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Deminutio Capĭtis

Diminution of civil rights and legal capacity. A term by which the Romans denoted degradation to an inferior civil condition, through the loss of the rights of freedom, citizenship, or family. The extreme form of it, deminutio capitis maxima, was entailed by the loss of freedom, which involved the loss of all other rights. This would occur if a Roman citizen were taken prisoner in war, or given up to the enemy for having violated the sanctity of an ambassador or concluding a treaty not approved of by the people. Or again if he was sold into slavery, whether by the State for refusing military service, or for declining to state the amount of his property at the census, or by his creditors for debt. If a prisoner of war returned home, or if the enemy refused to accept him when given up to them, his former civil rights were restored. The intermediate stage, deminutio capitis media or minor, consisted in loss of civil rights consequent on becoming a citizen of another State, or on a decree of exile confirmed by the people, or (in imperial times) on deportation. Restoration of the civil status was possible if the foreign citizenship were given up, or if the decree of exile were cancelled. The lowest grade (deminutio capitis minima) was the loss of hitherto existing family rights by emancipation (which involved leaving the family), adoption, or (if a girl) by marriage. See Caput.

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