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p1000 Sacrilegium

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p1000 of

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

SACRILEGIUM is the crime of stealing things consecrated to the gods, or things deposited in a consecrated place (Quinctil. VII.3 § 2, &c.; Cic. De Leg. II.16; Liv. XLII.3). A lex Julia referred to in the Digest (48 tit. 13 s4) appears to have placed the crime of sacrilegium on an equality with peculatus [Peculatus]. Several of the imperial constitutions made death the punishment for a sacrilegus, which consisted according to circumstances either in being given up to wild beasts, in being burned alive, or hanged (Dig. 48 tit. 13 s6). Paulus says in general that a sacrilegus was punished with death, but he distinguishes between such persons who robbed the sacra publica, and such as robbed the sacra privata, and he is of opinion that the latter, though more than a common thief, yet deserves less punishment than the former. In a wider sense, sacrilegium was used by the Romans to designate any violation of religion (Corn. Nep. Alcib. 6), or of anything which should be treated with religious reverence (Ovid. Met. XIV.539, Rem. Am. 367, Fast. III.700). Hence a law in the Codex (9 tit. 29 s1) states that any person is guilty of sacrilegium who neglects or violates the sanctity of the divine law. Another law (Cod. 9 tit. 29 s2) decreed that even a doubt as to whether a person appointed by an emperor to some office was worthy of this office, was to be regarded as a crime equal to sacrilegium.

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