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p143 Assessor

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p143 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ASSESSOR, or ADSESSOR, literally, one who sits by the side of another. The duties of an assessor, as described by Paulus (Dig. 1 tit. 21 s1) related to "cognitiones, postulationes, libelli, edicta, decreta, epistolae;" from which it appears that they were employed in and about the administration of law. The consuls, praetors, governors of provinces, and the judices, were often imperfectly acquainted with the law and the forms of procedure, and it was necessary that they should have the aid of those who had made the law their study (Cic. de OratoreI.37, In Verrem, II.29). The praefectus praetorio, and praefectus urbi, and other civil and military functionaries, had their assessors. An instance is mentioned by Tacitus (Tac. Ann. I.75) of the Emperor Tiberius assisting at the judicia (judiciis adsidebat), and taking his seat at the corner of the tribunal;º but this passage cannot be interpreted to mean, as some persons interpret it, that the emperor sat there in the character of an assessor properly so called: the remark of Tacitus shows that, though the emperor might have taken his seat under the name of assessor and affected to be such, he could be considered in no other light than as the head of the state (cf. Suet. Tib. Nero, 33, Claudius, 12).

Under the empire the practice of having assessors continued (Plin. Ep. I.20, VI.11, X.19; Gellius, I.22). Suetonius (Galba, 14) mentions the case of an assessor being named to the office of praefectus praetorio. The Emperor Alexander Severus gave the assessores a regular salary (Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 46). Freedmen might be assessores. In the later writers the assessores are mentioned under the various names of consiliarii, juris studiosi, comites, &c. The juris studiosi, mentioned by Gellius (XII.13), as assistant to the judices (quos adhibere in consilium judicaturi solent), were the assessores. Sabinus, as it appears from Ulpian (Dig.47 tit. 10 s5), wrote a book on the duties of assessors. The assessors sat on the tribunal with the magistrate. Their advice, or aid, was given during the proceedings as well as at other times, but they never pronounced a judicial sentence. As the old forms of procedure gradually declined, the assessores, according to the conjecture of Savigny (Geschichte des Röm. Rechts in Mittelalter, vol. I p79), took the place of the judices. For other matters relating to the assessores, see Hollweg, Handbuch des Civilprozesses, p152.

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Page updated: 23 Dec 08