the oldest form of revenue from ager publicus
(according to Pliny, Plin. Nat. 18.11
), was that portion of the
revenue of the Roman commonwealth which was derived from letting out part of
the ager publicus
as pasture-land (Cic.
8, 18). Such parts were called
pascua publica, saltus,
(cf. Verg. G.
), the last name pointing to the feeding of swine on acorns.
They were let, like other sources of vectigalia, by the censors to
publicani; and the persons who grazed cattle on the pastures (pecuarii
) had to pay a certain duty to the publicani
according to the number and size of the cattle. For fines levied on the
pecuarii who evaded this payment, see Liv.
; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 5.283
The leges Liciniae of 367 (App. the B.C.
1.8) and the
agrarian law of B.C. 111 set limits to the number of cattle which any one
person might graze on the public land: but it is hard to see why a limit
should have been imposed, when fees were regularly paid to publicani, and
when the publicani were therefore able to pay a large contract-sum into the
treasury; the more grazing, the higher the contract.
The amount of the duty is unknown, but the state revenue hence derived
through the publicani seems to have been very considerable. From registering
the cattle on the lists of the publicani (scribere
) came the name of the duty itself; the land itself was
(Festus, s. v.), and the publicani and
their servants scripturarii.
Cattle sent on the
pastures without registration (pecus
) were probably forfeited to the publicani (Plaut.
1.2, 48; Varro, R. R.
pastures were found in Italy (especially in Samnium, Lucania, and Apulia;
) and in the provinces (in Sicily,
Cic. Ver. 2.3, 6
; ib. 70, 171;--in Asia, Cic. pro Leg.
, 14; ad Fam.
Cyrene, Pliny, Plin. Nat. 19.39
Scriptura disappeared in Italy as the pastureland was assigned by agrarian
laws to individual owners, and the treasury thus lost a great source of
revenue. Even in the provinces the scriptura disappears under the Empire,
the emperors taking to themselves the nearly exclusive management and even
use of the pascua (Cod. Theod. de Pasc.
7, 7; de Greg.