This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
TIMAEUS, in the History 1 which he composed in the Greek language about the affairs of the Roman people, and Marcus Varro in his Human Antiquities, 2 wrote that the land of Italy derived its name from a Greek word, oxen in the old Greek tongue being called ἰταλοί; for in Italy there was a great abundance of cattle, and in that land pastures are numerous and grazing is a frequent employment. Furthermore, we may infer that it was for the same reason—namely, since Italy at that time so abounded in cattle—that the fine was established which is called “supreme,” consisting of two sheep and thirty oxen each day, obviously proportionate to the abundance of oxen and the scarcity of sheep. But when a fine of that sort, consisting of cattle and sheep, was pronounced by a magistrate, oxen and sheep were brought, now of small, again of greater value; and this made the penalty of the fine unequal. Therefore later, by the Aternian law, 3 the value of a sheep was fixed at ten pieces of brass, of the cattle at a hundred apiece. Now the “smallest” [p. 301] fine is that of one sheep. The “supreme” fine is of that number which we have mentioned, beyond which it is not lawful to impose a fine for a period of successive days; 4 and for that reason it is called “supreme,” that is, greatest and heaviest. When therefore even now, according to ancient usage, either the “smallest” or the “supreme” fine is pronounced by Roman magistrates, it is regularly observed that oves (“sheep”) be given the masculine gender; and Marcus Varro has thus recorded the words of the law by which the smallest fine was pronounced: 5 “Against Marcus Terentius, since, though summoned, he has neither appeared nor been excused, I pronounce a fine of one sheep (unum ovem）”; and they declared that the fine did not appear to be legal unless that gender was used. Furthermore, Marcus Varro, in the twenty-first book of his Human Antiquities, also says 6 that the word for fine (multa) is itself not Latin, but Sabine, and he remarks that it endured even to within his own memory in the speech of the Samnites, who are sprung from the Sabines. But the upstart herd of grammarians have asserted that this word, like some others, is used on the principle of opposites. 7 Furthermore, since it is a usage and custom in language for us to say even now, as the greater number of the early men did, multam dixit and multa dicta est, I have thought it not out of place to note that Marcus Cato spoke otherwise. 8 For in the fourth book of his Origins are these words: “Our commander, if anyone has gone to battle out of order, imposes (facit) a fine upon him.” But it may seem that Cato changed the word with an eye to propriety, since the fine was imposed in camp [p. 303] and in the army, not pronounced in the comitium or in the presence of the people.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.