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BENEFIC´IUM, BENEFICIA´RIUS. The word beneficium is of frequent occurrence in the Roman law, in the sense of some special privilege or favour granted by the praetor or the emperor to a class of persons on some special ground of equity: e. g. beneficium abstinendi, beneficium divisionis ex epistola Hadriani, beneficium competentiae, beneficium aetatis, beneficium inventarii. But the word was also used in other senses, and the meaning of the term in feudal law, where it is equivalent to feodum or fief (see below), is clearly derivable from the signification of the term among the Romans of the later republican and earlier imperial times. In the time of Cicero it was usual for a general, or a governor of a province, to report to the treasury the names of those under his command who had done good service to the state: those whose names were entered in such report were said in beneficiis ad aerarium deferri (Cic. pro Arch. ch. 5, ad Fam. 5.20, and the note of Manutius). It was required by a Lex Julia that the names should be given in within thirty days after the accounts of the general or governor. In beneficiis in these passages may mean that the persons so reported were considered as persons who had deserved well of the state, and so the word beneficium may have reference to the services of the individuals; but as the object for which their services were reported was the benefit of the individuals, it seems that the term had reference to the gratuity in the form of money or presents given for such services. The honours and offices of the Roman state, in the republican period, were called the beneficia of the populus Romanus.

Beneficium also signified any promotion conferred on or grant made to soldiers, who were thence called beneficiarii: this term was a common one, as we see from inscriptions in Gruter (51.4, 130.5), in some of which the word beneficiarius is represented by the two letters B. F. In this sense we must understand the passage of Caesar (de Bell. Civ. 2.18) when he speaks of the magna beneficia and the magnae clientelae of Pompeius in Citerior Spain. Beneficiarius is also used by Caesar (de Bell. Civ. 1.75) to express the person who had received a beneficium. It does not, however, appear from these passages, what the beneficium actually was. It might be any kind of honour, or special exemption from service (de Bell. Civ. 3.88; Sueton. Tib. 12; Vegetius, de Re Militari, 2.7).

Beneficiarius is opposed by Festus (s. v.) to munifex, in the sense of one who is released from military service, as opposed to one who is bound to do military service.

Grants of land and other things made by the Roman emperors were called beneficia, and were entered in a book called Liber Beneficiorum (Hyginus, de Limitibus Constit. p. 193, Goes.). The secretary or clerk who kept this book was called a commentariis beneficiorum, as appears from an inscription in Gruter (dlxxviii. 1).

It was the practice of the kings and leaders of the tribes which took possession of the western provinces of the Roman empire to grant lands to their nobles to be held generally for life on condition of special personal service. Lands so granted were called beneficia. From about the end of the 9th century, when beneficia became hereditary and subject to subinfeudation, they were also called feoda or feuds (Feud. lib. 2, tit. 1), the two words being used indifferently to denote the same condition of landed property. (Guizot, Histoire de la Civilisation en France, vol. iii. p. 247.) The beneficiarius is he who has a beneficium. Grants made for the purpose of endowing churches were called beneficia: hence the word benefice came to be applied to an ecclesiastical preferment. (Ducange, Gloss.

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