The Death of Horatia

Classical Quarterly, New Ser., Vol. 29, No. 2 (1979), pp. 436-447


Central to any understanding of archaic Roman criminal law is the trial, as recorded by Livy, of Horatius for killing his sister. It is not just that the case raises so many legal issues; the jurisdiction of the father (paterfamilias) and of the king, the institution of a separate state procedure with two judges (the duoviri), the right of appeal to the people, the scope of the crime of perduellio (usually roughly translated as 'treason') and of parricidium, murder, and the use of sacral punishment. But also, on the ability to determine how accurate for the period of King Tullus Hostilius is this account of law and legal procedure will depend our wider appreciation of the reliability of the sources. It must be admitted that almost all modern scholars regard Livy's account as quite untrustworthy.