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[54] About the same time dissensions arose in the city between debtors and creditors, since the latter exacted the money due them with interest, although an old law distinctly forbade lending on interest and imposed a penalty upon any one doing so. It seems that the ancient Romans, like the Greeks, abhorred the taking of interest on loans as something knavish, and hard on the poor, and leading to contention and enmity; and by the same kind of reasoning the Persians considered lending itself as having a tendency
B.C. 89
to deceit and lying. But, since time had sanctioned the practice of taking interest, the creditors demanded it according to custom. The debtors, on the other hand, put off the payment by causing war and civil commotion. Some indeed threatened to visit the legal penalty on the interest-takers. The prætor Asellio, who had charge of these matters, as he was not able to compose their differences by persuasion, allowed them to proceed against each other in the courts, thus bringing the conflict of law and custom before the judges. The lenders, exasperated that the old law should be revived, killed the prætor in the following manner. He was offering sacrifice to Castor and Pollux in the forum, with a crowd standing around as was usual at such a ceremony. In the first place somebody threw a stone at him. He dropped the libation-bowl and ran toward the temple of Vesta. They got ahead of him and prevented him from reaching the temple, and after he had fled into a certain tavern they cut his throat. Many of his pursuers, thinking that he had taken refuge with the Vestal virgins, ran in there, where it was not lawful for men to go. Thus was Asellio, while serving as prætor, and pouring out the libation, and wearing the sacred gilded vestments customary in such ceremonies, slain at the second hour of the day, in the midst of the forum, by the side of the sacrificial offerings. The Senate offered a reward of money to any free person, and freedom to any slave, and impunity to any accomplice, who should give testimony leading to the conviction of the murderers of Asellio, but nobody gave any information. The money-lenders covered up everything.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), FENUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), LEX
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TOGA
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