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Postliminium, Postliminii Ius

When a Roman citizen during war came into the possession of an enemy, he sustained a diminutio capitis maxima (see Caput), and all his civil rights were in abeyance. Being captured by the enemy, he became a slave; but his rights over his children, if he had any, were not destroyed, but were said to be in abeyance (pendere) by virtue of the ius postliminii: when he returned, his children were again in his power; and if he died in captivity, they became sui iuris. Sometimes by an act of the State a man was given up bound to an enemy, and if the enemy would not receive him, it was a question whether he had the ius postliminii. This was the case with Sp. Postumius, who was given up to the Samnites, and with C. Hostilius Mancinus, who was given up to the Numantines, but the better opinion was that they had no ius postliminii, and Mancinus was restored to his civil rights by a special law (Cic. De Orat. i. 40, 141; Cic. Off. iii. 30, 109; Cic. Top. 8, 36; Pro Caec. 34, 98). It appears that the ius postliminii was founded on the fiction of the captive having never been absent from home—a fiction which was of easy application, for, as the captive during his absence could not perform any legal act, the interval of captivity was a period of legal non-activity, which was terminated on his reappearance. See Bechmann, Das Ius Postliminii und die Fictio Legis Corneliae (Erlangen, 1872).

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