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PERDUELLIO´NIS DUOVIRI (or, as Mommsen shows, more correctly called duoviri perduellioni judicandae) were two officers or judges appointed for the purpose of trying persons who were accused of the crime of perduellio. Niebuhr held that they were the same as the quaestores parricidii; but this view is undoubtedly erroneous, arising from the mistaken view that the latter term was the title for an office distinct from the ordinary quaestorship, whereas it was really only the full official title of that magistracy (Mommsen. Staatsr. 2.525). But while the quaestores were elected annually, the duoviri perduellionis were appointed only for a special occasion. We have very little information as to the duoviral process: only three cases of its employment are recorded; and there are difficulties attaching to all of them. In the first, the trial of P. Horatius under Tullius Hostilius (Liv. 1.26), while Livy expressly mentions the nomination of duo viri by the king, the account given from Ulpian in the Digest (1.13) assumes that they were quaestors, named by him after a vote of the people; while Festus, s. v. sororium, p. 297 M., agrees with Livy. In the second, that of M. Manlius, in B.C. 384, Livy (6.20), while describing it as a prosecution by the tribunes before a concilium plebis, adds, “sunt qui per duoviros qui de perduellione anquirerent creatos auctores sint damnatum.” Lange (1.278) proposes to reconcile the accounts, by supposing that the tribunes were elected to prosecute. Mommsen (Hermes, 5.253) assumes that Livy's second alternative rests on the older tradition. In the third case, the prosecution of C. Rabirius in B.C. 63 for the murder of Saturninus, thirty-six years before, we have an attempt to revive a long-disused procedure, in the interests of the democratic party, led by Caesar. Other cases of perduellio were conducted by tribunes or quaestors, but it is not expressly mentioned that they acted as duo viri. Whether duo viri were appointed, appears to have been determined in each instance by a special resolution of the people (Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.599). Sometimes they were elected by the people (cf. D. C. 37.27); but in the case of Rabirius the praetor appointed two taken by lot, but from what body we are not told, doubtless by the direction of the law specially enacted (Cic. pro Rab. perd. reo, 4, 12). The duo viri received a commission to try the case of perduellio, and to pass sentence if they found the prisoner guilty: both Livy, and still more strangely Cicero, seem to think that this commission assumed the guilt of the accused, and excluded the possibility of an acquittal,--an impossible view. But the sentence passed was liable to an appeal to the people, and in this case the duo viri appeared to support their decision, viz. virtually to act as prosecutors.

Trials for perduellio, if not previously obsolescent, as Mommsen thinks, in consequence of the growing practice of the tribunes to impeach before the centuries, certainly became quite obsolete after the more convenient quaestio perpetua dealt with offences of the same nature, under the more precise definition of majestas. But the term perduellio is found even in the Digest, though as a loose expression for the more serious kinds of majestas. (Cf. Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.598 ff.; Clark, Early Roman Law, § 12, and especially Cicero's oration pro Gaio Rabirio perduellionis reo, with Heitland's introduction and notes.)


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Cicero, For Rabirius on a Charge of Treason, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 26
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