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From two passages 1 in Cicero's rhetorical treatises, we learn what was apparently the original form of the punishment of parricide. Immediately after sentence was passed, the criminal's face was covered with a wolf's skin, and wooden sandals2 bound on his feet, as though the air might no longer be defiled by his breath nor the ground with his tread. He was then taken back to prison, but only to remain there until a sack was prepared in which he was cast into the nearest river or sea. We hear of further provisions in the Pandects3 poena parricidii more maiorum haec instituta est, ut parricida virgis sanguineis (with scarlet rods) verberatus, deinde culleo (made of leather) insuatur cum cane (an animal despised by Greeks and Romans), gallo gallinaceo (which, like the parricide, was devoid of all filial affection), et vipera (a creature universally hated, and whose birth was supposed to necessitate its mother's death 4 ), et simia (probably as a degraded imitation of man), deinde in mare profundum (or into a river) culleus iactetur5 The sack with its contents was thrown into the sea, in order that the criminal might be withdrawn from all the elements: "ut omni elementorum usu vivus carere incipiat et ei coelum superstiti, terra mortuo auferatur"(Justinian, Inst. iv. 18.6). From the fact that Cicero does not mention the animals, while two writers under the Empire refer to them (Seneca, de Clem. 1. 15, to the serpents; and Juvenal, 8.212, 13.154, to the apes), it has been inferred that they were not added till after the establishment of the Empire; but Cicero's not mentioning them can hardly be taken as a proof of this, since according to his later opinion6 even what he does say here about the poena cullei is too full and copious.


Though Cicero and the Digest (l.c.) speak as if the poena cullei regularly occurred in practice, it is a question whether this was the case under the later republic. Zumpt 7 believes that it was inflicted only in cases where there was no need of a trial, viz. when the criminal was caught in the very act, or when he confessed his guilt. Zumpt's arguments are:

(1) No quaestio could or ever did inflict the punishment of death.

(2) Suetonius, in order to show the leniency of Augustus, describes him as dealing in the following way with a man caught in the act of parricide. The Emperor wished to get him off the punishment of the sack, and therefore put to him the leading question, 'You surely did not kill your father?' because only those who confessed their guilt received this punishment.8 In such a case the criminal might answer 'No,' and then be tried and punished in the ordinary way, viz. by exile and confiscation.

We may also notice that Cicero's passage about the culleus in this speech 9 is evidently meant to enhance the greatness of the crimen 10 of which his adversaries had dared to accuse Sex. Roscius, not to rouse the pity of the jury as if he were really in danger of so horrible a punishment.

1 De Inv. 2. 50,149; ad Her. 1.13.23. A case of the poena cullei is mentioned in the Epitome of Liv. Lxviii., dating about B.C. 101. Probably the book may have contained a detailed account of the punishment.

2 Soleae ligneae, otherwise explained as fetters.

3 XLVIII. 9.9.

4 Aristot. Hist. Anim. 2. 8. Plin. N.H. 8. 54; 11. 44.

5 The symbolism of the animals has been otherwise explained. "From the house whose peace has been broken are taken the animals who might to have guarded and aroused it (sc. canis et gallus); from the wilderness are taken the constant foe (vipera) and the base imitation (simia) of man, as an offering to the offended gods." (Richter.)

6 See above, note 63.

7 Criminalrecht, vol. ii. part 2, pp.53 sqq.

8 Suet. Aug.33.

9 §§ 70-73.

10 § 72: tanti maleficii crimen, cui maleficio tam insigne supplicium est constitutum, &c.

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