Revue Internationale des Droits de l'Antiquite, Ser. 3, Vol. 17 (1970), pp. 357-367


The very name, 'actio de pauperie', presents us squarely with the problem. Why should this action -- dealing with damage caused by animals -- and this action alone come to be called 'the action on poverty'? For the word 'pauperies' in the later Republic and the Empire does have the primary meaning of 'poverty'. This problem does not stand by itself. The 'actio de pauperie' is old, and goes back at least to the XII Tables. Why does it -- apparently at least -- give a remedy for damage of all kinds, whereas the later lex Aquilia of 287 B.C. (which deals with injury by human beings including slaves) provides an action in Chapter 1 only for the killing of slaves and 'pecudes' (animals which go in herds), and originally in Chapter 3 only for the killing of other animals and the wounding of all kinds of animals and slaves? Again, why does the Twelve Tables' provision seem to begin 'If a fourfooted animal caused pauperies, poverty' and not 'If a fourfooted animal caused 'damnum', financial loss'? The term 'damnum' seems prima facie much more reasonable, it existed at the time of the XII Tables and it is, naturally enough, used in the lex Aquilia. And, incidentally perhaps, why does the 'actio de pauperie' lie for injury cased by any fourfooted animal whereas Chapter 1 of the lex Aquilia gives an action for the killing of slaves and 'pecudes', but certainly not for the killing of other fourfooted animals? These problems form a group and will be together the primary subject of this paper.

Included in

Legal History Commons