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LIVY: History: Book VIII: XXVII

[Loeb translation, 1926]

On how imprisonment for debt ended in Rome as a result of a homosexual affair

In that year [AUC 428-326BCE) the liberty of the Roman plebs had as it were a new beginning; for men ceased to be imprisoned for debt. The change in the law was occasioned by the notable lust and cruelty of a single usurer, Lucius Papirius, to whom Gaius Publilius had given himself up for a debt owed by his father. The debtor`s youth and beauty, which might well have stirred the creditor's compassion, did but inflame his heart to lust and contumely. Regarding the lad's youthful prime as additional compensation for the loan be sought at first to seduce him with lewd conversation; later finding he turned a deaf ear to the base proposal he began to threaten him and now and again to remind him of his condition; at last, when he saw that the youth had more regard to his honourable birth than to his present plight, he had him stripped and scourged, The boy, all mangled with the stripes, broke forth into the street, crying out upon the money-lender's lust and cruelty; and a great throng of people, burning with pity for his tender years, and with rage for the shameful wrong he had undergone, and considering too, their own condition and their children's, rushed down into the Forum and from there in a solid throng to the Curia. The consuls were forced by the sudden tumult to convene the senate: and, as the Fathers entered the Curia, the people threw themselves at the feet of each, and pointed to the young boys mutilated back. On that day, owing to one man's outrageous injury, was broken a strong bond of credit, and the consuls were ordered to carry a proposal to the people that none should be confined in shackles or in the stocks, save those who, having been guilty of some crime, were waiting to pay the penalty; and that for money lent, the debtor's goods, but not his person, should be distrainable. So those in confinement were released, and it was forbidden that any should be confined thereafter.

HTML, Paul Halsall

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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]