University of Belgrade Faculty of Law
THE ORIGIN OF THE CRIME OF DEFAMATION
According to the dominant view among scholars of Roman law, a public delict protecting the honour of Romans existed in the Twelve Tables. Allegedly, it was later modified by Sulla’s legal reform at the beginning of the first century BC. The aim of this paper is to challenge these views using the available sources. The results indicate a lack of sources on criminal protection of honour until the time of Augustus. Then it was limited to persons of higher standing in cases where the success of a private suit was uncertain. Offensive libels were punished by deportation from Rome and by capital punishment in 365 AD at the latest, when they were mentioned in a constitution of Emperors Valentinian I and Valens. The criminal procedure was mentioned for the first time in 478 AD in a constitution of Emperor Zeno. It was allowed only to the illustres, the highest officials and to the members of their families. One could assume that the crime protecting the honour (and body) appeared at the same time, but only for those of the highest social rank. The applied methods are linguistic, systemic and historical interpretation of the sources.