The Roman term for all acts whereby an individual within the State showed himself an enemy
) of the established constitution. It included attempts at
despotic power, usurpation or abuse of magisterial powers (e. g.
execution of a citizen), violation of the sanctity of the tribuni plebis
etc. In the time of the kings, the king himself tried crimes of the kind, or handed over the
decision to two deputies appointed in each instance by himself, duoviri
, from whom an appeal lay to the people;
after Servius Tullius, to the Comitia Centuriata. Under the Republic, duoviri were still
appointed as presiding judges, till this gradually fell into disuse, and trials of the kind
came in general to be dealt with by the popular court. In earlier times the penalty was death
by hanging on a tree, by throwing from the Tarpeian Rock, or by beheading; later, banishment,
and after the tribunes brought cases of perduellio before the Comitia Tributa, fines as well.
From the latter half of the second century B.C. the less important cases began to be treated
as offences of maiestas;
and by Caesar's Julian law, B.C. 46, all cases
were included under this name. See Maiestas
, p. 999.