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DECIMA´TIO

DECIMA´TIO was the selection, by lot, of every tenth man for capital punishment, when any number of soldiers in the Roman army had been guilty of certain military offences; usually cowardice, loss of standards in action, or mutiny. This punishment is not often mentioned in the early times of the republic; but the case of the consul App. Claudius and his mutinous army, B.C. 471, is recorded both by Livy (2.59) and Dionysius (9.50); the latter speaks of it as customary (πάτριος) for the offences named. Polybius notices it as usual when troops had given way to panic; the remainder were punished by having rations of barley instead of wheat served out to them, and by being made to lodge outside the camp (6.38). When however Crassus employed decimation in the servile war of Spartacus, he is described as having revived an ancient punishment which had long fallen into disuse (Plut. Grass. 10; cf. App. BC 1.118). In the civil wars it once more became common (D. C. 41.35, 48.42, 49.27, 38; Suet. Aug. 24: cf. Cic. Clu. 46.128; Frontin. Strat. 4.1.37), and was retained under the empire (Suet. Galb. 12; Tac. Hist. 1.37). Sometimes only the twentieth man was punished (vicesimatio), or the hundredth (centesimatio). (Capitol. Macrin. 12; Frontin. l.c. § 35. Cf. Marquardt, Staatsverw. 2.553.)

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