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ALEA gaming, or playing at a game of chance of any kind. [TALI, TESSERAE, PAR IMPAR.]

Gaming was looked down upon at Rome; and hence aleator was used as a term of reproach (Cic. in Cat. 2.1. 0, 23; ad Att. 14.5; “alea turpis,” Juv. 11.176; “damnosa alea,” id. 14.4). It was also forbidden by special laws during the times of the republic and under the [p. 1.97]emperors ( “vetita legibus alea,” Hor. Carm. 3.24.58; Cic. Phil. 2.23, 56; Ov. Tr. 2.470 ff.; Dig. 11, tit. 5.) Three such laws occur in the Digest (l.c.)--the Leges Titia, Publicia, and Cornelia--and likewise a senatus consultum, and the praetor's edict; the latter enacting severe penalties on persons compelling others to gamble, and disabling the keepers of gambling-houses from bringing any action for damage or loss against their customers (cf. Ulpian, fr. 1). At what time the two former laws were passed is quite uncertain; but the Lex Cornelia was probably one of the laws of the dictator Sulla, who, we know, made several enactments to check the extravagance and expense of private persons. [SUMPTUS.] It has been inferred from the Miles Gloriosus (2.2, 9) that gaming must have been forbidden by law in Plautus' time; but the lex talaria (alearia, Ritschl) in this passage seems rather to refer to the laws of the game than to any public enactment. Those who were convicted of gaming were condemned to pay four times the sum they had staked (Pseudo-Ascon. in Cic. Div. § 24, p. 110, ed. Orelli), and became infames in consequence. We know that infamia was frequently a consequence of a judicial decision [INFAMIA]; and we may infer that it was so in this case from the expression of Cicero. ( “Hominem lege, quae est de alea, condemnatum, in integrum restituit,” Cic. Phil. l.c.). Games of chance were, however, tolerated in the month of December at the Saturnalia, a period of general relaxation (Mart. 4.14, 5.84; Gel. 18.13; Suet. Aug. 71); and public opinion allowed old men to amuse themselves in this manner (Plaut. Curc. 2.3, 75; Cic. de Sen. 16, 58). Under the empire gambling was carried to a great height (cf. Juv. 1.88-90); and the laws were probably little more than nominal. Many of the early emperors--Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, Vitellius, and Domitian--were very fond of gaming, and set but an evil example to their subjects in this matter (Suet. Aug. 70, 71; D. C. 59.22; Suet. Cal. 41, Claud. 33; D. C. 60.2; Suet. Dom. 21). Professed gamesters made a regular study of their art, and there were treatises on the subject, among which was a book written by the Emperor Claudius (Ov. Tr. 2.471; Suet. Claud. l.c.). All gaming was forbidden finally by Justinian (Cod. 3, tit. 43). (Walter, Geschichte d. röm. Rechts, § 763; Rein, Criminalrecht der Römer, p. 833.)

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