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p1012 Scriptura

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D, F.R.S.E, Rector of the High School of Edinburgh,
on p1012 of

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

SCRIPTU′RA was that part of the revenue of the Roman republic which was derived from letting out those portions of the ager publicus which were not or could not be taken into cultivation as pasture land (Festus, s.v. Saltum). The name for such parts of the ager publicus was: pascua publica, saltus, or silvae. They were let by the censors to the publicani, like all other vectigalia; and the persons who sent their cattle to graze on such public pastures had to pay a certain tax or duty to the publicani, which of course varied according to the number and quality of the cattle which they kept upon them. To how much this duty amounted is nowhere stated, but the revenue which the state derived from it appears to have been very considerable. The publicani had to keep the lists of the persons who sent their cattle upon the public pastures, together with the number and quality of the cattle. From this registering (scribere) the duty itself was called scriptura, the public pasture land ager scripturarius (Festus, s.v. Scripturarius ager), and the publicani or their agents who raised the tax, scripturarii.º Cattle, not registered by the publicani, were called pecudes inscriptae, and those who sent such cattle upon the public pasture were punished according to the lex censoria (Varro, de Re Rust. II.1), and the cattle was taken by the publicani and forfeited (Plaut. Trucul. I.2.42, &c.). The lex Thoria (Appian, de Bell. Civ. I.27; Cic. Brut. 36) did away with the scriptura in Italy, where the public pastures were very numerous and extensive, especially in Apulia (Varro, de Re Rust. l.c.; Liv. XXXIX.29), and the lands themselves were now sold or distributed. In the provinces, where the public pastures were also let out in the same manner (Cic. c. Verr. II.2, 3, pro Leg. Man. 6, ad Fam. XIII.65; Plin. H. N. XIX.15), the practice continued until the time of the empire; but afterwards the scriptura is no longer mentioned. (Cf. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. III p15, &c.; Burmann, Vectig. Pop. Rom. c. 4).


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