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 p517  Falsum

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp517‑518 of

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

FALSUM. The oldest legislative provision at Rome against Falsum was that of the Twelve Tables against false testimony (Gell. XX.1); but there were trials for giving false testimony before the enactment of the Twelve Tables (Liv. III.24, &c.). The next legislation on Falsum, so far as we know, was a Lex Cornelia, passed in the time of the Dictator Sulla, which Cicero also calls testamentaria and nummaria (In Verr. II. lib. 1 c42), with reference to the crimes which it was the object of the law to punish. The offence was a Crimen Publicum. The provisions of this lex are stated by Paulus (Sent. Recept. V.25, ed. Berl.), who also entitles it Lex Cornelia testamentaria, to apply to any person "qui testamentum malo scripserit, recitaverit, subjecerit, suppresserit, amoverit, resignaverit, deleverit, &c. The punishment was deportatio in insulam (at least when Paulus wrote) for the "honestiores;" and the mines or crucifixion for the "humiliores." In place of deportatio, the law probably contained the punishment of the interdictio aquae et ignis. According to Paulus the law applied to any instrument as well as a will, a to the adulteration of gold and silver coin, or refusing to accept in payment genuine coin stamped with the head of the princeps. But it appears from Ulpian (sub titulo de poena legis Corneliae testamentariae) that these were subsequent additions made to the Lex Cornelia (Mos. et Rom. Leg. Coll. tit. 8 s7) by various senatus-consulta (Tacit. Ann. XIV.40, 41). By a senatus-consultum, in the consul­ship of Statilius and Taurus, the penalties of the law were extended to the case of other than testamentary instruments. It is conjectured that, for the consul­ship of Statilius  p518 and Taurus, as it stands in the text of Ulpian, we should read Statilius Taurus, and that the consul­ship of T. Statilius Taurus and L. Scribonius Libo (A.D. 16) is meant. A subsequent senatus-consultum, in the fourteenth year of Tiberius, extended the penalties of the law to those who for money undertook the defence of a (criminal?) cause, or to procure testimony; and by a senatus consultum, passed between the dates of those just mentioned, conspiracies for the ruin of innocent persons were comprised within the provisions of the law. Another senatus-consultum, passed A.D. 26, extended the law to those who received money for selling, or giving, or not giving, testimony. There were probably other legislative provisions for the purpose of checking fraud. In the time of Nero it was enacted against fraudulent persons (falsarii), that tabulae or written contracts should be pierced with holes, and a triple thread passed through the holes, in addition to the signature (Suet. Ner. c17; compare Paulus, Sent. Recept. V. tit. 25 s6). In the time of Nero it was also provided that the first two parts (cerae) of a will should have only the testator's signature, and the remaining one that of the witnesses: it was also provided that no man who wrote the will should give himself a legacy in it. The provisions, as to adulterating money and refusing to take legal coin in payment, were also made by senatus-consulta or imperial constitutions. Allusion is made to the latter law by Arrian (Epict. III.3). It appears from many passages in the Roman writers that the crime of falsum in all its forms was very common, and especially in the case of wills, against which legislative enactments are a feeble security. (Heinecc. Syntagma; Rein, Das Criminalrecht der Römer, where the subject is fully discussed.)

See also, of course, Smith's basic article on Roman wills [Testamentum].

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Page updated: 4 Feb 09