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p330 Comitia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp330‑340 of

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

COMI′TIA. This word is formed from co, cum, or con, and ire, and therefore comitium is a place of meeting, and comitia the meeting itself, or the assembled people. In the Roman constitution the comitia were the ordinary and legal meetings or assemblies of the people, and distinct from the conciones and concilia; or, according to the still more strict definition of Messala (ap. Gell. XIII.15), comitia were those assemblies convened by a magistrate for the purpose of putting any subject to their vote. This definition does not indeed comprehend all kinds of comitia, since in the comitia calata no subjects were put to the vote of the people, certain things being only announced to them, or they being only witnesses to certain solemn acts, but with this single exception the definition is satisfactory. The Greek writers on Roman affairs call the comitia αἱ ἀρχαιρεσίαι, τὰ ἀρχαιρέσια, ἐκκλησία and ψηφοφορία.

All the powers of government were divided at Rome between the senate, the magistrates, and the people in their assemblies. Properly speaking, the people alone (the populus) was the real sovereign by whom the power was delegated to the magistrates and the senate; and the magistrates in particular could not perform any public p331act, unless they were authorised by the senate and people. The sovereign people or populus, however, was not the same at all times. In the earliest times of Rome the populus consisted of the patricians (or patres) only, the plebs and the clients forming no part of the populus, but being without the pale of the state. The original populus was divided into thirty curiae, and the assembly of these curiae, or the comitia curiata, therefore, were the only assembly in which the populus was represented. A kind of amalgamation of the patricians and the plebs afterwards appeared in the comitia of the centuries, instituted by king Servius Tullius, and henceforth the term populus was applied to the united patricians and plebeians assembled in the comitia centuriata. But Servius had also made a local division of the whole Roman territory into thirty tribes, which held their meetings in assemblies called comitia tributa, which, in the course of time, acquired the character of national assemblies, so that the people thus assembled were likewise designated by the term populus. We shall examine in order the nature, power, and business of each of these different comitia.

A. Comitia calata. These and the comitia curiata were the only assemblies that met and were recognized at Rome previous to the time of Servius Tullius, and inasmuch as the populus of which they consisted was the same as the populus in the comitia curiata, they might also be called comitia curiata, but they differed in their objects, in the persons presiding at them, and in the place of meeting. The comitia calata were held under the presidency of the college of pontiffs (Gellius, XV.27), who also convened them. They derived their name calata (from calare, i.e. vocare) from the circumstance that the attendants or servants of the pontiffs, who were probably employed in calling them together, were termed calatores (Serv. ad Virg. Georg. I.268). Their place of meeting was probably always on the Capitol in front of the curia Calabra, which seems to have been an official building of the pontiffs, and to have been destined for this purpose (Paul. Diac. p49, ed. Müller; Varro, De Ling. Lat. V.1 p24). With respect to the functions of the comitia calata, all writers are agreed that the people assembled acted merely a passive part, that they met only for the purpose of hearing what was announced, and of being witnesses to the actions there performed. One of the things which were made known to the people in these comitia, was that on the calends of every month it was proclaimed on what day of the new month the nones fell, and perhaps also the ides as well as the nature of the other days, namely, whether they were fasti or nefasti, comitiales, feriae, &c., because all these things were known in the early times to the pontiffs exclusively (Liv. IX.46; Macrob. Sat. 1.15; Serv. ad Aen. VIII.654; Varro, De Ling. Lat. VI.4). Another function of the comitia calata was the inauguration of the flamines, and after the banishment of the kings, also that of the rex sacrorum (Gellius, l.c.). A third business which was transacted in them was the testamenti factio, or the making of a will. The object of this was probably to prevent, after the death of the testator, any dispute concerning his will, to which the whole assembly of the populus had been a witness; and it is not improbable that, as the art of writing was not sufficiently known in those times, it was thought a matter of importance to have the whole populus as a witness to such an act, which perhaps consisted in an oral declaration. The populus thus did not vote upon the validity or invalidity of a will, but solely acted the part of a witness (Gellius, XV.27; Theophil. II.10). Assemblies for the express purpose of making the populus witness to a will were in the earliest times held twice a year (Gaius, II § 101); but this custom afterwards fell into desuetude (Gaius, II § 103). A fourth business transacted in the comitia calata was the detestatio sacrorum, which was in all probability an act connected with the testamenti factio, that is, a solemn declaration, by which the heir was enjoined to undertake the sacra privata of the testator along with the reception of his property (Gellius, XV.27, cf. VII.12).º It has already been observed that originally only the members of the curiae formed the comitia calata, so that they were the same as the comitia curiata, in this respect; but from the words of Gellius (eorum autem alia esse curiata, alia centuriata), it is clear that after the time of Servius Tullius, there must have been two kinds of comitia calata, the one convened according to curiae by a lictor, and the other according to centuries by a cornicen. As regards the business of the latter, we have no information whatever, though it is not impossible, that in them all announcements respecting the calendar were made by the pontiffs, as this was a matter of interest to the whole people, and not to the populus alone (Macrob. and Serv. ll. cc.); and it may further be, that in the calata centuriata the testamenta of plebeians were laid before the assembled people; as in the calata curiata, they were laid before the assembled curies.

II. Comitia curiata (ἐκκλησία φρατρική or φρατριακή) were of far greater importance than the comitia calata, inasmuch as the populus here was not present in a mere passive capacity, but had to decide by its votes as to whether a measure brought before it was to be adopted or rejected. As the populus was at first only the body of real citizens, that is, the patricians, or those contained in the curiae, none but members of the curiae, that is, patricians, had a right to take place in these assemblies. It is a disputed point, as to whether the clients of the patricians had a right to vote in the comitia curiata; but it is highly probable that, when they appeared in them, they could not act any other part than that of listeners and spectators. They were convened, in the kingly period, by the king himself, or by his tribunus celerum, and in the king's absence by the praefectus urbi (Liv. I.59). After the death of a king the comitia were held by the interrex. In the republican period, the president was always one of the high patrician magistrates, viz. a consul, praetor or dictator (Cic. De Leg. Agr. II.11, 12; Liv. IX.38). They were called together by lictors or heralds (Gellius, XV.27; Dionys. II.7). The votes were given by curiae, each curia having one collective vote; but within a curia each citizen belonging to it had an independent vote, and the majority of the members of a curia determined the vote of the whole curia (Gell. l.c.; Liv. I.43; Dionys. II.14, IV.20, 84, V.6). Now as the curiae were thirty in number, it was impossible to obtain a simple majority, which must always have consisted of 16 curiae. How matters were decided in case of 15 curiae voting for and 15 against a measure, is quite uncertain; p332and the fact that awkward number 30 was chosen or retained for the assembly can be accounted for only by the fact that the number three and its multiples had a certain sacred import in all matters connected with the constitution. The order in which the curiae voted, was not fixed by any regulation, but it appears that the one which gave its vote first, and was called principium, was determined by lot (Liv. IX.38). Further particulars regarding the method of voting, however, are not known. The president in the comitia curiata was always the person that had convoked them, that is, in the kingly period, either the king himself, or the person that acted as his viceregent, and the meeting was always held in the comitium [[Link to a page in English] [Link ad una pagina in Italiano]].

As regards the powers and functions of the comitia curiata, it must first of all be borne in mind, that in the early times no comitia, of whatever kind they were, had the right to originate any measure, to introduce amendments, or to discuss the merits and demerits of any subject that was brought before them. All they could do was to accept or reject any measure which was brought before them, so that all proposals were in fact nothing but rogationes (populus rogatur), which the people passed by the formula uti rogas, or rejected by the formula antiquo. Whatever was thus decreed became law for the king and senate no less than for the people. The main points upon which the populus had to decide, were the election of the magistrates, including the king himself, the passing of laws, peace and war, the capital punishment of Roman citizens (Dionys. II.14, IV.20, IX.41), and, lastly, upon certain affairs of the curiae and gentes. In the kingly period, the only magistrate in whose person all the powers of the republican officers were concentrated, was the king himself. All the other officers were appointed by him, with the exception of the quaestores, who were elected by the people (Ulpian, Dig. 2.13; but cf. Tac. Ann. XI.22; Quaestor). With respect to the election of the king, the assembly, as in all other matters, was limited to the persons proposed by the senate through the president in the assembly, that is, when the senate had passed a decree respecting the election, the interreges determined upon the candidates, from among whom he was to be chosen, and then proposed them to the curiae (Dionys. IV.34, 40, 80, II.58, 60; III.36; Liv. I.17; Cic. De Re Publ. II.13; cf. Interrex and Rex). The priestly officers, such as the Curiones, Flamines Curales, were likewise either elected by the curiae, or at least inaugurated by them (Dionys. II.22; Gell. l.c.), until in later times, B.C. 104, the Domitian law transferred the whole appointment of the priestly colleges to the comitia of the tribes. Legislative proposals were laid before the curiae by the king or the senate, and they might either pass them as laws or reject them. Such laws belonging to the kingly period were the so‑called leges regiae; their number cannot have been great, as custom and religion had hallowed and firmly established the principal rules of conduct without there being any necessity for formal legal enactments. The right of finally deciding upon the life of Roman citizens (judicia de capite civis Romani) is said to have been given to the populus by king Tullus Hostilius (Liv. I.26, VIII.33; Dionys. III.22); and previous to the constitution of Servius Tullius this privilege was of course confined to the patricians, for whom it was nothing else but the right of appealing from the sentence of the king or judge to the assembly of their peers. When Valerius Publicola renewed this law, it must have been extended to the plebeians also. The fourth right of the assembly of the populus was that of deciding upon war and peace, but this decision again could only be made when it was proposed by the king. With respect to the declaration of war there is no doubt (Liv. I.32; Gellius, XVI.4; Dionys. VIII.91, IX.69); but there is no instance on record of the populus ever having had any thing to do with the conclusion of treaties of peace; no trace of it occurs till long after the establishment of the republic, so that we may fairly presume that in early times the conclusion of peace was left to the king (or the consuls) and the senate, and that Dionysius, as in many other instances, transferred a later custom to the early times. Besides these great functions the curiae had unquestionably many others relating to their own internal administration; and among them we may mention, that no new members could be admitted into a curia, either by the cooptatio of strangers or by the adlectio of plebeians, without the consent of the assembly of the curies; and that no arrogatio could take place without the concurrence of the assembled curiae under the presidency of the pontiffs. The consent of the curiae in such cases is expressed by the term lex curiata (Gellius, V.19; Tac. Hist. I.15). It must further be remarked, that when a magistrate (such as the king) proposed to the assembly had been elected, the populus held a second meeting, in which he was formally inducted in his new office. This formality was called lex curiata de imperio, together with the right of holding the comitia (Liv. V.52; Dion Cass. XXXIX.19, XLI.43; Cic. De Leg. Agr. II.12). It was not till a magistrate had thus been solemnly installed, that he was a magistratus optima lege or optimo jure, that is, in the full possession of all the rights and privileges of his office.

Down to the time of Servius Tullius, the comitia curiata were the only popular assemblies of Rome, and remained of course in the undiminished possession of the rights above described; but the constitution of that king brought about a great change, by his transferring the principal rights which had hitherto been enjoyed by the curiae to this new national assembly or the comitia centuriata. The power of electing the magistrates, the decision upon war, the passing of laws and jurisdiction in cases of appeal to the body of the Roman people, were thus transferred to the comitia of the centuries. But while the patricians were obliged to share their rights with the plebeians, they reserved for themselves the very important right of sanctioning or rejecting any measure which had been passed by the centuries. Even independent of their right finally to decide upon these questions, they seem, for a time at least, to have exercised a considerable power in several departments of the government: thus, the abolition of royalty and the establishment of the republic are said to have been decreed by the curiae (Dionys. IV.75, 84); in like manner they decided upon the property of the last king (Dionys. V.6), and upon the rewards to be given to those who had given information respecting the conspiracy (V.57). The sanction of decrees passed by the centuries is often expressed by patres auctores fiunt, and down to the time of the p333 Publilian law no decree of the centuries or tribes could become law without this sanction. It need hardly be remarked that curiae, as long as they existed, retained the exercise of such rights as affected the welfare of their own corporations and the religious rites connected with them. We subjoin a list of the powers and functions which the curiae continued to exercise down to the end of the republic.

    1. They conferred the imperium and the right of taking the auspices upon magistrates after their election; this was done by the lex curiata de imperio. This right however must, in the course of time, have become a mere matter of form, and in the time of Cicero (ad Att. IV.18, ad Fam. XIII.1), persons even might form the plan of gaining over three augurs to declare that they had been present in the comitia of the curiae, at which the imperium had been conferred, although in reality no such comitia had taken place at all. This fact warrants the conclusion that at that time few persons, if any, noticed such comitia or the granting of the imperium in them (cf. Cic. ad Fam. I.9, ad Q. Fratr. III.2).

2. The inauguration of certain priests, such as the Flamines and the Rex Sacrorum, though this took place in those comitia of the curiae, which were called calata. The curio maximus was in all probability consecrated, if not elected, in the comitia curiata (Liv. XXVII.8).

3. The internal affairs of the curiae themselves and of the families connected with them; but most of them came only before the comitia calata (see above). The real comitia curiata began to be a mere formality as early as the time of the Punic wars, and the ancient division into curiae, as it gradually lost its importance, fell into oblivion: the place of the patricians was filled by the nobiles or optimates, and the comitia of the former became a mere empty show (Cic. De Leg. Agr. II.12), and, instead of the thirty curiae themselves giving their votes, the ceremony was performed by thirty lictors. The patrician comitia calata were continued much longer, especially for the purpose of arrogationes, which under the empire again became a matter of some consequence. [Adoptio.]

III. Comitia centuriata (ἡ λοχῖτις ἐκκλησία). The object of the legislation of Servius Tullius was to unite the different elements of which the Roman people consisted, into one great political body, in which power and influence were to be determined by property and age. For this purpose, he divided, in his census, the whole body of Roman citizens into six property classes, and 193 centuriae (λόχοι) or votes, from which the assemblies in which the people gave their votes were called comitia centuriata. [Census.] By this means, Servius brought about an amalgamation of timocracy and aristocracy; and the poor citizens, though they met their wealthier brethren on a footing of equality, yet were unable to exercise any great influence upon public affairs, for the wealthier classes voted first, and if they agreed among themselves, they formed a majority before the poorer classes would be called upon to vote at all. In order to render these general observations more intelligible, it is necessary to give some account of the census which Servius instituted, and of the manner in which the votes were distributed among the several divisions of the people. The whole people was conceived as an army (exercitus, or, according to the more ancient term, classis), and was therefore divided into two parts: the cavalry (equites), and infantry (pedites), though it is not by any means necessary to suppose that people assembled in arms. The infantry was divided into five classes, or, as Dionysius has it, into six classes, for he regards the whole body of people, whose property did not come up to the census of the fifth class, as a sixth. The class to which a citizen belonged, determined the tributum, or war tax, he had to pay, as well as the kind of service he had to perform in the army and the armour in which he had to serve. But for the purpose of voting in the comitia, each class was subdivided into a number of centuries (centuriae, probably because each was conceived to contain 100 men, though the centuries may have greatly differed in the number of men they contained), one half of which consisted of the seniores, and the other of the juniores. Each century, further, was counted as one vote, so that a class had as many votes as it contained centuries. In like manner, the equites were divided into a number of centuries or votes. The two principal authorities on these subdivisions are, Livy (I.43), and Dionysius (IV.16, &c., VII.59), and the annexed table will show the census as well as the number of centuries or votes assigned to each class, and the order in which they voted.

According to Livy.
According to Dionysius.
I. Classis. Census: 100,000 asses. I. Classis. Census: 100 minae.
40 centuriae seniorum. 40 centuriae seniorum.
40 centuriae juniorum. 40 centuriae juniorum.
2 centuriae fabrum.
II. Classis. Census: 75,000 asses. II. Classis. Census: 75 minae.
10 centuriae seniorum. 10 centuriae seniorum.
10 centuriae juniorum. 10 centuriae juniorum.
2 centuriae fabrum (one voting with the seniores and the other with the juniores).
III. Classis. Census: 50,000 asses. III. Classis. Census: 50 minae.
10 centuriae seniorum. 10 centuriae seniorum.
10 centuriae juniorum. 10 centuriae juniorum.
IV. Classis. Census: 25,000 asses. IV. Classis. Census: 25 minae.
10 centuriae seniorum. 10 centuriae seniorum.
10 centuriae juniorum. 10 centuriae juniorum.
2 centuriae cornicinum and tubicinum (one voting with the seniores, and the other with the juniores).
V. Classis. Census: 11,000 asses. V. Classis. Census: 12½ minae.
15 centuriae seniorum. 15 centuriae seniorum.
15 centuriae seniorum. 15 centuriae seniorum.
3 centuriae accensorum, cornicinum, tubicinum. VI. Classis. Census: below 12½ minae.
1 centuria capite censorum. 1 centuria capite censorum.

p334 According to both Dionysius and Livy, the equites voted in eighteen centuries before the seniores of the first class; and hence, there were according to Livy, altogether 194, and, according to Dionysius, 193 centuries or votes. Livy's even number of 194 centuries would have rendered it impossible to obtain an absolute majority in the comitia; and it has been assumed, that he made a mistake in the three centuriae accensorum, cornicinum, tubicinum, which he adds to the fifth class. Dionysius seems to have represented the matter in its right light, and is also borne out by Cicero (De Re Publ. II.22), who describes ninety-six as the minority; but in other respects, Cicero is irreconcileable, both with Livy and Dionysius; a difficulty which will probably never be solved satisfactorily, as the text is corrupt. The other discrepancies between Livy and Dionysius are not of great importance. They consist in the places assigned to the two centuriae fabrum, the two of the cornicines and tubicines, and in the census of the fifth class. With respect to the last point, Dionysius is at any rate more consistent in his gradation, and in so far deserves to be preferred to Livy. As for the places assigned to the four centuries, it is impossible to determine whether Livy or Dionysius is right; and we can only say, that Cicero agrees with neither of them, assigning, as he does, only one century of the fabri tignarii to the first class.

In this manner all Roman citizens, whether patricians or plebeians, who had property to a certain amount, were privileged to take part and vote in the centuriata comitia, and none were excluded except slaves, peregrini, women and the aerarii. The juniores were all men from the age of seventeen to that of forty-six, and the seniores, all men from the age of forty-six upwards. The order of voting was arranged in such a manner, that if the eighteen centuries of the equites and the eighty centuries of the first class were agreed upon a measure, the question was decided at once, there being no need for calling upon the other classes to vote. Hence, although all Roman citizens appeared in these comitia on a footing of equality, yet by far the greater power was thrown into the hands of the wealthy.

As regards the functions of the comitia centuriata, it must be observed in general, that all the business which had before belonged to the comitia curiata, was transferred by Servius to the comitia centuriata, that is, they received the right of electing the higher magistrates, of making laws and of deciding upon war, and afterwards also of concluding peace with foreign nations.

(a) The election of magistrates. After the presiding magistrate had consulted with the senate about the candidates who had offered themselves, he put them to the vote. The magistrates that were elected by the centuries are the consuls (whence the assembly is called comitia consularia, Liv. I.60, X.11), the praetors (hence, comitia praetoria, Liv. VII.1, X.22), the military tribunes with consular power (Liv. V.52), the censors (Liv. VII.22, XL.45), and the decemvirs (Liv.III.33, 35). There are also instances of proconsuls being elected by the centuries, but this happened only in extraordinary cases (Liv. XXXIII.30, XXXIV.18).

(b.) Legislation. The legislative power of the centuries at first consisted in their passing or rejecting a measure which was brought before them by the presiding magistrate in the form of a senatus consultum, so that the assembly had no right of originating any legislative measure, but voted only upon such as were brought before them as resolutions of the senate. When a proposal was passed by the centuries it became law (lex). The first law passed by the centuries of which we have any record, was the lex Valeria de provocatione (Cic. De Re Publ. II.31), and the laws of the twelve tables were sanctioned by the centuries.

(c) The decision upon war, on the ground of a senatus consultum, likewise belonged to the centuries and is often mentioned. It is generally believed that they had also to decide upon the conclusion of peace and treaties, but it has been satisfactorily proved by Rubino (Ueber Röm. Staatsverf. p259, &c.) that in the early part of the republic, and perhaps down to the peace of Caudium, this was not the case, but that peace was concluded by a mere senatus consultum, and without any cooperation of the people.

(d) The highest political power. The comitia centuriata were in the first place the highest court of appeal (Dion Cass. XXXVII.27,º &c.; cf. Appellatio), and in the second, they had to try all offences committed against the state; hence, all cases of perduellio and majestas, and no case involving the life of a Roman citizen could be decided by any other court (Cic. p. Sext. 30, 34, De Re Publ. II.36, De Leg. III.4; Polyb. VI.4, 14). This last right was revived or introduced by the Valerian law (Plut. Publ. 11), and Spurius Cassius was condemned by the comitia of the centuries. There is no reason for believing that the laws of the twelve tables increased the power of the centuries in this respect; and Servius Tullius seems, in consistency with his principles, to have been obliged to constitute his national assembly at the same time as the high court of justice.

All the powers which we have here mentioned as possessed by the centuries, had to be sanctioned, when exercised, by the curies, through this sanction alone they became valid and binding. The election of a magistrate, or the passing of a law, though it was made on the grand of a senatus consultum, yet required the sanction of the curies. But, in the course of time, the assembly shook off this power of the curiae, which became merely a formality, and, in the end, the curiae were obliged to give their sanction beforehand to whatever the centuries might determine. This was effected by the Publilian law, in B.C. 337 (Liv. VIII.12). As thus the centuries gradually became powerful enough to dispense with the sanction of the curiae, so they also acquired the right of discussing and deciding upon matters which were not brought before p335them in the form of a senatus consultum; that is, they acquired the power of originating measures. In reference to the election of magistrates, the comitia originally were not allowed to elect any other except those who were proposed by the president, who himself was entirely guided by the resolution of the senate; but in the course of time, the people asserted their right so far as to oblige the president to propose any candidate that might offer himself, without the previous sanction of the senate. This change took place about B.C. 482. In legislative measures a senatus consultum was brought before the people by the consul or the senator who had originated the measure, after it had previously been exhibited in public for seventeen days, to give the people an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the nature of the proposed law (Appian, de Bell. Civ. I.59; Cic. p. Sext. 51, in Pison. 15). Whether the comitia required a senatus consultum in cases where they acted as the supreme court of justice, is uncertain, at least we have no example of a senatus consultum in such a case on record.

The comitia centuriata could be held only on dies comitiales or fasti, on which it was lawful to transact business with people, and the number of such days in every year was about 190 (Varro, de L. L. VI.29; Festus, s.v. Comitiales dies; Macrob. Sat. I.16); but on dies nefasti (that is, dies festi, feriati; cf. Dies) and, at first, also on the nundinae, no comitia could be held, until in B.C. 287 the Hortensian law ordained that the nundinae should be regarded as dies fasti (Macrob. Sat. I.16), so that henceforth comitia might be held on the nundines, though it was done rarely (Cic. ad Att. I.14). Comitia for the purpose of passing laws could not even be held on all dies fasti (Cic. de prov. Cons. 19). The comitia for elections took place every year at a certain period, though it depended upon the senate and the consuls, as to whether they wished the elections to take place earlier or later than usual (Cic. p. Mil. 9, ad Fam. VIII.4, p. Muren. 25).

The place where the centuries met, was the Campus Martius (Cic. ad Q. Frat. II.2; Dionys. IV.84, VII.59), which contained the septa for the voters, a tabernaculum for the president, and the villa publica for the augurs (Cic. p. Rab. Perd. 4; Gellius, XIV.7; Varro, de Ling. Lat. VI.87). The president at the comitia was the same magistrate who convoked them, and this right was a privilege of the consuls, and, in their absence, of the praetors (Cic. ad Fam. X.12). An interrex and dictator also, or his representative, the magister equitum, might likewise convene and preside at the comitia (Liv. VIII.23, XXV.2; Cic. De Leg. III.4).º At the beginning of the republic, the praefectus urbi held the comitia for the election of the first consuls (Liv. I.60); and the censors assembled the people only on account of the census and the lustrum (Varro, De L. L. VI.86). In cases when the assembly was constituted as a court of justice, inferior magistrates, after having obtained the permission of the consuls, might likewise preside (Liv. XXVI.3). One of the main duties devolving upon the president, and which he had to perform before holding the comitia, was to consult the auspices (auspicari). For this purpose, the magistrate accompanied by an augur went out of the city early in the morning, and chose a tabernaculum or templum. There the augur began his observations, and gave his opinion either that the comitia might be held, or that they must be deferred till another day. This declaration was given to the magistrate; and when the auspices were favourable, the people were called together, which was done by three successive and distinct acts: the first was quite a general invitation to come to the assembly (inlicium, Varro, De L. L. VI.94, cf. 86, 88). At the same time when this invitation was proclaimed circum moeros or de moeris, a horn was blown, which being the more audible signal, is mentioned by some writers alone, and without the inlicium (Gellius, XV.27; Varro, De L. L. V.91). When upon this signal, the people assembled in irregular masses, there followed the second call by the accensus, or the call ad concionem or conventionem; that is, to a regular assembly, and the crowd then separated, grouping themselves according to their classes and ages (Varro, De L. L. VI.88). Hereupon the consul appeared, ordering the people to come ad comitia centuriata; and led the whole exercitus — for, in this comitia, the Roman people are always conceived as an exercitus — out of the city, to the Campus Martius (Varro, l.c.; Liv. XXXIX.15). It was customary from the earliest times for an armed force to occupy the Janiculum, when the people were assembled in the Campus Martius, for the purpose of protecting the city against any sudden attack of the neighbouring people; and on the Janiculum, a vexillum was hoisted during the whole time that the assembly lasted. This custom continued to be observed even at the time when Rome had no longer any thing to fear from the neighbouring tribes (Liv. l.c.; Gell. XV.27; Macrob. Sat. I.16; Dion Cass. XXXVII.27, &c.; Serv. ad Aen. VIII.1). When the people were thus regularly assembled, the business was commenced with a solemn sacrifice, and a prayer of the president, who then took his seat on his tribunal (Dionys. VII.59, X.32; Liv. XXXI.7, XXXIX.15; Cic. p. Muren. 1; Liv. XXVI.2). The president then opened the business by laying before the people the subject for the decision, upon which they had been convened, and concluded his exposition with the words: velitis, jubeatis Quirites, e.g. bellum indici, or ut M. Tullio aqua igni interdictum sit, or whatever the subject might be. This formula was the standing one in all comitia, and the whole exposition of the president was called rogatio (Liv. IV.5, VI.40, XXI.17, XXII.10, XXX.43; Cic. De Fin. II.16, in Pison. 29, p. Dom. 17, 30; Gell. V.19). When the comitia were assembled for the purpose of an election, the presiding magistrate had to read out the names of the candidates, and might exercise his influence by recommending the one whom he thought most fit for the office in question (Liv. X.22, XXII.35). He was, however, not obliged to announce the names of all the candidates that offered themselves; as, for example, if a candidate had not attained the legitimate age, or when he sued for one office without having been invested with those through which he had to pass previously, or if there was any other legal obstacle; nay, the president might declare, that if a person, to whom he had any such objection, should yet be elected, he would not recognise his election as valid (Liv. III.21, XXIV.7; Val. Max. III.8 §3). If the assembly had been convened for the purpose of passing a legislative measure, the president usually recommended the proposal, or p336he might grant to others, if they desired it, permission to speak about the measure, either in its favour or against it (Concionem dare, Liv. III.71, XXXI.6, &c., XLII.34; Appian, De B. C. I.11; Dion Cass. XXXVIII.4; Quintil. II.4 §3). In this case, however, it was customary for private persons to speak before any magistrate, and the orators, until the time of Gracchus, while speaking turned their face towards the comitium and the senate house (Dion Cass. XXXIX.35; Cic. Lael. 25; Plut. C. Gracch. 5, Tib. Gracch. 14). When the comitia acted as a court of justice, the president stated the crime, proposed the punishment to be inflicted upon the offender, and then allowed others to speak either in defence of the accused or against him.

When the subject brought before the assembly was sufficiently discussed, the president called upon the people to prepare for voting by the words: ite in suffragium, bene juvantibus diis (Liv. XXXI.7). He then passed the stream Petronia, and went to the septa. If the number of citizens present at the assembly was thought too small, the decision might be deferred till another day, but this was rarely done, and a question was usually put to the vote, if each century was but represented by a few citizens (Liv. VII.18; Cic. p. Sext. 51, de Leg. Agr. II.9; Plut. Tib. Gracch. 16; Dion Cass. XXXIX.30). Respecting the manner in which the votes were given in the earliest times, opinions are divided: some think that they were given viva voce, and others by means of calculi, or in both ways, though it seems to be more probable that calculi were used. The leges tabellariae introduced a change in this respect, ordaining that the votes should be given in writing. [Leges tabellariae] But previous to the leges tabellariae, the rogatores, who subsequently collected the written votes, stood at the entrance of the septa, and asked every citizen for his vote, which was taken down, and used to determine the vote of each century (Dionys. VII.64). In legislative assemblies, the voter, probably from the earliest times, signified his disapproval by the word antiquo, and his approval by uti rogas (Liv. VI.38, X.8, XXX.43, XXXI.8, XXXIII.25; Cic. de Leg. II.10). At elections, the name of the successful candidate was mentioned to the rogator, who had to mark the favourable votes by dots which he made by the side of the name; hence puncta ferre, to be successful (Liv. X.13, 22, XXIX.22). The custom of voting at elections by tablets with the name of the candidates written on them, was introduced in B.C. 139, by the lex Gabinia tabellaria (Cic. de Leg. III.16); two years later L. Cassius introduced the same custom, in cases of the comitia acting as a court of justice (Cic. Brut. 27), and, afterwards, it was established also in legislative assemblies, and in cases where the comitia tried persons for perduellio. [Leges tabellariae] The two tablets which were given to each person for the purpose of voting on legislative measures, were marked the one with U and the other with A (uti rogas and antiquo, Cic. ad Att. I.14). At elections, the citizens obtained blank tablets, that they might write upon them the name of the candidate for whom they voted (Cic. Phil. XI.8; Plut. C. Gracch. 5,a Cat Min. 46; Plin. Epist. IV.25). In judicial assemblies, every citizen received two tablets marked A (absolvo) and C (condemno), and there was, perhaps, a third tablet containing the letters N.L. (non liquet), but this is an uncertain point. There were in the Campus Martius septa or inclosures (whether they existed from the earliest times is unknown), into which one class of citizens was admitted after another for the purpose of voting. The first that entered, were the eighteen centuries of the equites, then followed the first class and so on. It very rarely happened that the lowest class was called upon to vote, as there was no necessity for it, unless the first class did not agree with the equites (Dionys. IV.20, VII.59, VIII.82, X.17; Liv. I.43). After the time when the comitia of the centuries became amalgamated with those of the tribes, previous to each assembly, a large space near the villa publica was surrounded with an enclosure, and divided into compartments for the several tribes. The whole of this enclosure was called ovile, septa, carceres, or cancelli; and in later times a stone building, containing the whole people, was erected; it was divided into compartments for the classes as well as the tribes and centuries; the access to these compartments was formed by narrow passages called pontes or ponticuli. On entering, the citizens received their tablets (Cic. ad Att. 1.14, de Leg. III.17, in Pis. 15, p. Planc. 6); and when they had consulted within the enclosures, they passed out of them again by a pons or ponticulus, at which they threw their vote into a chest (cista) which was watched by rogatores. Hereupon the rogatores collected the tablets, and gave them to the diribitores, who classified and counted the votes, and then handed them over to the custodes, who again checked them off by points marked on a tablet (cf. Cic. in Pis. 15 — "vos rogatores, vos diribitores, vos custodes tabellarum"). The order in which the centuries voted, was determined in the Servian constitution, in the manner described above; but after the union of the centuries and tribes, the order was determined by lot; and this was a matter of no slight importance, since it frequently happened that the vote of the first determined the manner in which subsequent ones voted. The voting, of course, was continued, until the majority was ascertained. In the case of elections, the successful candidate was proclaimed twice, — first, by the praeco, and then by the president, and without this renuntiatio the election was not valid. After all the business was done, the president pronounced a prayer (Cic. p. Planc. 6, p. Muren. 1), and dismissed the assembly with the word discedite.

Cases are frequently mentioned in which the proceedings of the assembly were disturbed, so that it was necessary to defer the business till another day. This occurred —

1. when it was discovered that the auspices had been unfavourable, or when the gods manifested their displeasure by rain, thunder, or lightning;

2. when a tribune interceded (Liv. XLV.21; Dionys. VI.89; Cic. in Vat. 2);

3. when the sun set before the business was over, for it was a principle that the auspices were valid only for one day from sunrise to sunset (Varro, De L. L. VII.51; Dion Cass. XXXIX.65; Liv. X.22, XLI.17; Dionys. IX.41);

4. when a morbus comitialis occurred, i.e. when one of the assembled citizens was seized with an epileptic fit (Dion Cass. XLVI.33; Gellius, XIX.2; Macrob. Sat. II.8);

5. when the vexillum was taken away from the Janiculum, this being a signal which all citizens p337had to obey (Liv. XXXIX.15; Dion Cass. XXXVII.27; Macrob. Sat. I.16);

6. when any tumult or insurrection broke out in the city, as happened now and then during the latter period of the republic (Cic. p. Sext. 36).

In all these cases, the assembly had to continue its business on some other day, sometimes on the next. The only exception seems to have been in the case of the election of the censors, for if both could not be elected on the same day, it was necessary to begin the election afresh, and if one had been elected, his election was not valid (Liv. IX.34).

IV. Comitia tributa (ἐκκλησία φυλετική). These assemblies likewise were called into existence by the constitution of Servius Tullius, who divided the Roman territory into thirty local tribes. As these divisions were originally a purely topographical arrangement, they were of little or no importance to the state; but in the course of time, these local divisions were formed into a political union, and the assemblies of the tribes became most formidable rivals of those of the centuries. The decision upon the question as to what portion of the Roman population had the right to take part in the comitia tributa, depends upon the question, as to whether the tribes were instituted as a local organisation of the whole people (patricians and plebeians), or whether they were intended for the plebeians only. Most modern writers have adopted the opinion of Niebuhr, that the patricians were not considered as members of the tribes, and that accordingly, they had no right to take part in their assemblies, until the time of the decemviral legislation. The question is not one that can be proved with satisfactory evidence; but at any rate no sufficient argument has yet been brought forward to upset Niebuhr's view, for the fact of patricians and their clients being present at the place of meeting (Liv. II.56), for the purpose of disturbing the comitia tributa and preventing their coming to a decision, does not prove that they possessed the right of voting. After the time of the decemvirate, the patricians had the right of voting in the assemblies of the tribes, which were then also convened by the higher magistrates (Liv. III.71; cf. Tribus.)

The assemblies of the tribes had originally only a local power; they were intended to collect the tributum, and to furnish the contingents for the army (Dionys. IV.14, &c.); they may further have discussed the internal affairs of each tribe, such as the making or keeping up of roads, wells, and the like. But their influence gradually increased, for the commonalty being more numerous than the patricians, and being in a state of growth and development, and guided by active and energetic tribunes, the internal administration of the tribes gradually assumed the character of an administration of the internal affairs of the republic, while the comitia of the centuries were more calculated to represent the state in its relation to foreign countries. As the commonalty grew in strength, it made greater claims; each victory gave it fresh courage, and thus the comitia tributa gradually acquired the following powers:—

1. The election of the inferior magistrates, whose office it was to protect the commonalty or to superintended the affairs of the tribes. The Publilian law in B.C. 471, secured to the comitia tributa the right of electing the tribunes of the plebs (Liv. II.56; Dionys. IX.49). In like manner, the aediles were elected by them, though the curule aediles were elected at a different time from the plebeian aediles and under the presidency of a consul (Gell. XIII.15, VI.9; Cic. p. Planc. 4, 20, 22, ad Att. IV.3, ad Fam. VIII.4; Liv. IX.46, XXV.2). At a still later time, the quaestors and tribunes of the soldiers, who had before been appointed by the consuls, were appointed in the assemblies of the tribes (Cic. ad Fam. VII.30, in Vat. 5; Liv. IV.54, VII.5, IX.30; Sall. Jug. 63). The proconsuls to be sent into the provinces, and the prolongation of the imperium for a magistrate who was already in a province, were likewise points which were determined by the tribes in later times (Liv. VIII. 23, 26, IX.42, X.22, XXVII.22, XXIX.13, XXX.27, XXXI.50). The inferior magistrates elected by the tribes are:— the triumviri capitales, triumviri monetales, the curatores viarum, decemviri litibus judicandis, tribuni aerarii, magistri vicorum et pagorum, praefecti annonae, duumviri navales, quinqueviri muris turribusque reficiendis, triumviri coloniae deducendae, triumviri, quatuorviri, &c., mensarii, and lastly, after the Domitian law, B.C. 104, also the members of colleges of priests. The pontifex maximus had been elected by the people from an earlier time (Liv. XXV.5; Cic. de Leg. Agr. II.7).

2. The legislative power of the comitia tributa was at first very insignificant, for all they could do was to pass resolutions and make regulations concerning the local affairs of the tribes, but they did not in any way affect the state as a whole. But after a time when the tribes began to be the real representatives of the people, matters affecting the whole people also were brought before them by the tribunes, which, framed as resolutions, were laid before the senate, where they might either be sanctioned or rejected. This practice of the tributa comitia gradually acquired for them the right of taking the initiative in any measure, or the right of originating measures, until in B.C. 449 this right was recognised and sanctioned by a law of L. Valerius Publicola and M. Horatius Barbatus (Liv. III.55, 67; Dionys. XI.45). This law gave to the decrees passed by the tribes the power of a real lex, binding upon the whole people, provided they obtained the sanction of the senate and the populus, that is, the people assembled in the comitia curiata or in the comitia centuriata (Dionys. X.4, 32). At first the tribes acted with considerable moderation and modesty, discussing only those subjects which affected their own order or individual plebeians, such as the amnesty after the secession, plebeian magistrates, usury and the like. In B.C. 339, the Publilian law enacted ut plebiscita omnes Quirites tenerent (Liv. VIII.12). This law was either a re-enactment of the one passed in B.C. 449, or contained a more detailed specification of the cases in which plebiscita should be binding upon the whole nation, or, lastly, it made their validity independent of the sanction of other comitia, so that nothing would be required except the assent of the senate. In B.C. 287, the Hortensian law was passed, which seems to have been only a revival and a confirmation of the two preceding laws, for it was framed in almost the same terms (Plin. H. N. XVI.10; Gell. XV.27; Gaius, I.3); but it may also be, that the Hortensian law made the plebiscita independent of the sanction of the senate, so that henceforth the comitia tributa were quite independent in their p338legislative character. Senatus consulta preceding a plebiscitum, it is true, occur after this time in many instances, but it does not follow that for this reason a senatus consultum was necessary for every plebiscitum (Dionys. IX.41), for we must distinguish between those plebiscita which affected the rights of the people, and those which touched upon the administration of the republic; the former of these are constantly mentioned without a senatus consultum, but the latter never. [Plebiscitum].

3. The judicial power of the comitia tributa was much more limited than that of the comitia centuriata, inasmuch as they could take cognizance only of offences against the majesty of the people, while all crimes committed against the state were brought before the centuries. Even patricians, when they had offended against the commonalty or its members, were tried and fined by the tribes. This again constitutes a difference between the judicial power of the centuries and that of the tribes, for the former could inflict capital punishment, but the latter only fines. There are, indeed, cases in which the tribes might appear to have sentenced persons to exile; but such exile is not the result of a real verdict, but only a measure taken against those who during the trial went into voluntary exile, which might then be made a necessary exile, by the interdictio aquae et ignis being added (Liv. XXV.3, XXVI.3; Cic. Orat. p. Dom. 16, &c.). When the tribes acquired this right is uncertain, for that it was not originally possessed by them, is clear from the expressions used by our authorities. The offences for which persons were summoned before the tribes, were bad conduct of a magistrate in the performance of his duties, neglect of duty, ill management of a war, embezzlement of the public money, and a variety of offences of private individuals, such as disturbance of the public peace, usury, adultery, and the like. The comitia tributa also acted as courts of appeal, e.g. when a person protested against a fine imposed by a magistrate (Dionys. VII.17; Cic. De Leg. III.3; Liv. XL.42; Zonar VII.17). The persons who acted as accusers in the comitia tributa were the tribunes and aediles.

With respect to the time at which these comitia were or could be convened, the same regulations were observed as at the comitia centuriata. They might assemble either within or without the city, but not further from it than 1000 paces, because the power of the tribunes did not extend further. For elections the Campus Martius was usually chosen (Cic. ad Att. IV.3, ad Fam. VII.30; Plut. C. Gracch. 3), but some also the forum, the Capitol, or the Circus Flaminius (Cic. ad Att. I.16; Liv. XXXIII.10, XXVII.21). The presidents were commonly the tribunes who were supported by the aediles, and no matter could be brought before the tribes without the knowledge and consent of the tribunes (Liv. XXVII.22, XXX.41; Cic. de Leg. Agr. II.8); even the aediles could not bring a proposal before them without the permission of the tribunes (Gell. IV.4; Dionys. VI.90). One of them was chosen either by lot or by common agreement to act as president (Liv. II.56, III.64, IV.57, V.17); but his colleagues usually had to sign the proposal which he brought before the commonalty (Cic. p. Sext. 33, de Leg. Agr. II.9). As the comitia tributa, however, more and more assumed the character of national assemblies, the higher magistrates also sometimes acted as presidents, though perhaps not without previously obtaining the permission of the tribunes. There are only a few instances of higher magistrates presiding in the comitia tributa when assembled for purposes of legislation (Plin. H. N. XVI.15; Cic. p. Balb. 24; Dion Cass. XXXVIII.6, XXXIX.65; Appian, De Bell. Civ. III.7, 27); but the consuls and praetors often appear as presidents at the elections of tribunes, aediles, and quaestors (Liv. III.55, 64; Dionys. IX.41, 43, 49; Appian, De Bell. Civ. I.14; Cic. p. Planc. 20, ad Att. IV.3, in Vat. 5, ad Fam. VII.30); as well as when the comitia tributa were assembled as a court of justice (Liv. XXV.4; Appian, De Bell. Civ. I.31; Dion Cass. XXVIII.17).

The preparations for the comitia tributa were less formal and solemn than for those of the centuries. In the case of elections, the candidates had to give in their names, and the president communicated them to the people (Liv. III.64; Appian, De Bell. Civ. I.14). When a legislative measure was to be brought before the assembly, a tribune (the proposer of the bill was called rogator, and the others adscriptores) made the people acquainted with it in conciones, and that on the three preceding nundines. The same was the case when the people were to meet as a court of justice. The auspicia were not consulted for the comitia of the tribes, but the spectio alone was sufficient, and the tribunes had the right of obnuntiatio. The convening of these assemblies was likewise less solemn than that of the centuries, for the tribune who had been chosen to preside either at an election or brought forward a rogation, simply invited the citizens by his viatores, who were also sent not only different parts of the country to invite the people living at a distance (Appia, De Bell. Civ. I.29). At the meeting itself, he sat on the tribunal supported by his colleagues (Liv. XXV.3; Dion Cass. XXXIX.65), and laid before the people his bill, the name of the candidate, or made them acquainted with the nature of the offence on which they had to pass sentence, concluding with the words velitis, jubeatis Quirites. The bill was never read by the tribune himself, but by a praeco, and then began the debates, in which persons might either oppose or recommend the measure, though private persons had to ask the tribunes for permission to speak. When the discussion was over the president called upon the people ite in suffragium, as at the comitia centuriata. They then formed themselves into their tribes, which, like the centuries, ascertained their own votes in enclosures (septa). Which of the 35 tribes was to give its vote first, was determined by lot, and that tribe was called praerogativa or principium (the others were termed jure vocatae). The vote of the first tribe was given by some person of distinction whose name was mentioned in the plebiscitum, if it was of a legislative nature. The manner of collecting the votes was, on the whole, the same as in the comitia centuriata. The announcing of the result of the votes was the renuntiatio. If it so happened that two candidates had the same number of votes, the question was decided by drawing lots. The circumstances which might cause the meeting to break up and defer its business till another day, are the same as those which put an end to the comitia centuriata. If, however, the people were assembled as a court, the breaking up of the assembly was to the accused equivalent to an acquittal (Cic. p. Dom. 17). If p339after the comitia the augurs decided that some formality had been neglected, the decree of the assembly thereby became void, and persons who had been elected to an office were obliged to withdraw.

V. The comitia centuriata mixed with the comitia tributa. — The Servian constitution was retained unaltered so long as no great change took place in the republic, but when the coinage and the standard of property had become altered, when the constitution of the army had been placed on a different footing, and above all, when the plebeians began to be recognized as a great and essential element in the Roman state, it must have been found inconvenient to leave to the equites and the first class so great a preponderance in the comitia of the centuries, and it became necessary to secure more power and influence to the democratic element which had grown in strength and was still growing. It may have been the intention to combine the comitia centuriata and tributa in such a manner as to make only one assembly of them, but this was not done. A change however took place, though no writer mentions either the time when it was made nor in what it consisted, so that we are left to form our opinion from incidental allusions. First, as to the time of the change. From Livy (Liv. I.43) and Dionysius (IV.21) it would appear that the change did not take place till after the completion of the 35 tribes, i.e. after B.C. 241. Some modern writers, therefore, refer the change to the censorship of C. Flaminius, B.C. 220, who is said to have made the constitution more democratic; while Niebuhr and others date the change from the censorship of Q. Fabius and P. Decius, B.C. 304. But there is evidence that it must be assigned to even an earlier date than this, for the (tribus) praerogativa is mentioned as early as B.C. 396 in the election of the consular tribunes (Liv. V.18), where the pure comitia tributa cannot be meant, and a centuria praerogativa is a thing unknown.

The question about the manner in which the combination of the two kinds of comitia was effected, has been the subject of even much more discussion and doubt than that about the time when it was brought about. The most probable of the numerous opinions which have been advanced on this subject is that of O. Pantagathus (Fulv. Ursinus, ad Liv. I.43), which has been very elaborately worked out by Göttling (Gesch. d. Röm. Staatsverf. pp380, &c., 506, &c.). Pantagathus believes that the citizens of each tribe were divided into five property classes, each consisting of seniores and juniores, so that each of the 35 tribes contained 350 centuries, a number which corresponds with that of the days of a Roman lunar year. According to this new arrangement, the five ancient classes, divided into seniores and juniores, continued to exist as before (Liv. XLIII.16; Cic. Phil. II.33, p. Flacc. 7, de Re Publ. IV.2, Academ. II.33; Sall. Jug. 86), but henceforth they were most closely united with the tribes, whereas the tribes had been mere local divisions and entirely independent of property. The union now effected was that the classes became subdivisions of the tribes, and that accordingly centuries occur both in the classes and in the tribes (Cic. p. Planc. 20, de Leg. Agr. II.2). Each tribe contained ten centuries, two of the first class (one of the seniores and one of the juniores), two of the second (likewise seniores and juniores), two of the third, two of the fourth, and two of the fifth class. The equites were likewise divided according to tribes and centuries (Dionys. VI.13, VII.72), and they seem to have voted with the first class, and to have been in fact included in it, so as to be called centuries of the first class (Cic. Phil. II.33, Liv. XLIII.16; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Illustr. 57; Val. Max. VI.5 §3). The centuries of the cornicines, tubicines and fabri, which are no longer mentioned, probably ceased to exist as distinct centuries (cf. Cic. de Re Publ. II.22). Respecting the manner in which the votes were given, there are two opinions: according to the first, a whole tribes was chosen by lot to give its vote (10 centuries) first, and, according to the second, one century of the first class, having been determined by lot. If we adopt the former opinion, the votes of the ten centuries contained in a tribe would have been given one after another, and the majority, six, would have constituted a majority against the remaining 242. This is an absurdity of which we cannot conceive the Romans to have been guilty. The voting by tribes, therefore, cannot be conceived as rational, except in those cases in which the ten centuries of every tribe were unanimous; this may have been the case very often, and when it was so, the tribus praerogativa was certainly the tribe chosen by lot to give its unanimous vote first. But if there was any difference of opinion among the centuries making up a tribe, the true majority could only be ascertained by choosing by lot from which tribe the two centuries of the first class were to be taken to give their vote first. (Hence the plural praerogativae, Pseud. Ascon. ad Cic. in Verr. p139; Liv. X.20). The tribe, moreover, to which those centuries belonged which voted first, was itself likewise called tribus praerogativa. Of the two centuries, again, that of seniores gave its vote before the juniores, and in the documents both were called by the name of their tribes, as Galeria juniorum (Liv. XXVII.6, i.e. the juniores of the first class in the tribus Galeria), Aniensis juniorum (Liv. XXIV.7), Veturia juniorum (Liv. XXVI.22; cf. Cic. p. Planc. 20, Phil. II.33, de Div. II.35). As soon as the praerogativa had voted, the renuntiatio took place, and the remaining centuries then deliberated whether they should vote the same way or not. When this was done all the centuries of the first tribe proceeded to vote at once (Dionys. IV.21), for there would not have been time for the 350 centuries to vote one after another, as was done by the 193 centuries in the comitia centuriata (Cic. p. Planc. 20, in Verr. V.15, p. Red. in Senat. 11, ad Quir. 7; Liv. X.9, IX.22, XXIV.7, XXVI.22, XXVII.24; Suet. Caes. 19).

These comitia of the centuries combined with the tribes, were far more democratical than the comitia of the centuries; they continued to be held, and preserved their power along with the comitia tributa, even after the latter had acquired their supreme importance in the republic. During the time of the moral and political corruption of the Romans, the latter appear to have been chiefly guided by the tribunes, and the wealthier and more respectable p340citizens had little influence in them. When the libertini and all the Italians were incorporated in the old thirty-five tribes, and when the political corruption had reached its height, no trace of the sedate and moderate character was left by which the comitia tributa had been distinguished in former times (Sall. Cat. 37; Suet. Caes. 41; Cic. ad Att. 1.16). Violence and bribery became the order of the day, and the needy multitude lent willing ears to any instigations coming from wealthy bribers and tribunes who were mere demagogues. Sulla for a time did away with these odious proceedings; since, according to some, he abolished the comitia tributa altogether, or, according to others, deprived them of the right of electing the sacerdotes, and of all their legislative and judicial powers (Cic. in Verr. I.13, 15, de Legg. III.9; Liv. Epit. 89; Appian, de Bell. Civ. I.59, 98; cf. Tribunus). But the constitution, such as it had existed before Sulla, was restored soon after his death by Pompey and others, with the exception of the jurisdiction, which was for ever taken from the people by the legislation of Sulla. The people suffered another loss in the dictatorship of J. Caesar, who decided upon peace and war himself in connection with the senate (Dion Cass. XLII.20). He had also the whole of the legislation in his hands, through his influence with the magistrates and the tribunes. The people thus retained nothing but the election of magistrates; but even this power was much limited, as Caesar had the right to appoint half of the magistrates himself, with the exception of the consuls (Suet. Caes. 41; Cic. Philipp. VII.6; Dion Cass. LIII.51), and, as in addition to this, he recommended to the people those candidates whom he wished to be elected: and who would have opposed his wish? (Dion Cass. XLIII.47; Appian, de Bell. Civ. II.18) After the death of Caesar the comitia continued to be held, but were always more or less the obedient instruments in the hands of the rulers, whose unlimited powers were even recognised and sanctioned by them. (Appian, de Bell. Civ. IV.7; Dion Cass. LVI.55, XLVII.2). Under Augustus the comitia still sanctioned new laws and elected magistrates, but their whole proceedings were a mere farce, for they could not venture to elect any other persons than those recommended by the emperor (Suet. Aug. 40, &c.; Dion Cass. LIII.2, 21, LV.34, LVI.40). Tiberius deprived the people even of this shadow of their former power, and conferred the power of election upon the senate (Tacit. Ann. I.15, 81, II.36, 51; Vell. Pat. II.126). When the elections were made by the senate the result was announced to the people assembled as comitia centuriata or tributa (Dion Cass. LVIII.20). Legislation was taken away from the comitia entirely, and was completely in the hands of the senate and the emperor. Caligula placed the comitia again upon the same footing on which they had been in the time of Augustus (Dion Cass. LIX.9; Suet. Cal. 16); but the regulation was soon abandoned, and every thing was left as it had been arranged by Tiberius (Dion Cass. LIX.20). From this time the comitia may be said to have ceased to exist, as all the sovereign power formerly possessed by the people was conferred upon the emperor by the lex regia [Regia.] The people only assembled in the Campus Martius for the purpose of receiving information as to who had been elected or appointed as its magistrates, until at last even this announcement (renuntiatio) appears to have ceased.

In addition to the works on Roman history in general, the reader may consult Unterholzner, De Mutata Centuriatorum Comit. a Servio Tullio Rege Institutorum Ratione, Breslau, 1835; G. C. Th. Francke, De Tribuum, de Curiarum atque Centuriarum Ratione, Schleswig, 1824; Huschke, Die Verfassung des Servius Tullius, 1838; Hüllmann, Römische Grundverfassung; Rubino, Untersuchungen über die Röm. Verfassung, 1839; Zumpt, Ueber die Abstimmung des Röm. Volkes in Centuriacomitien.


Thayer's Note:

a I've been unable to find such a passage in either of Plutarch's Lives of the Gracchi. If you think you may have better luck, here are the Lives of Caius and Tiberius Gracchus.


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