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p377 Curia

Two articles on p377 of

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

CURIA, signifies both a division of the Roman people and the place of assembly for such a division. Various etymologies of the word have been proposed, but none seems to be so plausible as that which connects it with the Sabine word quiris or curis (whence the surname of Juno Curitis among the Sabines).

Each of the three ancient Romulian tribes, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, was subdivided into 10 curiae, so that the whole body of the populus or the patricians were divided into 30 curiae (Liv. I.13; Dionys. II.7, 23; Plut. Rom. 19a). The plebeians had no connection whatever with the curiae, and the clients of the patricians were members of the curiae only in a passive sense (Fest. p285, ed. Müller; cf. Patricii, Gens). All the members of the different gentes belonging to one curia were called, in respect of one another, curiales. The division into curiae was of great political importance in the earliest times of Rome, for the curiae alone contained those that were real citizens, and their assembly alone was the legitimate representative of the whole people [Comitia curiata], from whom all other powers emanated. The senators and equites were of course chosen from among them; but their importance was especially manifest in the religious affairs of the state. Each curia as a corporation had its peculiar sacra (Fest. pp174, 245; Paul. Diac. p49, ed. Müller), and besides the gods of the state, they worshipped other divinities and with peculiar rites and ceremonies. For such religious purposes each curia had its own place of worship, called curia, which at first may have contained nothing but an altar, afterwards a sacellum, and finally a building in which the curiales assembled for the purpose of discussing political, financial, religious and other matters (Paul. Diac. pp62, 64; Dionys. II.50). The religious affairs of each curia were taken care of by a priest, curio, who was assisted by another called curialis Flamen (Paul. Diac. pp49, 64; Varro, De L. L. V.83, VI.46; Dionys. II.21; cf. Curio). The 30 curiae had each its distinct name, which are said to have been derived from the names of the Sabine women who had been carried off by the Romans, though it is evident that some derived their names from certain districts or from ancient eponymous heroes. Few of these names only are known, such as curia Titia, Faucia, Calabra, Foriensis, Rapta, Veliensis, Tifata (Paul. Diac. pp49, 366; Fest. p174; Liv. I.3; Dionys. II.47; Cic. De Re Publ. II.8). The political importance of the curiae sank in proportion as that of the plebeians and afterwards of the nobilitas rose; but they still continued the religious observances of their corporation, until in the end these also lost their importance and almost fell into oblivion (Ov. Fast. II.527, &c.).

Curia is also used to designate the place in which the senate held its meetings, such as curia Hostilia, curia Julia, curia Marcelli, curia Pompeii, curia Octaviae, and from this there gradually arose the custom of calling the senate itself in the Italian towns curia, but never the senate of Rome. The official residence of the Salii, which was dedicated to Mars, was likewise styled curia (Cic. de Div. I.17; Dionys. XIV.5; Plut. Camill. 32; cf. Becker, Handb. der Röm. Alterth. vol. II part I p31, &c.).


CURIA (βουλευτήριον, γερουσία), in architecture. The building in which the highest councils of the state met, in a Greek or Latin city, is described by Vitruvius as being adjacent to the agora or forum. Its form was quadrangular; either square or oblong. If square, its height was one and a half times its length: if oblong, the height was half the sum of the length and breadth. Thus, a senate house 40 feet square would be 60 feet high: and one 60 feet by 40 would be 50 feet high: which are somewhat remarkable proportions. Half way up each wall there was a projecting shelf or cornice to prevent the voice being lost in the height of the building. Vitruvius says nothing of columns in the curia, but we know that in some Greek senate houses, as in that at Phocis, there were rows of columns down each side, very near the wall (Paus. VIII.32, X.5), and this also was the case at Pompeii. A sort of religious character was conceived to belong to the senate house; and there were often statues of the gods placed in it (Paus. l.c.). Respecting the three curiae at Rome, the Hostilia, the Julia, and the Pompeiana, see Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geog. art. Roma (Vitruv. V.2; Stieglitz, Archäol. d. Baukunst, vol. III p21; Hirt, Lehre d. Gebäude, pp186‑188).


Thayer's Note:

a Plut. Rom. 19: The two references in Plutarch's Life of Romulus are in fact 14.6 and 20.2.

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