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p173 Auctoritas

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp173‑174 of

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

AUCTO′RITAS. The technical meanings of this word correlate with those of auctor.

The auctoritas senatus was not a senatus-consultum; it was a measure, incomplete in itself, which received its completion by some other authority.

Auctoritas, as applied to property, is equivalent to legal ownership, being a correlation of auctor (Cic. Top. c4; Pro Caecin. c26). It was a provision of the laws of the Twelve Tables that there could be no usucapion of a stolen thing (Gaius, II.45), which is thus expressed by Gellius in speaking of the Atinian law (XVII. c7): Quod subreptum erit ejus rei aeterna auctoritas esto; the ownership of the thing stolen was still in the original owner (Cic. De Off. I. c12; Dirksen, Uebersicht, &c. der Zwölf-Tafel-Fragmente, p417). (As to the expression Usus Auctoritas, see Usucapio.)

Auctoritas sometimes signifies a warranty or collateral security and thus correlated to auctor secundus. Auctoritatis actio means the action of eviction (Paulus, Sentent. Recept. lib. 2 17). The instrumenta auctoritatis are the proofs or evidences of title.

The auctoritas of the praetor is sometimes used to signify the judicial sanction of the praetor, or his order, by which a person, a tutor for instance, might be compelled to do some legal act (Gaius, I.190; Dig.27 tit. 9 s5), or, in other words, "auctor fieri." The tutor, with respect to his wards both male and female (pupilli, pupillae), was said negotium gerere, and auctoritatem interponere; the former phrase is applicable where the tutor does the act himself; the latter, where he gives his approbation p174and confirmation to the act of his ward. Though a pupillus had not a capacity to do any act which was prejudicial to him, he had a capacity to receive or assent to any thing which was for his benefit, and in such case the auctoritas of the tutor was not necessary.

The authority of decided cases was called similiter judicatorum auctoritas. The other meanings of auctoritas may be easily derived from the primary meaning of the word, and from the explanations here given.


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