VII[7arg] Why Gnaeus Dolabella, the proconsul, referred to the court of the Areopagus the case of a woman charged with poisoning and admitting the fact.
WHEN Gnaeus Dolabella was governing the province of Asia with proconsular authority, a woman of Smyrna was brought before him. This woman had killed her husband and her son at the same time by secretly giving them poison. She confessed the crime, and said that she had reason for it, since her husband and son had treacherously done to death another son of hers by a former husband, an excellent and blameless youth; and there was no dispute about the truth of this statement. Dolabella referred the matter to his council. No member of the council ventured to render a decision in so difficult a case, since the confession of the poisoning which had resulted in the death of the husband and son seemed to call for punishment, while at the same time a just penalty had thereby been inflicted upon two wicked men. Dolabella referred the question to the Areopagites 1 at Athens, as judges of greater authority and experience. The Areopagites, after having heard the case, summoned the woman and her accuser to appear after a hundred years. Thus the woman's crime was not condoned, for the laws did not permit that, nor, though guilty, was she condemned and punished for a pardonable offence. The story is told in the ninth book of Valerius Maximus' work on Memorable Occurrences and Sayings. 2 [p. 387]