Curiate Assembly

The Curiate Assembly (comitia curiata) was the principal assembly during the first two decades of the Roman Republic. During these first decades, the People of Rome were organized into thirty units called "Curiae".[1][2] The Curiae were ethnic in nature, and thus were organized on the basis of the early Roman family, or, more specifically, on the basis of the thirty original Patrician (aristocratic) clans.[3] The Curiae formed an assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The Curiate Assembly passed laws, elected Consuls (the only elected magistrates at the time),[4] and tried judicial cases. Consuls always presided over the assembly. While Plebeians (commoners) could participate in this assembly, only the Patricians (the Roman aristocrats) could vote.

Since the Romans used a form of direct democracy, citizens, and not elected representatives, voted before each assembly. As such, the citizen-electors had no power, other than the power to cast a vote. Each assembly was presided over by a single Roman Magistrate, and as such, it was the presiding magistrate who made all decisions on matters of procedure and legality. Ultimately, the presiding magistrate's power over the assembly was nearly absolute. The only check on that power came in the form of vetoes handed down by other magistrates, and decisions made by presiding magistrates could also be vetoed by higher-ranking magistrates. In addition, after 493 BC, any decision made by a presiding magistrate, including one concerning the Curiate Assembly, could be vetoed by a magistrate known as a plebeian tribune, or tribune of the plebs.

Assembly procedure

In the Roman system of direct democracy, primary types of gatherings were used to vote on legislative, electoral, and judicial matters. The first was the Assembly (comitia, literally "going together" or "meeting place").[5] The Curiate Assembly was a comitia. Assemblies represented all citizens,[6] even if they excluded the plebs like the Curiate Assembly did, and were used for official purposes, such as for the enactment of statutes. Acts of an Assembly applied to all Roman citizens. The second type of gathering was the Council (concilium), which was a forum where a specific class of citizen met. In contrast, the Convention (conventio, literally "coming together") was an unofficial forum for communication. Conventions were simply forums where Romans met for specific unofficial purposes, such as, for example, to hear a political speech.[5] Private citizens who did not hold political office could only speak before a Convention, and not before an Assembly or a Council.[7] Conventions were simply meetings, and no legal or legislative decisions could be made in them. Voters always assembled first into Conventions to hear debates and conduct other business before voting, and then into Assemblies or Councils to vote.[8]

Roman constitution
Chart Showing the Checks and Balances of the Constitution of the Roman Republic

A notice always had to be given several days before the Assembly was to vote. For elections, at least three market-days (often more than seventeen actual days) had to pass between the announcement of the election, and the actual election. During this time period (the trinundinum), the candidates interacted with the electorate, and no legislation could be proposed or voted upon. In 98 BC, a statute was passed (the lex Caecilia Didia) which required a similar three market-day interval to pass between the proposal of a statute and the vote on that statute.[9] During criminal trials, the assembly's presiding magistrate had to give a notice (diem dicere) to the accused person on the first day of the investigation (anquisito). At the end of each day, the magistrate had to give another notice to the accused person (diem prodicere), which informed him of the status of the investigation. After the investigation was complete, a three market-day interval had to elapse before a final vote could be taken with respect to conviction or acquittal.[10]

Only one assembly could operate at any given point in time, and any session already underway could be dissolved if a magistrate "called away" (avocare) the electors.[9] In addition to the presiding magistrate, several additional magistrates were often present to act as assistants. They were available to help resolve procedural disputes, and to provide a mechanism through which electors could appeal decisions of the presiding magistrate.[11] There were also religious officials (known as Augurs) either in attendance or on-call, who would be available to help interpret any signs from the gods (omens), since the Romans believed that the gods let their approval or disapproval with proposed actions be known.[11] In addition, a preliminary search for omens (auspices) was conducted by the presiding magistrate the night before any meeting.[12] On several known occasions, presiding magistrates used the claim of unfavorable omens as an excuse to suspend a session that was not going the way they wanted.

On the day of the vote, the electors first assembled into their Conventions for debate and campaigning.[8] In the Conventions, the electors were not sorted into their Curiae. Speeches from private citizens were only heard if the issue to be voted upon was a legislative or judicial matter, and even then, only if the citizen received permission from the presiding magistrate.[13] If the purpose of the ultimate vote was for an election, no speeches from private citizens were heard, and instead, the candidates for office used the Convention to campaign.[14] During the Convention, the bill to be voted upon was read to the assembly by an officer known as a "Herald". Then the order of the vote had to be determined. An urn was brought in, and lots were cast to determine the sequence by which the Curiae were to vote.[15]

The electors were then told to break up the Convention ("depart to your separate groups", or discedite, quirites). The electors assembled behind a fenced off area[8] and voted by placing a pebble or written ballot into an appropriate jar.[16] The baskets (cistae) that held the votes were watched by specific officers (the custodes), who then counted the ballots, and reported the results to the presiding magistrate. The majority of votes in any Curia decided how that Curia voted. If the process was not complete by nightfall, the electors were dismissed without having reached a decision, and the process had to begin again the next day.[17]

Decline of the Assembly

Shortly after the founding of the republic, many of the political powers of the Curiate Assembly were transferred to the Centuriate Assembly and the Tribal Assembly.[1] This included the transfer of the election of tribunes to the Tribal Assembly by the Lex Publilia in 471 BC.[18]

While it then fell into disuse, it did retain some theoretical powers, most importantly, the power to ratify elections of the top-ranking Roman Magistrates (consuls and praetors) by passing a law (lex curiata de imperio or "Curiate law on imperium") that gave them their legal command (imperium) authority. In practice, however, they received this authority from the Centuriate assembly (which formally elected them), and as such, this functioned as nothing more than a reminder of Rome's regal heritage.[2] Even after it lost its powers, the Curiate Assembly continued to be presided over by Consuls and Praetors, and was subject to obstruction by Roman magistrates (especially plebeian tribunes) and unfavorable omens (as were the other assemblies).[2]

By the time of the middle and late Republic, there was considerable debate about the need for confirmation in imperium by the Curiate assembly. For example, praetors were not permitted to undertake judicial business without confirmation in the imperium and nor could consuls command troops or call the comitia centuriata to hold the election of his successor.[19] Cicero's contemporaries argued that without confirmation in the imperium, a magistrate could not as a promagistrate, or without it, govern the province at his own expense and be ineligible for a triumph after a military victory.[19] These rules would have prohibited magistrates from engaging in serious public business before confirmation, but for the fact they were widely ignored and legislation often included provisions stating that in the lack of a curiate law, they "be magistrates in as legal a sense as those who are elected according to the strictest forms of law".[19] By 212 BC, the lack of such a law granting imperium to the propraetor of Spain, Lucius Marcius, was no issue for the senate, which refrained from declaring the election illegal.[20] During the late Republic, by 54, the consul Appius Claudius insisted that he held imperium, due to statute passed by Sulla granting imperium to promagistrates until their return to the city without mention of the curiate grant of imperium, and also that he held the authority to call the Assembly to elect new magistrates.[21] However, in the late Republic, with increasing conflict between the optimates and the populares, it is likely that the senate, trying to increase its control over provincial governors, stressed the importance of this law, even as magistrates ignored their complaints.[22]

Acts that the Curiate Assembly voted on were mostly symbolic and usually in the affirmative.[2] At one point, possibly as early as 218 BC, the Curiate Assembly's thirty Curiae were abolished, and replaced with thirty lictors, one from each of the original Patrician clans.[2]

Since the Curiae had always been organized on the basis of the Roman family,[3] it retained jurisdiction over clan matters even after the fall of the Roman Republic in 27 BC.[4] Under the presidency of the Pontifex Maximus,[1] it witnessed wills and ratified adoptions,[1] inaugurated certain priests, and transfer citizens from Patrician class to Plebeian class (or vice versa). In 59 BC, it transferred Publius Clodius Pulcher from Patrician status to Plebeian status so that he could run for Plebeian Tribune. In 44 BC, it ratified the will of Julius Caesar, and with it Caesar's adoption of his nephew Gaius Octavian (the future Roman Emperor Augustus) as his son and heir.[2]

With the rise of the empire, the sanctioning powers of the Curiate assembly fell into disuse, as the power to grant imperium, along with the vast majority of the other powers of the Curiate assembly, were transferred into the hands of the Senate or delegated to the emperor through a special lex de imperio.[23]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Byrd, Robert (1995). The Senate of the Roman Republic. U.S. Government Printing Office, Senate Document 103-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, 3, 4
  3. ^ a b Abbott, 250
  4. ^ a b Abbott, 253
  5. ^ a b Lintott, Andrew (1999). The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford University Press. p. 42.
  6. ^ Abbott, 251
  7. ^ Abbott, 252
  8. ^ a b c Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). Roman Voting Assemblies: From the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar. The University of Michigan Press. p. 2.
  9. ^ a b Lintott 1999, p. 44.
  10. ^ Lintott 1999, pp. 44-45.
  11. ^ a b Taylor, 63
  12. ^ Taylor, 7
  13. ^ Lintott 1999, p. 45.
  14. ^ Taylor, 16
  15. ^ Lintott 1999, p. 46.
  16. ^ Lintott 1999, pp. 46-47.
  17. ^ Lintott 1999, p. 48.
  18. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, ii. 58.
  19. ^ a b c Botsworth, George Willis (1909). The Roman Assemblies. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. p. 190.
  20. ^ Botsworth 1909, p. 192.
  21. ^ Botsworth 1909, p. 193.
  22. ^ Botsworth 1909, p. 198.
  23. ^ Taylor, Thomas Marris (1899). A Constitutional and Political History of Rome. London: Methuen & Co. p. 428.

References

  • Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. Elibron Classics (ISBN 0-543-92749-0).
  • Botsford, George Willis (1909, repr. 2005). The Roman Assemblies. From their Origin to the End of the Republic, New York.
  • Byrd, Robert (1995). The Senate of the Roman Republic. U.S. Government Printing Office, Senate Document 103-23.
  • Lintott, Andrew (1999). The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-926108-3).
  • Polybius (1823). The General History of Polybius: Translated from the Greek. By James Hampton. Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter. Fifth Edition, Vol 2.
  • Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). Roman Voting Assemblies: From the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar. The University of Michigan Press (ISBN 0-472-08125-X).
  • Tullius Cicero, Marcus (1841 edition). The Political Works of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations and Notes in Two Volumes. By Francis Barham, Esq. London: Edmund Spettigue. Vol. 1.

Further reading

  • Ihne, Wilhelm. Researches Into the History of the Roman Constitution. William Pickering. 1853.
  • Johnston, Harold Whetstone. Orations and Letters of Cicero: With Historical Introduction, An Outline of the Roman Constitution, Notes, Vocabulary and Index. Scott, Foresman and Company. 1891.
  • Mommsen, Theodor. Roman Constitutional Law. 1871-1888
  • Tighe, Ambrose. The Development of the Roman Constitution. D. Apple & Co. 1886.
  • Von Fritz, Kurt. The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity. Columbia University Press, New York. 1975.
  • The Histories by Polybius
  • Cambridge Ancient History, Volumes 9–13.
  • A. Cameron, The Later Roman Empire, (Fontana Press, 1993).
  • M. Crawford, The Roman Republic, (Fontana Press, 1978).
  • E. S. Gruen, "The Last Generation of the Roman Republic" (U California Press, 1974)
  • F. Millar, The Emperor in the Roman World, (Duckworth, 1977, 1992).
  • A. Lintott, "The Constitution of the Roman Republic" (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Primary sources

Secondary source material

Comitium

The Comitium (Italian: Comizio) was the original open-air public meeting space of Ancient Rome, and had major religious and prophetic significance. The name comes from the Latin word for "assembly". The Comitium location at the northwest corner of the Roman Forum was later lost in the city's growth and development, but was rediscovered and excavated by archeologists at the turn of the twentieth century. Some of Rome's earliest monuments; including the speaking platform known as the Rostra, the Column Maenia, the Graecostasis and the Tabula valeria were part of or associated with the Comitium.

The Comitium was the location for much of the political and judicial activity of Rome. It was the meeting place of the Curiate Assembly, the earliest Popular assembly of organised voting divisions of the republic. Later, during the Roman Republic, the Tribal Assembly and Plebeian Assembly met there. The Comitium was in front of the meeting house of the Roman Senate - the still-existing Curia Julia and its predecessor, the Curia Hostilia. The curia is associated with the comitium by both Livy and Cicero.Most Roman cities had a similar comitium for public meetings (L. contiones) or assemblies for election], councils and tribunals. As part of the forum, where temples, commerce, judicial, and city buildings were located, the comitium was the center of political activity. Romans tended to organize their needs into specific locations within the city. As the city grew, the larger Comitia Centuriata met on the Campus Martius, outside the city walls. The comitium remained of importance for formal elections of some magistrates; however, as their importance decayed after the end of the republic, so did the importance of the comitium.

Conflict of the Orders

The Conflict of the Orders, also referred to as the Struggle of the Orders, was a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic lasting from 500 BC to 287 BC, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the Patricians. It played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. Shortly after the founding of the Republic, this conflict led to a secession from Rome by Plebeians to the Sacred Mount at a time of war. The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians.

At first only Patricians were allowed to stand for election to political office, but over time these laws were revoked, and eventually all offices were opened to the Plebeians. Since most individuals who were elected to political office were given membership in the Roman Senate, this development helped to transform the senate from a body of Patricians into a body of Plebeian and Patrician aristocrats. This development occurred at the same time that the Plebeian legislative assembly, the Plebeian Council, was acquiring additional power. At first, its acts ("plebiscites") applied only to Plebeians, although after 339 BC, with the institution of laws by the first Plebeian dictator Q. Publilius Philo, these acts began to apply to both Plebeians and Patricians, with a senatorial veto of all measures approved by the council.

It was not until 287 BC that the Patrician senators lost their last check over the Plebeian Council. However, the Patricio-Plebeian aristocracy in the senate still retained other means by which to control the Plebeian Council, in particular the closeness between the Plebeian Tribunes and the senators. While this conflict would end in 287 BC with the Plebeians having acquired political equality with the Patricians, the plight of the average Plebeian had not changed. A small number of aristocratic Plebeian families had emerged, and most Plebeian politicians came from one of these families.

Constitution of the Roman Kingdom

The Constitution of the Roman Kingdom was an unwritten set of guidelines and principles originating mainly through precedent. During the years of the Roman Kingdom, the constitutional arrangement was centered on the king, who had the power to appoint assistants, and delegate to them their specific powers. The Roman Senate, which was dominated by the aristocracy, served as the advisory council to the king. Often, the king asked the Senate to vote on various matters, but he was free to ignore any advice they gave him. The king could also request a vote on various matters by the popular assembly (the "Curiate Assembly"), which he was also free to ignore. The popular assembly functioned as a vehicle through which the People of Rome could express their opinions. In it, the people were organized according to their respective curiae. However, the popular assembly did have other functions. For example, it was a forum used by citizens to hear announcements. It could also serve as a trial court for both civil and criminal matters.

Constitution of the Roman Republic

The constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of unwritten norms and customs, which together with various written laws, guided the procedural governance of the Roman Republic. The constitution emerged from that of the Roman kingdom, evolved over the almost five hundred years of the Republic, and was transformed into the constitution of the Roman Empire.The Roman republican constitution can be divided into three main branches:

the Assemblies, composed of the people, which served as the supreme repository of political power and had the authority to elect magistrates, accept or reject laws, administer justice, and declare war or peace;

the Senate, which advised the magistrates and the state, acting primarily not on legal authority per se, but rather with its influence, and

the magistrates, elected by the people to govern the Republic in their name, holding religious, military, and judicial powers, along with the right to preside over and call upon the assemblies.A complex set of checks and balances developed between these three branches. For example, the assemblies theoretically held all power, but were called and governed by the magistrates, who, controlling discussion, exercised dominating influence over them. Similarly, to check the power of the magistrates, each magistrate could veto one of their colleagues and the plebeians elected tribunes who could intercede and veto the actions of a magistrate.The Republic's constitution slowly evolved over time. Starting from a period of patrician domination, the Conflict of the Orders eventually granted plebeian citizens equal political rights, while also creating the tribunate to check patrician power and empowering the Plebeian Council, an assembly composed of the plebeians of Rome, with full legislative authority.The late Republic saw an increase in the centralisation of power into the hands of provincial governors, the use of military power to enforce political changes (e.g. the Sullan dictatorship), and the use of violence, combined with exploitation of the suitably bribed or intimidated "sovereign" assemblies, to grant supreme authority to victorious commanders. The increasing legitimisation of violence and centralisation of authority into fewer and fewer men would, with the collapse of trust in the Republic's institutions, put it on a path to civil war and its transformation by Augustus into an autocratic empire cloaked with nothing more than the veneer of Republican legitimacy.

History of the Constitution of the Roman Kingdom

The History of the Constitution of the Roman Kingdom is a study of the ancient Roman Kingdom that traces the progression of Roman political development from the founding of the city of Rome in 753 BC to the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom in 510 BC. The constitution of the Roman Kingdom vested the sovereign power in the King of Rome. The king did have two rudimentary checks on his authority, which took the form of a board of elders (the "Roman Senate") and a popular assembly (the "Curiate Assembly"). The arrangement was similar to the constitutional arrangements found in contemporary Greek city-states (such as Athens or Sparta). These Greek constitutional principles probably came to Rome through the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in southern Italy. In the centuries before the legendary founding of the city of Rome, Greek settlers had colonized much of the Mediterranean world. These settlers carried Greek ideals with them, and often kept in contact with the Greek mainland. Thus, the superstructure of the Roman constitution was ultimately of Greek origin.

History of the Roman Constitution

The History of the Roman Constitution is a study of Ancient Rome that traces the progression of Roman political development from the founding of the city of Rome in 753 BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. The constitution of the Roman Kingdom vested the sovereign power in the King of Rome. The king did have two rudimentary checks on his authority, which took the form of a board of elders (the Roman Senate) and a popular assembly (the Curiate Assembly). The arrangement was similar to the constitutional arrangements found in contemporary Greek city-states (such as Athens or Sparta). These Greek constitutional principles probably came to Rome through the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in southern Italy. The Roman Kingdom was overthrown in 510 BC, according to legend, and in its place the Roman Republic was founded.

The constitutional history of the Roman Republic can be divided into five phases. The first phase began with the revolution which overthrew the Roman Kingdom in 510 BC, and the final phase ended with the revolution which overthrew the Roman Republic, and thus created the Roman Empire, in 27 BC. Throughout the history of the republic, the constitutional evolution was driven by the struggle between the aristocracy (the "Patricians") and the ordinary citizens (the "Plebeians"). Approximately two centuries after the founding of the republic, the Plebeians attained, in theory at least, equality with the Patricians. In practice, however, the plight of the average Plebeian remained unchanged. This set the stage for the civil wars of the 1st century BC, and Rome's transformation into a formal empire.

The general who won the last civil war of the Roman Republic, Gaius Octavian, became the master of the state. In the years after 30 BC, Octavian set out to reform the Roman constitution, and to found the Principate. The ultimate consequence of these reforms was the abolition of the republic, and the founding of the Roman Empire. Octavian was given the honorific Augustus ("venerable") by the Roman Senate, and became known to history by this name, and as the first Roman Emperor. Octavian's reforms did not, at the time, seem drastic, since they did nothing more than reorganize the constitution. The reorganization was revolutionary, however, because the ultimate result was that Octavian ended up with control over the entire constitution, which itself set the stage for outright monarchy. When Diocletian became Roman Emperor in 284, the Principate was abolished, and a new system, the Dominate, was established. This system survived until the ultimate fall of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 1453.

King of Rome

The King of Rome (Latin: Rex Romae) was the chief magistrate of the Roman Kingdom. According to legend, the first king of Rome was Romulus, who founded the city in 753 BC upon the Palatine Hill. Seven legendary kings are said to have ruled Rome until 509 BC, when the last king was overthrown. These kings ruled for an average of 35 years.

The kings after Romulus were not known to be dynasts and no reference is made to the hereditary principle until after the fifth king Tarquinius Priscus. Consequently, some have assumed that the Tarquins and their attempt to institute a hereditary monarchy over this conjectured earlier elective monarchy resulted in the formation of the republic.

Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom

The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom were political institutions in the ancient Roman Kingdom. While one assembly, the Curiate Assembly, had some legislative powers, these powers involved nothing more than a right to symbolically ratify decrees issued by the king. The functions of the other assembly, the Calate Assembly, was purely religious. During the years of the kingdom, the People of Rome were organized on the basis of units called Curia. All of the People of Rome were divided amongst a total of thirty Curia, and membership in an individual Curia was hereditary. Each member of a particular family belonged to the same Curia. Each Curia had an organization similar to that of the early Roman family, including specific religious rites and common festivals. These Curia were the basic units of division in the two popular assemblies. The members in each Curia would vote, and the majority in each Curia would determine how that Curia voted before the assembly. Thus, a majority of the Curia (sixteen out of the thirty total Curia) were needed during any vote before either the Curiate Assembly or the Calate Assembly.

Legislative assemblies of the Roman Empire

The legislative assemblies of the Roman Empire were political institutions in the ancient Roman Empire. During the reign of the second Roman Emperor, Tiberius, the powers that had been held by the Roman assemblies (the comitia) were transferred to the senate. The neutering of the assemblies had become inevitable for reasons beyond the fact that they were composed of the rabble of Rome. The electors were, in general, ignorant as to the merits of the important questions that were laid before them, and often willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder.

Legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic

The legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people (and thus the assemblies) who had the final say regarding the election of magistrates, the enactment of Roman laws, the carrying out of capital punishment, the declaration of war and peace, and the creation (or dissolution) of alliances. Under the Constitution of the Roman Republic, the people (and thus the assemblies) held the ultimate source of sovereignty.

Since the Romans used a form of direct democracy, citizens, and not elected representatives, voted before each assembly. As such, the citizen-electors had no power, other than to cast a vote. Each assembly was presided over by a single Roman Magistrate, and as such, it was the presiding magistrate who made all decisions on matters of procedure and legality. Ultimately, the presiding magistrate's power over the assembly was nearly absolute. The only check on that power came in the form of vetoes handed down by other magistrates.

In the Roman system of direct democracy, two primary types of gatherings were used to vote on legislative, electoral, and judicial matters. The first was the Assembly (comitia), which was a gathering that was deemed to represent the entire Roman people, even if it did not contain all of the Roman citizens or, like the comitia curiata, excluded a particular class of Roman citizens (the plebs). The second was the Council (concilium), which was a gathering of citizens of a specific class. In contrast, the Convention was an unofficial forum for communication. Conventions were simply forums where Romans met for specific unofficial purposes, such as, for example, to hear a political speech. Voters always assembled first into Conventions to hear debates and conduct other business before voting, and then into Assemblies or Councils to actually vote.

Lucius Saenius

Lucius Saenius (possibly Lucius Saenius Balbinus) (fl. 1st century BC) was a Roman senator who was appointed suffect consul in 30 BC.

Outline of ancient Rome

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient Rome:

Ancient Rome – former civilization that thrived on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world.

Plebeian Council

The Concilium Plebis (English: Plebeian Council or Plebeian Assembly) was the principal assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians (commoners) could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian Council was originally organized on the basis of the Curia. Thus, it was originally a "Plebeian Curiate Assembly". The Plebeian Council usually met in the well of the comitium and could only be convoked by the Tribune of the Plebs. The assembly elected the Tribunes of the Plebs and the plebeian aediles, and only the plebeians were allowed to vote.

Popular assembly

A popular assembly (or people's assembly) is a gathering called to address issues of importance to participants. Assemblies tend to be freely open to participation and operate by direct democracy. Some assemblies are of people from a location, some from a given workplace, industry or educational establishment others are called to address a specific issue.

The term is often used to describe gatherings that address, what participants feel are, the effects of a democratic deficit in a representative democratic systems. Sometimes assemblies are created to form an alternative power structure, other times they work with other forms of government.

Roman Kingdom

The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history, when the city and its territory were ruled by kings.

Little is certain about the kingdom's history, as no records and few inscriptions from the time of the kings survive, and the accounts of this period written during the Republic and Empire are thought to be based on oral tradition. According to these legends, the Roman Kingdom began with the city's founding circa 753 BC, with settlements around the Palatine Hill along the river Tiber in central Italy, and ended with the overthrow of the kings and the establishment of the Republic circa 509 BC.

Roman assemblies

The Roman Assemblies were institutions in ancient Rome. They functioned as the machinery of the Roman legislative branch, and thus (theoretically at least) passed all legislation. Since the assemblies operated on the basis of direct democracy, ordinary citizens, and not elected representatives, would cast all ballots. The assemblies were subject to strong checks on their power by the executive branch and by the Roman Senate. Laws were passed (and magistrates elected) by Curia (in the Curiate Assembly), Tribes (in the Tribal Assembly), and Centuries (in the Centuriate Assembly).

When the city of Rome was founded (traditionally dated at 753 BC), a senate and an assembly, the Curiate Assembly, were both created. The Curiate Assembly was the principal legislative assembly during the era of the Roman Kingdom. While its primary purpose was to elect new kings, it also possessed rudimentary legislative powers. Shortly after the founding of the Roman Republic (traditionally dated to 509 BC), the principal legislative authority shifted to two new assemblies, the Tribal Assembly ("Citizen's Assembly") and the Centuriate Assembly. Eventually, most legislative powers were transferred to another assembly, the Plebeian Council ("Assembly of the Commoners"). Ultimately, it was the Plebeian Council that disrupted the balance between the senate, the legislative branch, and the executive branch. This led to the collapse of the republic, and the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 BC. Under the empire, the powers that had been held by the assemblies were transferred to the senate. While the assemblies eventually lost their last semblance of political power, citizens continued to gather into them for organizational purposes. Eventually, however, the assemblies were ultimately abandoned.

Roman magistrate

The Roman magistrates were elected officials in Ancient Rome.

During the period of the Roman Kingdom, the King of Rome was the principal executive magistrate. His power, in practice, was absolute. He was the chief priest, lawgiver, judge, and the sole commander of the army. When the king died, his power reverted to the Roman Senate, which then chose an Interrex to facilitate the election of a new king.

During the transition from monarchy to republic, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the executive (the Roman king) to the Roman Senate. When the Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC, the powers that had been held by the king were transferred to the Roman consuls, of which two were to be elected each year. Magistrates of the republic were elected by the people of Rome, and were each vested with a degree of power called "major powers" (maior potestas). Dictators had more "major powers" than any other magistrate, and after the Dictator was the censor, and then the consul, and then the praetor, and then the curule aedile, and then the quaestor. Any magistrate could obstruct ("veto") an action that was being taken by a magistrate with an equal or lower degree of magisterial powers. By definition, plebeian tribunes and plebeian aediles were technically not magistrates since they were elected only by the plebeians, and as such, they were independent of all other powerful magistrates.

During the transition from republic to the Roman empire, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the Roman Senate back to the executive (the Roman Emperor). Theoretically, the senate elected each new emperor; in practice each emperor chose his own successor, though the choice was often overruled by the army or civil war. The powers of an emperor (his imperium) existed, in theory at least, by virtue of his legal standing. The two most significant components to an emperor's imperium were the "tribunician powers" and the "proconsular powers". In theory at least, the tribunician powers (which were similar to those of the plebeian tribunes under the old republic) gave the emperor authority over Rome's civil government, while the proconsular powers (similar to those of military governors, or proconsuls, under the old republic) gave him authority over the Roman army. While these distinctions were clearly defined during the early empire, eventually they were lost, and the emperor's powers became less constitutional and more monarchical. The traditional magistracies that survived the fall of the republic were the consulship, praetorship, plebeian tribunate, aedileship, quaestorship, and military tribunate. Mark Antony abolished the offices of dictator and Master of the Horse during his Consulship in 44 BC, while the offices of Interrex and Roman censor were abolished shortly thereafter.

Timeline of Italian history

This is a timeline of Italian history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Italy and its predecessor states, including Ancient Rome and Prehistoric Italy. Date of the prehistoric era are approximate. To read about the back ground check these events, see History of Italy. See also the list of Prime Ministers of Italy.

Timeline of Roman history

This is a timeline of Roman history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in the Roman Kingdom and Republic and the Roman and Byzantine Empires. To read about the background of these events, see Ancient Rome and History of the Byzantine Empire.

Following tradition, this timeline marks the deposition of Romulus Augustulus and the Fall of Constantinople as the end of Rome in the west and east, respectively. See Third Rome for a discussion of claimants to the succession of Rome.

Ancient Rome
Roman Kingdom
Roman Republic
Roman Empire
Miscellaneous
Epochs
Constitution
Law
Government
Magistrates
Military
Economy
Culture
Society
Technology
Latin
Writers
Major cities
Lists and other
topics

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