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p174 Auditorium

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p174 of

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

AUDITORIUM, as the name implies, is any place for hearing. It was the practice among the Romans for poets and others to read their compositions to their friends, who were sometimes called the auditorium (Plin. Ep. IV.7); but the word was also used to express any place in which any thing was heard, and under the empire it was applied to a court of justice. Under the republic the place for all judicial proceedings was the [Link to a page in English] [Link ad una pagina in Italiano] comitium and the forum. (Ni pagunt in comitio aut in foro ante meridiem causam coniicito quum perorant ambo prasentes. Dirksen, Uebersicht, &c. p725). But for the sake of shelter and convenience, it became the practice to hold courts in the Basilicae, which contained halls, which were also called auditoria. In the dialogue de Oratoribus (c39), the writer observes that oratory had lost much by being generally heard in "auditoria et tabularia". It is first under M. Aurelius that the auditorium principis is mentioned, by which we must understand a hall or room in the imperial residence; and in such a hall Septimius Severus and later emperors held their regular sittings when they presided as judges (Dig. 36 tit. 1 s22, Dig. 49, tit. 9 s1; Dion Cass. LXXVI.11; Dig. 4 tit. 4 s18). The provincial governors also under the empire sometimes sat on their tribunal as in the republic, and sometimes in the praetorium or in an auditorium. Accordingly, the latest jurists use the word generally for any place in which justice was administered (Dig. 1 tit. 22 s5). In the time of Diocletian, the auditorium had got the name of secretarium; and in a constitution of Constantine (Cod. Th. I. tit. 16 s6), the two words seem to be used as equivalent, when he enacts that both criminal and civil cases should be heard openly (before the tribunal), and not in auditoria or secretaria. Valentinianus and Valens allowed causes to be heard either before the tribunal or in the secretarium, but yet with open doors. From the fifth century, the secretarium or secretum was the regular place for hearing causes, and the people were excluded by lattice-work (cancellae) and curtains (vela); but this may have been as much for convenience as for any other purpose, though it appears that at this late period of the empire there were only present the magistrate and his officers, and the parties to the cause. Only those whom the magistrate invited, or who had business, or persons of certain rank (honorati) had admission to the courts, under the despotic system of the late empire. (Cod. I, tit. 48, s3; Hollweg, Handbuch des Civilprozesses, p215.)

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Page updated: 8 Dec 06