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The Roman Assemblies were institutions in
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
. They functioned as the machinery of the Roman legislative branch, and thus (theoretically at least) passed all legislation. Since the assemblies operated on the basis of a direct democracy, ordinary citizens, and not elected representatives, would cast all ballots. The assemblies were subject to strong checks on their power by the executive branch and by the
Roman Senate
Roman Senate
. Laws were passed (and magistrates elected) by
Curia Curia (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, ...

Curia
(in the
Curiate Assembly The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...
), Tribes (in the
Tribal Assembly The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of ...
), and century (in the
Centuriate Assembly The Centuriate Assembly (: ''comitia centuriata'') of the was one of the three voting assemblies in the . It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred men by classes. The centuries initial ...
). When the city of Rome was founded (traditionally dated at 753 BC), a senate and an assembly, the
Curiate Assembly The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...
, were both created. The Curiate Assembly was the principal legislative assembly during the era of the
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilis ...
. While its primary purpose was to elect new kings, it also possessed rudimentary legislative powers. Shortly after the founding of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
(traditionally dated to 509 BC), the principal legislative authority shifted to two new assemblies, the Tribal Assembly ("Citizen's Assembly") and the Centuriate Assembly. Under the empire, the powers that had been held by the assemblies were transferred to the senate. While the assemblies eventually lost their last semblance of political power, citizens continued to gather into them for organizational purposes. Eventually, however, the assemblies were abandoned.


Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom

The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom were political institutions in the ancient
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilis ...
. While one assembly, the
Curiate Assembly The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...
, had some legislative powers,Abbott, 18 these powers involved nothing more than a right to symbolically ratify decrees issued by the
Roman King The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate The term magistrate is ...
.Abbott, 19 The functions of the other assembly, the Calate Assembly, were purely
religious Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...
. During the years of the kingdom, the
People of Rome
People of Rome
were organized on the basis of units called
curia Curia (Latin plural curiae) in ancient Rome referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers, they came ...

curia
. All of the People of Rome were divided amongst a total of thirty curiae. These curiae were the basic units of division in the two popular assemblies.Byrd, 33 The members in each curia would vote, and the majority in each curia would determine how that curia voted before the assembly. Thus, a majority of the curiae (sixteen out of the thirty total curiae) were needed during any vote before either the Curiate Assembly or the Calculate Assembly. They functioned as the Roman legislative branch. The king presided over the assembly, and submitted decrees to it for ratification. After a king died, the
Interrex The interrex (plural interreges) was literally a ruler "between kings" (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from La ...
selected a candidate to replace the king.Abbott, 14 After the nominee received the approval of the Roman Senate, the Interrex held the formal election before the Curiate Assembly. After the Curiate Assembly elected the new king, and the senate ratified that election, the Interrex then presided over the assembly as it voted on the law which granted the king his legal powers (the ''
lex curiata de imperio In the constitution of ancient Rome, the ''lex curiata de imperio'' (plural ''leges curiatae'') was the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to fo ...
''). On the ''
calendsThe calends or kalends ( la, kalendae) is the first day of every month in the Roman calendar. The English language, English word ''calendar'' is derived from this word. Use The Ancient Rome, Romans called the first day of every month the ''calends ...
'' (the first day of the month), and the '' nones'' (around the fifth day of the month), this assembly met to hear announcements. Appeals heard by this assembly often had to deal with questions concerning Roman family law.Abbott, 15 During two fixed days in the spring, the assembly was to always meet to witness wills and adoptions. The assembly also had jurisdiction over the admission of new families to a curia, the transfer of families between two curiae, and the transfer of individuals from
plebeian In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
(commoner) to
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
(aristocratic) status (or vice versa).


Legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic

The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
. There were two types of Roman assembly. The first was the ''comitia'',Lintott, 42 which was an assembly of Roman citizens.Abbott, 251 Here, Roman citizens gathered to enact laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The second type of assembly was the council (''concilium''), which was an assembly of a specific group of citizens. For example, the "
Plebeian Council The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually ...
" was an assembly where Plebeians gathered to elect Plebeian magistrates, pass laws that applied only to Plebeians, and try judicial cases concerning Plebeians.Lintott, 43 A convention (''conventio''), in contrast, was an unofficial forum for communication, where citizens gathered to debate bills, campaign for office, and decide judicial cases. The voters first assembled into conventions to deliberate, and then they assembled into committees or councils to actually vote.Taylor, 2 In addition to the curiae (familial groupings), Roman citizens were also organized into centuries (for military purposes) and tribes (for civil purposes). Each gathered into an assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The
Centuriate Assembly The Centuriate Assembly (: ''comitia centuriata'') of the was one of the three voting assemblies in the . It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred men by classes. The centuries initial ...
was the assembly of the Centuries, while the
Tribal Assembly The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of ...
was the assembly of the Tribes. Only a block of voters (Century, Tribe or Curia), and not the individual electors, cast the formal vote (one vote per block) before the assembly.Taylor, 40 The majority of votes in any Century, Tribe, or Curia decided how that Century, Tribe, or Curia voted. The Centuriate Assembly was divided into 193 (later 373) Centuries, with each Century belonging to one of three classes: the officer class, the infantry, and the unarmed adjuncts.Taylor, 85Cicero, 226 During a vote, the Centuries voted, one at a time, by order of seniority. The president of the Centuriate Assembly was usually a
Roman Consul A consul held the highest elected political office The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, administrative Work (human acti ...
(the chief magistrate of the republic).Polybius, 132 Only the Centuriate Assembly could elect Consuls,
Praetors Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some langu ...
and
Censors Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments, ...
,
declare war ''Declare'' ( 2000) is a supernatural spy novel by American author Tim Powers. The novel presents a secret history of the Cold War, and earned several major fantasy fiction awards. Plot summary The non-linear plot, shifting back and forth in time ...
,Abbott, 257 and ratify the results of a census.Taylor, 3, 4 While it had the power to pass ordinary laws (''leges''), it rarely did so. The organization of the Tribal Assembly was much simpler than was that of the Centuriate Assembly, in contrast, since its organization was based on only thirty-five Tribes. The Tribes were not ethnic or kinship groups, but rather geographical divisions (similar to modern
U.S. Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Wa ...
ional districts or Commonwealth Parliamentary constituencies).Lintott, 51 The president of the Tribal Assembly was usually a Consul, and under his presidency, the assembly elected
Quaestors A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, ' (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. ...
,
Curule Aediles Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome#Monarchy.2C republic.2C empire, Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings () and regulation of public festiv ...
, and .Taylor, 7 While it had the power to pass ordinary laws (''leges''), it rarely did so. The assembly known as the
Plebeian Council The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually ...
was identical to the Tribal Assembly with one key exception: only
plebeian In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
s (the commoners) had the power to vote before it. Members of the aristocratic
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
class were excluded from this assembly. In contrast, both classes were entitled to a vote in the Tribal Assembly. Under the presidency of a
Plebeian Tribune Tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune ( la, tribunus plebis) was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeians The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, anci ...

Plebeian Tribune
(the chief representative of the people), the Plebeian Council elected Plebeian Tribunes and
Plebeian Aediles The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in ...
(the Plebeian Tribune's assistant), enacted laws called
plebiscite A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct Direct may refer to: Mathematics * Directed set In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number th ...
s, and presided over judicial cases involving Plebeians. Originally, laws passed by the Plebeian Council only applied to Plebeians.Byrd, 31 However, by 287 BC, laws passed by the Plebeian Council had acquired the full force of law, and from that point on, most legislation came from the council.


Legislative assemblies of the Roman Empire

The legislative assemblies of the Roman Empire were political institutions in the ancient
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. During the reign of the second
Roman Emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
,
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors use ...

Tiberius
, the powers that had been held by the Roman assemblies were transferred to the
senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...

senate
. After the founding of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
, the People of Rome continued to organize by Centuries and by Tribes, but by this point, these divisions had lost most of their relevance.Abbott, 397 While the machinery of the
Centuriate Assembly The Centuriate Assembly (: ''comitia centuriata'') of the was one of the three voting assemblies in the . It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred men by classes. The centuries initial ...
continued to exist well into the life of the empire, the assembly lost all of its practical relevance. Under the empire, all gatherings of the Centuriate Assembly were in the form of an unsorted convention. Legislation was never submitted to the imperial Centuriate Assembly, and the one major legislative power that this assembly had held under the republic, the right to declare war, was now held exclusively by the emperor. All judicial powers that had been held by the republican Centuriate Assembly were transferred to independent jury courts, and under the emperor
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors use ...

Tiberius
, all of its former electoral powers were transferred to the senate. After it had lost all of these powers, it had no remaining authority. Its only remaining function was, after the senate had 'elected' the magistrates, to hear the ''renuntiatio'', The ''renuntiatio'' had no legal purpose, but instead was a ceremony in which the results of the election were read to the electors. This allowed the emperor to claim that the magistrates had been "elected" by a sovereign people. In the early empire, the tribal divisions of citizens and freedmen continued, but the only political purpose of the tribal divisions was such that they better enabled the senate to maintain a list of citizens. Tribal divisions also simplified the process by which grain was distributed. Eventually, most ''freedmen'' belonged to one of the four urban Tribes, while most ''freemen'' belonged to one of the thirty-one rural Tribes. Under the emperor Tiberius, the electoral powers of the
Tribal Assembly The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of ...
were transferred to the senate. Each year, after the senate had elected the annual magistrates, the Tribal Assembly also heard the ''renuntiatio''. Any legislation that the emperor submitted to the assemblies for ratification were submitted to the Tribal Assembly. The assembly ratified imperial decrees, starting with the emperor
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
, and continuing until the emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a v ...

Domitian
. The ratification of legislation by the assembly, however, had no legal importance as the emperor could make any decree into law, even without the acquiescence of the assemblies. Thus, under the empire, the chief executive again became the chief lawgiver, which was a power he had not held since the days of the early republic. The
Plebeian Council The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually ...
also survived the fall of the republic, and it also lost its legislative, judicial and electoral powers to the senate. By virtue of his , the emperor had absolute control over the council.


See also


Notes


References

* Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). ''A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions''. Elibron Classics (). * Byrd, Robert (1995). ''The Senate of the Roman Republic''. U.S. Government Printing Office, Senate Document 103-23. * Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1841). ''The Political Works of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations and Notes in Two Volumes''. By Francis Barham, Esq. London: Edmund Spettigue. Vol. 1. * Lintott, Andrew (1999). ''The Constitution of the Roman Republic''. Oxford University Press (). * Polybius (1823). ''The General History of Polybius: Translated from the Greek''. By James Hampton. Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter. Fifth Edition, Vol 2. * Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). ''Roman Voting Assemblies: From the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar''. The University of Michigan Press ().


Further reading

* Ihne, Wilhelm. ''Researches Into the History of the Roman Constitution''. William Pickering. 1853. * Johnston, Harold Whetstone. ''Orations and Letters of Cicero: With Historical Introduction, An Outline of the Roman Constitution, Notes, Vocabulary and Index''. Scott, Foresman and Company. 1891. * Mommsen, Theodor. ''Roman Constitutional Law''. 1871–1888 * Tighe, Ambrose. ''The Development of the Roman Constitution''. D. Apple & Co. 1886. * Von Fritz, Kurt. ''The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity''. Columbia University Press, New York. 1975. * ''The Histories'' by
Polybius Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the ...

Polybius
* ''Cambridge Ancient History'', Volumes 9–13. * A. Cameron, ''The Later Roman Empire'', (Fontana Press, 1993). * M. Crawford, ''The Roman Republic'', (Fontana Press, 1978). * E. S. Gruen, ''The Last Generation of the Roman Republic'' (U California Press, 1974) * F. Millar, ''The Emperor in the Roman World'', (Duckworth, 1977, 1992). * A. Lintott, ''The Constitution of the Roman Republic'' (Oxford University Press, 1999)


Primary sources


Cicero's ''De Re Publica'', Book Two



Secondary source material



* ttps://web.archive.org/web/20080829134354/http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/misc/romancon.html The Roman Constitution to the Time of Cicero
What a Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach UsAn extensive collection of digital books and articles on Roman Law and History, in various languages. By professor Luiz Gustavo Kaercher


External links

{{Ancient Rome topics Roman Kingdom Government of the Roman Republic Government of the Roman Empire Historical legislatures Popular assemblies