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In the
constitution of ancient Rome
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 form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
confirming the rights of higher
magistrates The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a ''Roman magistrate, magistratus'' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and posse ...
to hold power, or ''
imperium 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 histori ...

imperium
''. In theory, it was passed by the ''
comitia curiata 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 ...

comitia curiata
'', which was also the source for ''leges curiatae'' pertaining to
Roman adoption Possibly the most famous Roman adoptee, Augustus first Emperor of the Roman Empire Adoption in Ancient Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map o ...
. In the late
Republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...
, historians and political theorists thought that the necessity of such a law dated to the Regal period, when kings after
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary foundation of Rome, founder and King of Rome, first king of Ancient Rome, Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus ...
had to submit to ratification by the
Roman people grc, Rhōmaîoi , image = Pompeii family feast painting Naples.jpg , image_caption = 1st century AD wall painting from Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune'' of Pompei near Naples in t ...

Roman people
. Like many other aspects of
Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often distinguished from univer ...
and law, the ''lex curiata'' was attributed to
Numa Pompilius Numa Pompilius (; 753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome 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 ...

Numa Pompilius
, Rome's second king. This origin seems to have been reconstructed after the fact to explain why the law was required, at a time when the original intent of the ceremony conferring ''imperium'' was no longer understood. The last two kings, however, were said to have ruled without such ratification, which at any rate may have been more loosely acclamation. The law was passed in an assembly that during the late Republic existed in name only, the ''
comitia curiata 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 ...
'', based on the ''
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
e''. The ''curiae'' were supposed to have been the thirty political divisions created by Romulus and named after the
Sabine women
Sabine women
, who were from Cures in
Sabine The Sabines (; lat, Sabini; it, Sabini, all s) were an that lived in the central of the ancient , also inhabiting north of the before the . The Sabines divided into two populations just after the founding of Rome, which is described by Ro ...

Sabine
territory. These political units were replaced as early as 218 BC by
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *'' ...

lictor
s; the people no longer assembled, as each ''curia'' was represented by a lictor, and confirmation was virtually automatic, unless a
tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials 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 ...

tribune
chose to obstruct. Even then, an unconfirmed magistrate might forge ahead with the functions of his office regardless. By the late Republic, a magistrate could simply dispense with this ratification in claiming his ''imperium'', or a legislator could include a provision in a
bill Bill(s) may refer to: Common meanings * Banknote A banknote (often known as a bill (in the US and Canada), paper money, or simply a note) is a type of negotiable instrument, negotiable promissory note, made by a bank or other licensed author ...
that rendered a curiate law redundant. The
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, ...
, by contrast, were confirmed by the ''
comitia centuriata The Centuriate Assembly (Latin: ''comitia centuriata'') of the Roman Republic was one of the three voting assemblies in the Roman constitution. It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred m ...

comitia centuriata
''. It therefore becomes unclear what purpose the ''lex curiata'' continued to serve: "The origin, nature, and importance of the ''lex curiata de imperio'' have been extensively and inconclusively debated." It has sometimes been supposed that the ''lex curiata'' is what conferred the right to take
auspices Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. ...
, though scholars are not unanimous on this point. H.S. Versnel, in his study of the
Roman triumph The Roman triumph (') was a civil ceremonyA civil, or registrar, ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally recognised union between people, called spouses, tha ...
, argued that the ''lex curiata de imperio'' was a prerequisite for a commander before he could be awarded a triumph. ''Imperium'', Versnel maintained, was not granted to a commander within a political framework, but was rather a quality within the man that manifests itself and is acknowledged ceremonially by a ''lex curiata de imperio''. The ''lex'' was not fundamental to the holding of ''imperium'' or ''
auspicium Augury is the practice from Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion of interpreting omens from the observed behavior of birds. When the individual, known as the augur, interpreted these signs, it is referred to as "taking the auspices". ...
'', but was rather the act through which the people expressed their recognition of that authority. Even if the ''lex curiata'' became largely ceremonial, it retained enough force to be useful for political tactics when evoked.
Tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials 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 ...

Tribune
s could obstruct its passage; the
consuls A consul is an official representative of the government of one Sovereign state, state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between th ...
of 54 BC lacked the ''lex'', and their legitimacy to
govern A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, Executive (government), ex ...
as
proconsul A proconsul was an official of 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 wo ...

proconsul
s was questioned; during the
civil war A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independen ...

civil war
, the consuls of 49 used their own lack of a ''lex'' as an excuse for not holding elections for their successors.Oakley, ''Commentary on Livy'', pp. 493–494. For more on the consuls of 49 BC in regard to the ''lex curiata'', see
Jerzy Linderski Jerzy Sever Linderski (born 21 August 1934 in Lwow, Poland, now Lviv Lviv ( uk, Львів ; orv, Львівград; pl, Lwów ; yi, לעמבערג, Lemberg; russian: Львов, Lvov ; german: Lemberg; la, Leopolis; hu, Ilyvó; see also L ...
, "Q. Scipio Imperator," in ''Imperium sine fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic'' (Franz Steiner, 1996), pp. 166–167. On the consuls of 54, see G.V. Sumner, "The ''coitio'' of 54 BC, or Waiting for Caesar," ''Harvard Studies in Classical Philology'' 86 (1982) 133–139.


Selected bibliography

* Lintott, Andrew. ''The Constitution of the Roman Republic''. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999. * Oakley, S.P. ''A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X''. Oxford University Press, 2005, vol. 3. * Versnel, H.S. ''Triumphus: An Inquiry into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph''. Brill, 1970.


References

{{Italic title
Roman law {{CatAutoTOC, numerals=no Law in ancient history Ancient Rome, Law Indo-European law, Roman Law by former country ...