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Rufus’ military rights

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Thanks to the work of Johann Lowenklau, we have the opportunity to get acquainted with the collection of military rights commonly referred to as Rufus’ military rights. This collection was one of the three codices attached to the Eclipse, and it is thanks to the aforementioned German scholar that we have survived to our times. 

He translated it from Greek and Latin and then attached it to the second volume of a set of Byzantine laws published in 1596 (Iuris Graeco-Romani tomi duo). Most of the text of the set of laws has been translated from Greek into medieval Latin, but this does not apply to Rufus’ Laws, which appear to be written in Latin. We can not, however, state if the Latin text is entirely original, or Lowenklau translated it into Latin then1.

We can not say Rufus’s identity with absolute certainty, although there are several theories. One of them says that the author of Rufus’s Rights is the same person who wrote the work Strategica containing a description of the military strategies of different peoples. It can be concluded that the author of both works had to be a person with high military qualifications. However, it seems strange that a person with such a high military knowledge, survived until the Middle Ages only in the form of the first name, while many Roman historians or strategists are still alive today. Therefore, it should be taken into account that it could only be a nickname added to2.

It is very possible that this codex comes from a much earlier period, that is, the second century BCE. This theory says it was written by the consul of 105 BCE Publius Rutilius Rufus. He was a rhetoric, a statesman and, above all, he had extensive military experience that would allow him to write a complete military regulation3.

Below is the text of “Rufus’ military rights” in Latin and with English translation by William Thurman from 1961, which can be found in C.E. Brand under the title “Roman Military Laws”.

Leges Militares

  1. Deportatus in insulam, si poenam effugiens operam dedit ipse, ut militiae adscriberetur; vel deportatum se dissimulans, inter milites legi sustinuit: capite punitur. Ad tempus autem relegatus siqiudem ipse sponte sua militiae nomen dederit, in insulam deportatur: sin re dissimulata, se militiae adscribi passus fuerit, perpetuo relegatur. Si vero quis ad tempus relegatus, et fuga declinato supplicio, postquam exsilii tempus expletum fuerit, militiae se dederit: ex qua caussa damnatus sit exsilio, quaerimus; ac si quidem ea perpetuam irrogat infamiam, idem obseruamus.

Any person deported to an island who contrives to be enrolled in the army in order to escape punishment, or who, concealing the fact that he has been deported, allows himself to be enrolled in the army, shall be punished with death. Any person teporarily exiled who voluntarily enlists in the army shall be deported to an island; but if, concealing his status, he merely permits himself to be enrolled in the army, he shall be exiled for life. If any person temporarily exiled escapes punishment by flight, and after the time of exile has expired enlists in the army, we must look into the cause for which he was conemned to exile; if for cause involving perpetual infamy, we shall observe the same.

  1. Qui cum infamia, ex quaecumque caussa, missi sunt; nullum honorem obtinere vel gerere possunt.

Person who have been dishonorably discharged, for whatever cause, can neither occupy nor administer any public office.

  1. Adulterii, vel alio crimine publico damanti, non admittuntur, si militare velint.

Adulterers or those convicted of any other public crime shall not be accepted if they wish to serve in the army.

  1. Si miles cum adultero uxoris suare pactus fuerit, exauctoratur, et proscribitur.

If a soldier compound the crime with the adulterer of his wife, he shall be dismissed from the service and proscribed.

  1. Damnatus supplicio capitali, vel exisilio, vel alio crimine publico, tametsi supplicium effugere potuerit, numquam tamen militare potest.

Any person condemned to death, or to exile, or otherwise of a public crime, even though he may have been able to escape punishment, can nevertheless never serve in the army.

  1. Milites neque procuratores, neque conductores, neque fideiussores suie mandatores alenorum negotiorum fiunt.

Soldiers shall not become agents, or contractors, or sureties, or trusees of the affairs of others.

  1. Milites nec agriculturae vacent, aut mercaturae, nec ciuilem in se curationem recipiant: alioqui militiam, et militaria priuilegia amittunt.

Soldier shall not be free to engage in farming or merchandising, nor can they undertake the responsibilities of civial office: if they do they shall be dismissed from the service and forfeit their military privileges.

  1. Miles, ubi militat, praedium non emit; nisi paternum a fisco.

A soldier shall not purchase a landed estate where he serves, unless it be to redeem his ancestral estate from the Treasury

  1. Qui peccat in principiem, gladio feritur, et proscribitur; et memoria eius post mortem damnatur

He who transgresses agasint the sovereign shall be smitten with the sword and proscribed, and his memory shall be condemned after his death.

  1. Si qui coniurationem, aut factionem, aut seditionem moliri aduersus praesidem suum fuerint, quacumque de caussa; capitali supplicio subiicientur, praesertim ii, qui capita et auctores coniurationis ait seditionis exstiterint

Those who dare to form a conspiracy or plot or to foment mutiny agasint their commander, from whatever cause, shall be subject to capital punisment, espiecially those who are identified as authors and leaders of the conspiracy or mutiny.

  1. Si miles quincurioni suo non paruerit, sed aduersando restiterit; castigator. Similiter et quincurio, si decurioni suo non oboediuerit: et decurio, si non paruerit suo centurioni. Si vero legionarius quispiam resistere praesidi suo maiori, hoc est, vel tribuno fuerit ausus; extremo supplicio subiicitior. Omnis enim contumacia militis aduersus ducem vel praesidem, capitale supplicium irrogat.

If a soldier does not obey his quincurion, but sets himself in opposition, he shall be chastised; and likewise for the quincurion who is not obedient toward the decurion, and the decurion who does not obey his centurion. If any legionary dare resist his superior officer, that is to say a count or tribune, he shall suffer the supreme penalty. For all insuborditation of a soldier toward a commanding general or commander-in-chief-call for capital punisment.

  1. Si quis audito decurionis sui mandato, id non obseruarit; castigator. Si vero mandata ignorans, lapsus sit; decurio castigator, quod eum non praemonuerit.

Any person who hears the order of his decurion and fails to observe it shall chastised; but if he errs through ignorance of the order, the decurion shall be chastised for failure to instruct him in the first place.

  1. Si miles ab aliquo laesus fuerit, ad praesidem legionis querelam deferat. Quod si ab ipso praeside iniuria fuerit adfectus, eo nomine praesidem maiorem adeat.

If a soldier is wronged by anyone he should make a complaint to the commander of his legion. But if the wrong has been done by the commander himself, he should go to higer commander about it.

  1. Si quis militum praeposito suo manus intulerit, capite punitor.

If any person raises his hand agasint his commander-in-chief he shall be punished with death.

  1. Si miles praesidi suo, verberare volenti, restiterit; siquidem virgam dumtaxat tenuit, militia pellitur; sin eam ex indistria fregit, aut praesidi manus intulit, capite punitur.

If a soldier resists his commander who is about to flog him, if it be only to hold the rod and nothing more, he shall be dismissed from the service; but if he purposely break it, or raise his hand against his commander, he shall be punished with death.

  1. Si quis atrocem militum seditionem concitauerit, capite punitur. Sin autem vsque ad vociferationem dimtaxat tumultum militarem mouerit, aut si intra nudam querelam aduersus aliquos excitata seditio fuerit: tunc gradu militiae deiicitur. Et quum milti milites simul in aliquod flagitium conspirauerint, vel si legio defecerit, exauctorari solent.

If a person incites violent insurrection among the soldiers, he shall be punished with death; but if he incite a disorderly gathering of soldiers to loud clamor, and nothing more, or if the disorder excited is merely a complaint agasint other persons, then he shall be reduced in rank. When a number of soldiers conspire together in any outrage, or if a legion defect, they are customarily dismissed from the service.

  1. Si quis vsque ad vociferationem dumtaxat tumultum militarem excitauerit, vel si plures in hoc conspirauerint; acriter caesi militia pelluntur. Sin quis atrocem militum seditionem accenderit, caput ei praeciditur.

If a person incites a disorderly gathering of soldiers to loud shouting, and nothing more, or if several conspire in doing so, they shall be severly beaten and discharged from the service. But any person who inflames violent insurrection of the soldiers shall be behaeded.

  1. Miles pacis perturbator, capite punitur.

A soldier who disturbs the peace shall be pusnied with death.

  1. Seditionum auctores, et qui populum concitant, pro meriti sui qualitate vel gladio feriuntur, vel relegantur.

Instigators of munity and those who inflame the populace shall, according to the merits of their station, either be put to the sword or banished.

  1. Si quis cum militibus, aut priuatis, aut barbaris inita coniuratione, senatorium vel militem quemdam occiderit; laese maiestatis damnator, et capitale supplicium sustineto, facultatibus eius publicatis.

If any person  in conspiracy with soldeirs, private citizens, or foreigners, kills any person of senatorial rank, or a soldier, he shall be condemned for high treason, put to death, and his property confiscated.

  1. Si quis militem vel collatorem damno adfecerit, in dupla quantitate damnum hoc passo restituet. Sin qualiscumque praeses aut miles in hibernis, vel in transitu, vel in sedetis militem vel collatorem damno adfecerit, nec ei damnum, ceu decet, resarciuerit; in dupla quantitate rem ipsam damnum passo restituet.

If any person inflicts damage upon a soldier or taxpayer, he shall restore to the injured party double the amount of the damage. If any commander or soldier in winter quarters, or on the march, or in camp inflicts injury upon a soldeir or a taxpayer, and fails to make appropriate amends for the damage done, he shall likweise restore to the injured party double amount of the damage.

  1. Miles, qui commilitonem suum gladio vulnerat, caput amittit.

A soldier who wounds his comreade with a sword shall be beheaded.

  1. Qui lapide commilitonem vulnerauit, aut ex industria seipsum, nisi fugines corporis dolorem, aut morbum, aut mortem, hoc in se admiserit, verberatus militia reiicitur.

Any person who wounds his fellow-soldier with a strone, or deliberately wounds himself, unless he does this to himself to escape body suffering, sickness, or death, shall be flogged and dischared from the service

  1. Si miles seipsum vulnerauerit, vel alio quo modo mortem sibi consciuerit; si quidem corporis dolorem sentiebat, vel morbo, vel furore adductus id fecit, adeoquoe prae pudore mori maluit: capitis supplicium sane non patitur, sed cum ignomina mittitur. Si vero nihil tale praetendebat, quoniam seipsum occidere conatus est, capite punitur.

If a soldier wounds himself, or in any other way attempts to take his own life: if suffering from physical pain, or if he is driven to it by sickness or madness, or if he preferred death to disgrace, then of course he is not put to death, bit is dishonorably discharged. If, on the other hand, he offers nothing of the sort as a defense for having attempted to kill himself, then he shall be punished with death.

  1. Si miles aciei structae, vel pugnae, tempore stationem vel bandum suum reliquerit, et fugerit; aut ex loco, quo constitutus erat, prosilierit, et cadauer spoliarit, aut ad persequendum hostem temere procurrerit: eum capite puniri iubemus, et omna, quae ab ipso, ceu vero est simile, siblata fuerint, auferri; et communitati legionis dari: quum aciei ordinem ipse dissoluerit, et hoc modo sociis suis insidias parauerit.

If a soldier of the line of battle abandon his post or his battle standard, and flees; or of he dash out from the place where he has beed posted and despoil a corpse, or if he rush out heedlessly to pursue the enemy, we order that he shall be punished with death, and all which it appears that he has taken shall be taken from him and given to the community share of the legion, since it was he who broke the line of the battle and in this was laid a snare for his comrades.

  1. Si proelii publici vel pugnae tempore fuga facta fuerit absque iusta quadam et eiudento caussa; iubemus, vt… milites illius legionis, quae prima fugit, et statione sua, pro parte sua scilicet cessit, quotquot… ad pugnam ordinati fuere, decimentur; et a reliquis legionibus iaculis configantur: vt qui ordinem acieci dissoluerint, et auctores fugae ceterorum exstiterint. Si vero quosdam ex ipsis in pugna, ceu credible est, sauciari contigerit: hos eiusmondi criminis expertes esse iubemus.

If during a general action, or in time of the battle, a retreat occurus without a justifiable and manifest cause, we order that the soldiers of that legion which first turned in flight and, of course, on its own responsibility abandoned its station, shall, in such number as were in the line of battle, be decimated; and that they shall be run through with spears by the other legions fro braking the line of the battle and causing the flight of others. If any of these, as may happen, sustained wounds in the battle, they sall be exempted from this kind of punishment.

  1. Si bandum ab histibus, absque iusta quadam et manifesta caussa, fuerit interceptum; iubemus, vt ii, quibus custodia bandi credita fuit, castigentur; et vltimi fiant inter eos, qui ipsis subiiciebantur, hoc est, in iis scholis, ad quas referuntur. Si vero quosdam ex ipsis pugnates sauciari contigerit, hi ab eiusmodi poena seruentur immunes.

If a standard is captured by the enemy without justifiable and manifest cause, we order that they to whom the custody of the standard was entrusted shall be chastised; and that they shall be reduced to the bottom of the list of their own subordinates, that is, in the inferior units to which they are transferred. If it so happen that some of them have been wounded in te battle, these shall not be subject to this kind of punishment.

  1. Si fossato adhuc integro, fuga partis, vel aciei totius acciderit, et milites in fugam acti nec ad defensores cucurrerint, nec ad ipsum fossatum sese receperint, sed id negligentes alium in locum abierint: iubemus, vt hoc facere audented puniantur, veluti qui et sociorum non habuerint, et consternationis auctores exstiterint.

If, while the fortifications are still intact, there is a retreat of part or all of the battle line, and the soldiers set into retreat do not join with the defenders of the works, or retire to their own defensive positions but, ignoring the fortifications, pass on elsewhere, we order those who so dare shall be punished for want of consideration of thei comrades and for causing the ensuing panic.

  1. Si miles tempore pugnae arma sua abiecerit, puniri eum iubemus, veluti qui et seipsum nudarit, et hosted armarit.

If a soldier throws away his arms in time of the battle, we order him punished both for disarming himself and arming the enemy.

  1. Si quis in bello rem sibi prohibitam a duce suo fecerit, vel ab eo sibi mandata non impleuerit; capite punitor, etiamsi rem bene gesserit.

If any person, in war, commits an act that is forbidden by his commander or fails to execute a command, he shall be punished with death, even if his mission is successfully accomplished.

  1. Qui primus in acie fugit in conspectu militum, capite punitur.

Whoever in the battle line first takes to flight shall be put to death in the sight of the soldiers.

  1. Qui de statione sua in pugna excesserit, aut fustibus caeditur, aut militiam suam mutat.

Any person who quits his post in battle shall be either beaten with cudgels or changed in brach of service.

  1. Si quis vallum sibi adsignatum excesserit, aut per murum castra fuerit ingressus; poena capitis adficitur. Si vero fossam castrorum transiliat, militiam amititt.

If any person quits the rampart assigned to him, or enters the camp over the wall, he shall suffer death. If he jumps over the trench he shall be dismissed from the service.

  1. Miles, qui militiam suam deserit, aut flagris caeditur, aut militia sua mouetur.

A soldier who deserts his own branch of the service shall either be flogged with a whip or transferred out of his branch of service.

  1. Si militer praepositum suum deseruerint, vel ab hostibus compraehendi permiserint; nec, quum seruare possent, protexrint; atque hinc eum mori cotigerit: capite puniuntur.

If soldier abandons their commander, or permit him to be captured by the enemy, or if they do not protect him when they could do so, and for this reason he is killed, they shall be punished with death.

  1. Si quis, cui custodia vel vrbis vel castrorum credita fuerit, ea prodiderit; aut quum ea defendere posset, praeter voluntatem praesidis sui, vel extra necessitatem at vitae periculum tendentem, inde recesserit: capitis supplicio damnabitur.

If any person to whom the custody of either a city or camp has been entrusted betrays such trust, or when able to defend them withdraw from them without authority of his commander, or without necessity in the form of compelling danger to his life, he shall be condemned to the punishment of death.

  1. Destinatus ad custodiam palatii, si excubias in eo faciundas deseruerit; vltimo supplicio adficitur, aut quid humanitatis impetret, verbaratus militia reiicitur.

If a person detailed as palace guard desert his watch while on duty therein, he shall suffer the supreme penalty, or if he obtain mercy he shall be flogged and dismissed from the service.

  1. Si qui personas custodientes, per negligentiam eas amiserint; aut verberantur, aut pro modo delicti militiam suam amittere debent. Quod si miseratione personas dimiserint, militia reiiciuntur. Sin fraude, capite puniuntur, vel in extremum gradum militiae siae detrundutur.

If guards of prisoners, through negligence, allow them to escape, they shall either be flogged, or, according to the degree of the offense, be dismissed from the service. If they let the prinosers go through pity, they shall be dismissed from the servicel but if with evil intent, they shall be punished with death or be reduced to the lowest grade of their service.

  1. Milites, qui ex custodia fugerint, siquidem ruptis vinculis, aut parte carceris laxata, vel alio dolo contra custodes adhibitio, fugam eiusmodi pararint: capite puniuntur. Sine autem illorum negligentia, quibus custodia credita fuit, euaserint; mitius punintur.

Soldiers who escape from custody as prisoners, if they prepare for flight by breaking their shackles, or by breaking open some part of the prison, or by practicing some other deceit upon the keepers, they shall be punished with death. But if they escape through the negligence of the keepers to whom they have been entrusted, they shall be punished less severely.

  1. Militi, qui puellae vim adtulerit, et stuprauerit eam, nares abscindutor: data puellae tertia militis facultatum parte.

A soldier who takes a girl by force and rapes her shall have his nose cut off, and the girl shall be given a third part of his property.

  1. Qui furantur in fossato, siquidem arma subtraxerint, acriter verberantur, aut duriter ac magna vi flagellantur. Sin iumenta furati fuerint, manus eis abscindunturl quia iumenta magis necessaria sunt, quam arma. Nam haec dumtaxat ad pugnam, illa vero quouis tempore sunt vtilia.

Those who commit theft in camp, if they take arms, shall be flogged severely with rods, or severely and with great force with a whip; but if they steal pack animals their hands shall be cut off, because pack animals are more necessary than arms. For arms are useful only in battle, while pack animals are useful at all times.

  1. Miles, qui quocumque loco, quamcumque speciem furatur, et duplum praestat, et militia reiicitur.

A soldier who steals anything whatever at any place whatever shall restore it twofold and be dismissed from the service.

  1. Si qiu iumentum, aliamve speciem, paruam aut magnam, inuenerit; eamque non manifestauerit, et praesidi suo tradiderit: tam ipse veluti fur, quam conscii, qui rem caelauerunt, castigator.

If any person finds a stray animal, or anything else, great or small, and does not report it and turn it over to his commander, he shall be chastised as a thief, and likewise those privy to the matter who conceal it.

  1. Miles arma aliena surripiens, militiae gradu detruditur.

A soldier who steals the arms of another shall be reduced in military rank.

  1. Militibus, qui in vino, et ebrietate, vel ex alia quapiam lasciuia labuntur et peccant, capitis quidem poena remittiur; sed militiae mutatio irrogatur.

Capital punishment shall be remitted in the case of soldiers who err and transgress on account of wine and drunkenness or other such licentiousness; but they must be transferred to another branch of service.

  1. Annonam exercitui missam nemo comparare potest. Qui comparauerit, si honestus et dignitate constitutus est, proscribitur; sin humulis, capite punitur.

No one can buy provisions that are sent to the army. Such a buyer if of high rank and dignity of position, shall be proscribed; but if of humble station he shall be punished with death.

  1. Praepositi, et qui quocumque modo conseruatores sunt exercitus, si pecuniam a praediis extorserint; in duplum condemnatur.

Commanders or those who are in any way charged with the maintenance of the army who extort money from landed estates shall be fined twice such amount.

  1. Maior militis defuncti filius in locum patris sui succedit, et easdem annonas accipit.

The eldest son of a deceased soldier shall succeed to his father’s place and receive the same pay.

  1. Qui hostes lacessit, aut civem Romanum hostibus prodit, extremo supplicio obnoxius est.

Any person who provokes the enemy or betrays to the enemy a Roman citizen shall be subject to the supreme punishment.

  1. Quisquis militiam detrectauerit, militariter punitur. Nam grace delictum est, militiae munera detrectare. Qui enim vocantur, vt militent, atque aufugiunt; tamquam propriae libertatis proditores in seruitutem rediguntur.

Whoever evades military service shall receive military punishment. For it is a grievous transgression to evade the duties of military service. Those therefore who are called to serve, and who evade such call, shall be reduced to slavery as betrayers of their own freedom.

  1. Si quis filium suum belli tempore subtraxerit militiae, et relegatur, et parte patrimonii siu publicata multatur. Si quis autem filium suum belli tempore debilitarit, vt inhabilis ad militiam inueniatur; in exsilium mittitur.

If any person removes his son from the army in time of war, he shall be banished and a part of his estate confiscated. But if he disables his son in time of war, so that he will be found unfit fir military service, he shall be sent into exile.

  1. Quicumque metu hostium languorem corporis simulauerit, capite punitor.

Whoever, from fear of the enemy, feigns bodily ailment, shall be punished with death.

  1. Ei exploratores Romani exercitus, hostbus secreta Romanorum consilia nuntiauerint; capite puniuntur.

If scouts of the Roman army reveal secret plans of the Romans to the enemy, they shall be punished with death.

  1. Si quis vagari fuerit ausus vltra diem commeatus, et militia reiicietur, et ut paganus ciulibus magistratibus tradetur.

If any person dares continue absent beyond the expiration of his furlough, he shall be dismissed from the service and, as a civilian, turned over to the civil authorities.

  1. Si quis belli tempore militem dimittere cum commaetu fuerit ausus, triginta solidorum poenam praestet. Quo vero tempore miles in hibernis agit, duorum aut trium mensium commeatum habeat. Pacis autem tempore, pro distantia prouinciae commeatus militi conceduntor.

If any person dares permit a soldier to go on furlough in time of war he shall be subject to a fine thirty solidi. When in winter quartert, on the other hand, a soldeir may have a furlough of   two or three months. But in time of peace furloughs are granted in accordance with the remonteness of the province.

  1. Si miles  bellum instare sciens, vagatus fuerit, vel a fossato recesserit, vel primus in acie fugerit in conspectu militum, vel arma sua perdiderit, aut vendiderit; capitis supplicio multatur. Sin humaniorem sententiam obtinuerit, verbaratus militiam mutat.

A soldier who goes absent knowning that war is at hand, or who withdraws from the ramparts, or who is the first in the battle line to flee in the sight of the soldiers, or who loses or sells his arms, shall suffer capital punishment; but if grandet mercy he shall be flogged and transferred to another branch of the service.

  1. Si quis inito consilio transfugiendi ad barbaros, comprehensus fuerit: etiam ipse capite punitur.

If any person plots to desert to the barbarians and is apprehended, he shall surely suffer death.

  1. Profugus tempore belli, capite punitur: tempore vero pacis, si eques sit, gradum mutat; si pedes, militia reiicitur.

A fugitive in time of war shall be punished with death. In time of peace, however, he shall be demoted in rank in cavalryman, or dismissed from the service if a foot soldier.

  1. Qui ad barbaros proficiscitur, aut ipsis occasione legationis venientibus, arma vel laborata vel illaborata vendit, aut qualecumque ferrum; vltimo supplicio obnoxius est.

Any person who goes out to the barbarians, or on the occasion of their coming to him as emissaries, sells them finished or unfinished arms, or iron of any sort, shall be subject to the supreme punishment.

  1. Transfugae, et qui consilia nostra hostibus nuntiant; comburuntur, aut furca suspenduntur.

Deserters to the enemy and those who reveal our plans to the enemy shall be burned alive or hanged upon the gibbet.

  1. Eos, qui ex partibus Romanis ad hostes aufugiunt, impune licet vt hostes occidere.

Those who flee from the Roman side to the enemy may be killed with impunity, ad enemies.

  1. Si quis conuictus fuerit semetipsum histibus dedere voluisse vltimo supplicio subiicietur: nec ipse dumtaxat, sed & facti conscii, qui id reticuerint.

If any person is convicted of having wished to surrender himself to the enemy, he shall be subject to the supreme punishment; and not merely he, but any of his confidants who may have kept the matter secret.

  1. Qui ad hosted aufugit, et rediit; torquetur, et vel ad bestias datur, vel ad furcam condemnatur.

Any person who flees to the enemy and returns shall be tortured and either given to wild beast or condemned to the gibbet.

  1. Servus, qui ab hostibus capitur, et ita reuertitur, vt rupturas membrorum, quas ab eis pro republica passus est, ostendat; staim liber esto. Qiu vero absque ruptura reiertiru, ad quinquennium domino suo seruiat. Qui denique sponte transfugerit, et reuersus fueritl ad totum vitae tempus seruus esto.

A slave who is captured by the enemy and on his return can show broken limbs that he has suffered for the state, shall be set free at once. But if he return without such a break he shall serve his master for a period of five years. If he voluntarily deserts to the enemy and is brought back, he shall be a slave for the rest of his life.

  1. Homo liber ab histibus redemtus, et laribus suis restitutus, si ad prestandum pretium, de quo conuenit, locuples est; liber dimittatur. Sin est inops, apud emtorem mercanarius sit, donec impleta fuerit, quae pactus erat.

A free man ransomed from the enemy and restored to his home, if he has sufficient means to restore the agreed ransome, he shall be set free. But if he is without means he shall work for his ransomer until he has earned the agreed amount.

Although this code has probably never been officially in force, it gives us an extremely important source of knowledge in the field of past penalties and crimes. It can be safely said that these provisions are very accurate, casuistic, but at the same time their number covers a very wide range of prohibited acts.

The Rufus codec focuses primarily on the person of the soldier and the crimes he could have committed, but not only. We can find points that refer directly to slaves or civilians, which testifies to the author’s fairly wide point of view on military matters, because he noticed that during the war not only a soldier can commit treason or other crime related to military activities.

It is also worth to look at the similarity between the Rufus code and the Justinian digests. If the author, Rufus, was indeed the consul of 105 BCE Rutilius Rufus, and the provisions of his authorship have retained their significance for the most part, making only a change in the scope of the nomenclature, so that it corresponds to its time.

As an example, you can use point 8 of the Rufus code and the appropriate part of digestions.

  1. Miles, ubi militat, praedium non emit; nisi paternum a fisco.

A soldier shall not purchase a landed estate where he serves, unless it be to redeem his ancestral estate from the Treasury

Digesta 49.16.9

Milites probibentur praedia comparare in bis provinciis, in quibus militant: praeterquem si paterna eorum fiscus distrabat: nam banc speciem Severus et Antoninus remiserunt

Soldiers are forbidden to purchase land in the provinces in which they serve, except where property of their parents is sold by the Treasury; for Severus and Antoninus made an exception under such circumstances4

There is no doubt that the similarities between the two articles are quite visible here. Nevertheless, you can try to combine them even more. Assuming like C.E. Brand5 that both provisions carry the same meaning, you can do a slightly different translation of Article 8:

A soldier may not buy a landed estate where he serves, except he may buy back his ancestral estate from the Treasury6

In this case, there is no chance of the case, because the two laws are clearly identical despite the years separating them.

Another example of the similarity between the Rufus code and Digesti is Article 50, which speaks of a crime of evading military service.

  1. Quisquis militiam detrectauerit, militariter punitur. Nam grace delictum est, militiae munera detrectare. Qui enim vocantur, vt militent, atque aufugiunt; tamquam propriae libertatis proditores in seruitutem rediguntur.

Whoever evades military service shall receive military punishment. For it is a grievous transgression to evade the duties of military service. Those therefore who are called to serve, and who evade such call, shall be reduced to slavery as betrayers of their own freedom.

Oraz analogiczny tekst z Digestów:


Gravius autem delictum est detrectare munus militiae quam adpetere: nam et qui ad dilectum olim non respondebant, ut proditores libertatis in servitutem redigebantur. Sed mutato statu militiae recessum a capitis poena est: quia plerunque voluntario milite numeri supplentur.

It is a more serious offence to decline military service than to intrigue to obtain it. For formerly, those who did not answer the call to arms were reduced to servitude as traitors to liberty. But as the condition of the army has been changed, capital punishment in this instance has been abandoned, because, for the most part, the army is composed of volunteers7.

Not including the last sentence, which goes beyond the scope of the Rufus code, can not fail to notice the significant similarities that occur between the provisions. The convergence is too large to be able to arrange a crime and punishment case.

Bearing in mind the above compliance of the rights contained in both works, and if we assume that the Rufus code actually comes from the turn of the II/I century BCE we can come to two divergent conclusions.

The Rufus code was written much later. This is based on small changes between the codex text and Digests. The reduced time frame would explain such a high degree of convergence of laws that were only adapted by the jurists to the needs of those times. However, this thesis poses problems of authorship, because we are unable to point anyone competent to write a factual code named Rufus. Though one may speculate on the persons of Rufus Festus, the author of the Brevarium of the Roman people (Breviarium rerum gestarum populi Romani), or Sextus Rufus, commander and provincial governor during the reign of Valentinian II, nothing speaks clearly for the assignment them by the codex8.

A different approach may indicate that although the code did not function officially, it was seriously in the army and was actually used by commanders who attached great importance to it. However, the application of these provisions for a period of 600 years seems at least doubtful. Unfortunately, there are too many speculations, understatements and possibilities to clearly indicate the author and year of creation of the Rufus code.

Author: Damian Karol
  • C.E. Brand, Roman military law, Texas 1968.
  • Ibidem
  • Graczkowski Andrzej, Armia rzymska w okresie schyłku republiki: organizacja, uzbrojenie, taktyka, Toruń 2009, s. 123.
  • Translation - S. P. Scott.
  • C.E. Brand, Roman military law, Texas 1968, s. 134.
  • Ibidem, p. 134.
  • Translation - S. P. Scott.
  • C.E. Brand, Roman military law, Texas 1968, s. 138.

Part of the master’s thesis “Legion and legionnaire in Roman law”.

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