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p696 Leges Publiliae

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp696‑697 of

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

PUBLI′LIAE LEGES of the Dictator Q. Publilius Philo, which he proposed and carried B.C. 339 (Liv. VIII.12). The purport of these Leges is thus expressed by Livy: "tres leges secundissimas plebei, adversas nobilitati tulit: unam ut plebiscita omnes Quirites tenerent: alteram, ut legum quae comitiis centuriatis ferrentur, ante initum suffragium Patres auctores fierent: tertiam ut alter utique ex plebe, quum eo ventum sit ut utrumque plebeium consulem fieri liceret, censor crearetur." The provision of the first lex seems to be the same as that of the Lex HortensiaB.C. 286 "ut plebiscita universum populum tenerent" (Gaius, I.3). Some critics suppose that the first Lex enacted that a Plebiscitum should be a Lex without being confirmed by the Comitia Centuriata, but that it would still require the confirmation of the Senate, or, as some suppose, of the Comitia Curiata. The Lex Hortensia, it is further supposed, did away with the confirmation of the Curiae, or, as some suppose, of the Senate. But the expression "omnes Quirites" of Livy clearly has some reference, and, according to correct interpretation, must be taken to have some reference, to the extent of the effect of a Plebiscitum. There is no difficulty in giving a consistent meaning to Livy's words. The first Lex enacted that Plebiscita should bind all the Quirites; which means nothing else than that a Plebiscitum should have the effect of a Lex passed at the Comitia Centuriata. It is not here said whether the Comitia Tributa could legislate on all matters on which the comitia centuriata could [Publilia Lex]; and nothing is said as to the dispensing with any form for the confirming of a Lex passed at these Comitia. And that Livy did not suppose that the first Lex contained any regulations as to matter of form, is made clear by what he says of the second Lex, which did regulate the form of legislation. This is the clear meaning of Livy's words: it may not be the true import of the first Lex; but it is somewhat difficult to prove any thing about a matter beyond what the evidence shows. [Plebiscitum].

The simplest meaning of the second Lex, according to the words, is, that no Rogatio should be proposed at the Comitia Centuriata, until the Patres had approved of it, and had given it their auctoritas. If we knew who were meant by the Patres, the meaning of the Lex would be tolerably clear. It is now generally supposed that Livy means the Comitia Curiata, and that their veto on the measures of the Comitia Centuriata was p697was taken away. If Patres means the Senate, then the purport of the Lex is this, that no measure must be proposed at the Centuriata Comitia, without a SCtum first authorising it (cf. Liv. XLV.21).

The meaning of the third Lex is plain enough. Puchta shows or tries to show that the first Lex Publilia simply rendered unnecessary the confirmation of a Plebiscitum by the Comitia Centuriata; and therefore there remained only the confirmation of the Senate. Accordingly, the effect of the first Lex was to make the Comitia Tributa cease to have merely the initiative in legislation; henceforth, Plebiscita did not require the confirmation of a Lex Centuriata, but only that of the Senate and we may, probably, from this time date the use of the expression: "Lex sive id Plebiscitum est."

He considers the second Lex to have simply declared the old practice, that the Comitia Centuriata should pass no Rogation without the authority of a previous Senatusconsultum. The two Leges then had this relation to one another: the first Lex provided, that a Lex passed at the Comitia Tributa, which before this time was confirmed by a Senatusconsultum, and finally ratified by the Comitia Centuriata, would not require the ratification of the Comitia Centuriata; the second Lex declared that the old practice as to the Comitia Centuriata should be maintained, that the Leges passed there should have the previous authorisation (auctoritas) of the Senate.

On the subject of these Leges, see Zachariae Sulla, I. p26, note; Puchta, Inst. I. § 59; and Niebuhr, vol. III p147, &c. Engl. Tr.: and see Valeriae Leges.

See also a different law brought to you by the same family: Publilia Lex.

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