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[6arg] That what Verrius Flaccus wrote about servus recepticius, in his second book On the Obscurities of Marcus Cato, is false.


MARCUS CATO, when recommending the Voconian law, 1 spoke as follows: 2 “In the beginning the woman brought you a great dowry; then she holds back a large sum of money, which she does not entrust to the control of her husband, but lends it to her husband. Later, becoming angry with him, she orders a servus recepticius, or ' slave of her own,' to hound him and demand the money.”

The question was asked what was meant by servus recepticius. At once the books of Verrius Flaccus On the Obscurities of Cato were asked for and produced. In the second book was found the statement 3 that servus recepticius was the name applied to a slave that was worthless and of no value, who, after being sold, was returned because of some fault and taken back. “Therefore,” says Flaccus, "a slave of that kind was bidden to hound her husband and demand the money, in order that the man's vexation might be greater, and the insult put upon him still more bitter, for the very reason that a worthless slave dunned him for the payment of money.

But with the indulgence and pardon of those, if such there be, who are influenced by the authority of Verrius Flaccus, this must be said. That recepticius servus in the case of which Cato is speaking is something very different from what Verrius wrote. And this is easy for anyone to understand; for the situation is undoubtedly this: when the woman [p. 225] gave the dowry to her husband, what she retained of her property and did not give over to her husband she was said to “hold back” (recipere), just as now also at sales those things are said to be “held back” which are set aside and not sold. This word Plautus also used in the Trinumnus in this line: 4

But when he sold the house, this little place
Behind it he held back (recepit).
That is, when he sold the house, he did not sell a small part which was behind the house, but held it back. Cato himself too, wishing to describe the woman as rich, says: “The woman brings a great dowry and holds back a large sum of money”; that is, she gives a great dowry and retains possession of a large sum of money. From that property then which she kept for herself after giving her dowry, she lent money to her husband. When she happened to be vexed with her husband and determined to demand the money back, she appoints to demand it from him a seruves recepticius, that is, a slave of her very own, whom she had held back with the rest of the money and had not given as part of her dowry, but had retained; for it was not right for the woman to give such an order to a slave of her husband, but only to one of her very own.

I forbear to say more in defence of this view of mine; for the opinion of Verrius and mine are before you, each by itself; anyone therefore may adopt whichever of the two seems to him the truer.

[p. 227]

1 His recommendation of this law is also mentioned by Cicero, Cato Mai. 14, who discusses some features of the law in Verr. ii. 1. 101 ff.; see also xx. 1. 23, below. The law, which in general had to do with inheritances, has been the subject of much discussion; one of its provisions was that no one should make a woman his heir.

2 p. 54, 5, Jordan.

3 p. xvi, Müller.

4 v. 194.

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