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SCRIPTU´RA 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. pro Flacco, 8, 18). Such parts were called pascua publica, saltus, or silva (cf. Verg. G. 3.323), 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. 10.23, 33.42, 35.10; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 5.283-294. 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 called scripturarius ager (Festus, s. v.), and the publicani and their servants scripturarii. Cattle sent on the pastures without registration (pecus inscriptum) were probably forfeited to the publicani (Plaut. Truc. 1.2, 48; Varro, R. R. 2.1). Public pastures were found in Italy (especially in Samnium, Lucania, and Apulia; Varro, l.c.; Liv. 39.29) and in the provinces (in Sicily, Cic. Ver. 2.3, 6; ib. 70, 171;--in Asia, Cic. pro Leg. Manil. 6, 14; ad Fam. 13, 65;--in 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. Domin. 10, 6).


hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.6
    • Cicero, On Pompey's Command, 6
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.323
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 23
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
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