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Lex Julia Municipalis

p691 Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p691 of

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

Lex Julia Municipalis, commonly called the Table of Heraclea.a In the year 1732 there were found near the Gulf of Tarentum and in the neighbourhood of the ancient city of Heraclea, large fragments of a bronze tablet which contained on one side a Roman lex and on the other a Greek inscription. The whole is now in the Museo Borbonico at Naples. The lex contains various provisions as to the police of the city of Rome, and as to the constitution of communities of Roman citizens (municipia, coloniae, praefecturae, fora, conciliabula civium Romanorum). It was accordingly a lex of that kind which is called Satura.

It is somewhat difficult to determine the date of this lex, but there seem to be only two dates which can be assumed as probable; one is the time immediately after the Social War, or shortly after B.C. 69; the other is that which shortly followed the admission of the Transpadani to the civitas (B.C. 49). This latter date, in favour of which various considerations preponderate, seems to be fixed about the year B.C. 45 by a letter of Cicero (ad Fam. VI.18). Compare the tablet l. 94, 104, as to persons whom the lex excluded from the office of decurio.

It seems that the lex of the year B.C. 49, which gave the civitas to the Transpadani, enacted that a Roman commissioner should be sent to all the towns for the purpose of framing regulations for their municipal organization. The Lex Julia empowered the commissioners to continue their labours for one year from the date of the lex, the terms of which were so extended as to comprise the whole of Italy. The lex was therefore appropriately called Municipalis, as being one which established certain regulations for all municipia; and this sense of the term municipalis must be distinguished from that which merely refers to the local usages or to the positive laws of any given place, and which is expressed by such terms as Lex Municipii, Lex Civitatis, and other equivalent terms.

The name Lex Julia rests mainly on the fact (assumed to be demonstrated) that this lex was passed when Julius Caesar was in the possession of full power, that it is the lex referred to by Cicero, and that it is improbable that it would have been called by any other personal appellation than that of Julia. It is further proved by a short inscription found at Padua in 1696, that there was a Lex Julia Muncipalis; and the contents of the inscription (IIII vir aediliciae · potestat · e lege · Julia Municipali) compared with Cicero (eratque rumor de Transpadanis eos jussos IIII viros creare, ad Att. V.2) render it exceedingly probable that the Lex Julia Municipalis of the inscription is the lex of the Table of Heraclea, and the Lex Municipalis of the Digest (50 tit. 9 s3; Cod. 7 tit. 9 s1; and Dig. 50 tit. 1 Ad Municipalem et de Incolis).

(Savigny, Volksschluss der Tafel von Heraclea, Zeitschrift, vol. IX p300, and vol. XI p50, as to the passage of Sueton. Caesar. 41. The tablet is printed in the work of Mazochi, Comm. in aeneas Tab. Heracl. p1, 2. Neap. 1754, 1755, fol., with a commentary which contains much learning, but no sound criticism).

Thayer's Note:

a The Table of Heraclea is online here.

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Page updated: 14 Aug 04