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SACRILE´GIUM the robbery of sacred things (Sen. de Ben. 7, 7; Isid. Orig. 5.26), is that form of peculatus which affects sacred property not in private hands: i. e. it is the robbery of anything publicly dedicated to the service of the gods. Hence the theft of anything from a private dwelling, though it might be dedicated to the gods, would be a furtum, not a sacrilegium (cf. Cic. de Invent. 8, 11). According to the Twelve Tables, “Sacrum sacroque commendatum qui cleperit rapsitque parricida esto” (Cic. de Leg. 2.9, 22), which does not mean that it was reckoned as parricidium, but that the sacrilegus was tried by the quaestores parricidii. In later times there were changes both in the procedure and in the definition of the crime. It was tried under the quaestiones perpetuae [PECULATUS; cf. Cic. Ver. 1.5, 14), and the crime of sacrilege, besides meaning robbery of temples, was extended to include damage or insult to anything consecrated, and so was made to refer to damage of the city walls, which were sacred (Cic. N. D. 3.4. 0, 94; Plut. Rom. 11), and even to climbing over them (Dig. 1, 8, 11); and further, under the Empire, to want of respect for the emperor or his appointments (Capit. Ant. Phil. 18; Cod. 9, 21, 1), though such offences were sufficiently dealt with under the law of Majestas. For the conception of what was sacrum, see Macrob. 3.3, 2; Dig. 1, 8, 6.3. The punishment of sacrilegium under the Lex Julia was interdictio aqua et igni, for which banishment (deportatio) was substituted: under the Empire heavier penalties were affixed--for breaking into temples by night, damnatio ad bestias or burning alive; for the same act by day, labour in the mines or banishment (Dig. 48, 13, 6). Compare Rein, Criminalrecht, 691; Rein in Pauly, Real Encyclop. s. v. Sacrilegium. (For sacrilege among the Greeks, see HIEROSYLIA.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.9
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 3.4
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 11
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