Andrew M. Riggsby
“Crime” lacks a fully agreed definition across modern societies, but competing versions tend to stress notions like punishment, protection of public or collective interests, and a pervasive role for the state in proceedings. Over time the Romans used a series of different procedures (successively, trial before the assemblies, by specialized juries, or by imperial inquisitors) to try most of their offences that would be more or less recognizably criminal today. Substantively, the core of this group were offences against the state in an institutional sense (e.g., sedition, electoral malpractice, abuse of public office, forgery). Over time it also came to include an increasing number of (personal) crimes of violence. Some core modern criminal offences such as forms of theft and forgery of private documents came to be grouped in with these only at a very late date and incompletely. “Moral” offences that are treated as criminal more sporadically today (e.g., use of intoxicants, gambling, prostitution) were not criminalized. Penalties in earlier periods included fines, civic disgrace, and exile; later periods introduced finer differentiation of penalties, as well as execution. Imprisonment was not a formal penalty.
Roman criminal law had a deeper and more complicated relationship to politics than did the private, civil law. This is true both in the sense that the jurists were relatively uninterested in the criminal law, especially before the late 2nd century
Provocatio was a method for appealing the decision of a Roman magistrate. Provocatio could occur after a normal trial had been conducted in front of a magistrate with imperium. After the final judgement, the defendant could call out “provoco.” The act of provocatio called upon the protection of the tribuni plebis, who transferred the power to adjudicate to the Roman people (iudicium populi). The people could then confirm or reject the magistrate’s sentence.
Not all judgements were subject to provocatio; it only applied to the power of coercitio of higher magistrates (consuls and praetors). Sentences meted by the quaestors were excluded. The judgements of the pontifex maximus were also excluded, although the fines he imposed could be appealed. In fact, provocatio is mentioned in the sources only for political crimes, such as perduellio. The idea that the iudicium populi was part of every trial, first suggested by Mommsen and still sometimes repeated, is therefore incorrect.
James R. Townshend
James R. Townshend
Carlos Amunátegui Perelló
According to tradition, during its first two and a half centuries of existence, seven kings governed Rome. Each of these promulgated regulations, which were known as the “laws of the kings” (leges regiae “royal laws”). Reports of these laws are to be found in many traditional accounts about the early history of Rome (most importantly, Dion. Hal. 2.7-29; Plut. Rom. 9.3; Cic. De rep. 2.8.14; Liv. A.U.C. 1.8), in a chapter of Justinian’s Digest dedicated to the origins of law extracted from a work of the jurist Pomponius (D.1.2.2, Pomponius, libro singulari enchiridii), and some casual statements made by antiquarians, including Varro and Gellius.
The fact that many—but not all—of the laws were attributed to Romulus and Numa Pompilius, the two most unlikely of the seven kings the tradition offers, led scholars generally to discard them as simple myths, historical anticipations (for some of the laws’ contents were repeated in the Twelve Tables), or even as fabrications of Dionysius in a political pamphlet.
Maria Floriana Cursi
The expression quasi delict cannot be found in Roman legal sources. It has been created on the basis of a title of the JustinianInstitutes (I. 4.5), dealing with “the obligations which arise as though from delict” (quasi ex delicto); in the text of the Institutes, we find a closely related expression, quasi ex maleficio teneri, probably derived from Gaius’sRes cottidianae (or Aurea) in D. 22.214.171.124–6.
The quasi 1 expresses at the same time a similarity with and a difference from the civil wrongs called “delicts.” Delicts are private wrongs—created by contrast with public wrongs, called “crimes”—such as bodily injury and insult (iniuria and defamation), theft (furtum), damage to property (damnum iniuria datum), and theft committed by means of violence (rapina) (Gai. Inst. 3.182). Quasi delicts are acts that cause damage or harm to another person or to his goods outwith the four civil delicts. Since from these acts a duty arises to compensate the damage or the harm caused to the victim, the quasi delicts were considered one of the four sources of obligation in the Justinian Institutes.