ABACTO´RES, terms used to signify the class of thieves who commit
the crime of cattle stealing (abigeatus
was distinguished from ordinary furtum
punished as a special offence. Abigeatus was committed by stealing beasts of
pasture, as horses, oxen, sheep, goats, and pigs; but only if the theft was
of a sufficiently serious kind. The stealing of one horse and perhaps of an
ox made the thief abigeus; but it was thought that to steal less than ten
sheep, or than four or perhaps five pigs, was not abigeatus, but simple
furtum. It was abigeatus, however, if the aggregate of sheep or pigs stolen
on separate occasions amounted to the above numbers. It appears that a
person who stole cattle was not abigeus unless it was his practice to steal
cattle. (Dig. 47
: “et abigendi studium quasi artem
exercent;” but see Platner, De jure crim. quaest.,
p. 447.) An abigeus who took cattle from a stable was punished more severely
than one who drove them from pasture ground. (Dig.
“plenius coercendum ;” but see Cujas, Obs.
6.8.) Abigeatus was not prosecuted by a judicium publicum, but fell under
the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of the magistrate, who punished it according
to his discretion. The different punishments by which the crime was visited
are enumerated in a rescript of Hadrian (Collat. 11.7; Dig. 47
). They included different
forms of death, the mines, and other kinds of penal servitude for a term or
for life, but a person of superior rank was only liable to banishment
) and degradation from his rank.
For an abigeus to carry arms was a great aggravation of his offence. Ulpian
does not think the exposure of armed abigei to wild beasts too severe a
punishment. Pastoral districts were at times devastated by armed and mounted
bands of cattle stealers. (Paul. Sent.
Collat. xi. de Abigeatoribus;
, de Abigeis;
Cod. 9.37, de
L. Platner, Quaestio de jure crim.
445-449; Rein, Das Criminalrecht der Röm.
323-325, Leipzig, 1844.)