears that the Servilia Lex was repealed by this Lex, at least so far as related to the constitution of the court. This Lex also allowed ampliatio and comperendinatio. The penalties were pecuniary (litis aestimatio) and the aquae et ignis interdictio. Under this Lex were tried L. Dolabella, Cn. Piso, C. Verres, C. Macer, M. Fonteius, and L. Flaccus, the two last of whom were defended by Cicero. In the Verrine Orations Cicero complains of the comperendinatio or double hearing of the cause, which the Lex Cornelia allowed, and refers to the practice under the Lex Acilia, according to which the case for the prosecution, the defence, and the evidence were only heard once, and so the matter was decided (In Verr. I.9).

The last Lex de Repetundis was the Lex Julia passed in the first consulship of C. Julius Caesar B.C. 59 (Cic. in Vat. 12). This Lex consisted of numerous heads (capita) which have been collected by Sigonius (Cic. ad Fam. VIII.8). This Lex repealed the penalty of exsilium, but in addition to the litis aestimatio, it enacted that persons convicted under this Lex should lose their p987rank, and be disqualified from being witnesses, judices, or senators. This is the Lex which was commented on by the Jurists, whose expositions are preserved in the Digest (48. tit. 11), and in the Code (9. tit. 27). This Lex adopted some provisions that existed in previous Leges, as for instance that by which the money that had been improperly retained could be recovered from those into whose hands it could be traced (Cic. pro C. Rabir. Post. 4). The Lex had been passed when Cicero made his oration against Piso, B.C. 55 (in Pis. 21). A. Gabinius was convicted under this Lex. Many of its provisions may be collected from the oration of Cicero against Piso. Cicero boasts that in his proconsulship of Cilicia there was no cost caused to the people by himself, his legati, quaestor, nor anyone else; he did not even demand from the people what the Lex (Julia) allowed him (ad Att. V.16).

Under the Empire the offence was punishable with exile (Tacit. Annal. XIV.28, and the note of Lipsius).

In Clinton's Fasti Hellenici, the Lex Calpurnia is incorrectly stated to be the first law at Rome against Bribery at Elections. Bribery is Ambitus.

(Sigonius de Judiciis, II. c27; Rein, Das Criminalrecht der Römer, p604 &c.; Rudorff, Ueber die Octavianische Formel, Zeitschrift für Geschicht. Rechtsw. &c. XII. p136).


Thayer's Note:

a The Lex Acilia: large fragments of it have survived; they are online here (linked to an English translation). For its adoption, see Cassius Dio's account (XXXVI.38)


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