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 p1139  Tormentum

The Roman section only
unsigned article on pp1139‑1140 of

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


[. . .]

2. Roman. During the time of the republic, freemen were never put to the torture, and slaves only were exposed to this punishment. Slaves, moreover, could not be tortured to prove the guilt of their own master, except in the case of incestus, which was a crime against the gods, or unless the senate made an exception in some special instance, as was done in the Catilinarian conspiracy (Cic. pro Mil. 22, pro Deiot. 1, Part. Orat. 34; Dion Cass. LV.5; Tac. Ann. II.30, III.67; Dig.48 tit. 18 s1 § 16). At a later time slaves might be tortured to bear witness against their masters in cases of majestas (Cod. 9 tit. 8 ss6, 7) and adultery (Dig.48 tit. 18 s17; Cod. 9 tit. 9 ss3, 6, 32).  p1140 Under the emperors even free persons were put to the torture to extract evidence from them in cases of majestas; and although this indignity was confined for the most part to persons in humble circumstances, we read of cases in which even Roman senators and equites were exposed to it (Dion Cass. LX.15; Suet. Tib. 58; Dig.48 tit. 18 s10 § 1). For further information see Dig.48 18, De Quaestionibus; Walter, Geschichte des Römischen Rechts, pp875, 876, 1st ed.; Rein, Das Criminalrecht der Römer, p542.

For a different meaning altogether of the word tormentum, in the sense of a military siege engine, see Smith's first article Tormentum.

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Page updated: 17 Jan 09