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Bill Thayer

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 p1090  Tabella

Unsigned article on pp1090‑1091 of

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

TABELLA dim. of TABULA a billet or tablet, with which each citizen and judex voted in the comitia and courts of justice. In the comitia, if the business was the passing of a law, each citizen was provided with two Tabellae, one inscribed V.R. i.e. Uti Rogas, "I vote for the law," the other inscribed A. i.e. Antiquo, "I am for the old law" (compare Cic. ad Att. I.14). If the business was the election of a magistrate, each citizen was supplied with only one tablet, on which the names of the candidates were written, or the initials of their names, as some suppose from the oration pro Domo, c43; the voter then placed a mark (punctum) against the one for whom he voted, whence puncta are spoken of in the sense of votes (Cic. pro Planc. 22). For further particulars respecting the voting in comitia, see Diribitores, Cista, Sitella, and Suffragium.

The judices were provided with three Tabellae: one of which was marked with A. i.e. Absolvo, "I acquit;" the second with C. i.e. Condemno, "I condemn;" and the third with N.L. i.e. Non Liquet, "It is not clear to me." The first of these was called Tabella absolutoria and the second Tabella damnatoria (Suet. Octav. 33), and hence Cicero (pro Mil. 6) calls the former litera salutaris, and the latter litera tristis. It would seem that in some trials the Tabellae were marked with the letters L. and D. respectively, i.e. Libero and Damno, since we find on a denarius of the Caelian gens a Tabella marked with the letters L.D.; and as we know that the vote by ballot in cases of Perduellio was first introduced by C. Caelius Caldus [Tabellariae Leges], the Tabella on the coin undoubtedly refers to that event. There is also a passage in Caesar (B. C. III.83), which seems to intimate that these initial letters were sometimes marked on the tabellae: "Unam fore tabellam, qui liberandos omni periculo censerent; alteram, qui capitis damnarent," &c. (compare Spanheim, Numism. vol. II p199).

[image ALT: A woodcut of a coin, with on the right side the vertical legend ΓONCIN · III · V, reading downward, depicting a man in a toga about to deposit an object marked with a prominent 'V' into a basket or bucket at his feet. The woodcut is discussed in the text of this webpage.]

 p1091  The preceding cut contains a copy of a coin of the Cassian gens, in which a man wearing a toga is represented in the act of placing a tabella, marked with the letter A (i.e. absolvo), in the cista. The letter on the tabella is evidently intended for A.

For the other meanings of Tabella see Tabula.

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Page updated: 20 Jan 13