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p951 Praecones

Unsigned article on p951 of

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

PRAECO′NES, criers, were employed for various purposes:

1. In sales by auction, they frequently advertised the time, place, and conditions of sale: they seem also to have acted the part of the modern auctioneer, so far as calling out the biddings and amusing the company, though the property was knocked down by the magister auctionis (Hor. Ars Poet. 419; Cic. ad Att. XII.40, de Off. II.23). [Auctio.]

2. In all public assemblies they ordered silence (Liv. III.47; Plaut. Poen. prol. 11).

3. In the comitia they called the centuries one by one to give their votes, pronounced the vote of each century, and called out the names of those who were elected (Cic. c. Verr. V.15, pro Mil. 35). They also recited the laws that were to be passed.

4. In trials, they summoned the accuser and the accused, the plaintiff and defendant (Suet. Tib. 11).

5. In the public games, they invited the people to attend, and proclaimed the victors (Cic. ad Fam. V.12).

6. In solemn funerals they also invited people to attend by a certain form; hence these funerals were called Funera Indictiva (Festus, s.v. Quirites; Suet. Jul. 84).

7. When things were lost, they cried them and searched for them (Plaut. Merc. III.4.78; Petron. 57).

8. In the infliction of capital punishment, they sometimes conveyed the commands of the magistrates to the lictors (Liv. XXVI.15).

Their office, called praeconium, appears to have been regarded as rather disreputable: in the time of Cicero a law was passed preventing all persons who had been praecones from becoming decuriones in the municipia (Cic. ad Fam. VI.18). Under the early emperors, however, it became very profitable (Juv. III.157, VII.6; Martial, V.56.11, VI.8.5), which was no doubt partly owing to the bribes which they received from the suitors, &c.


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