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''Potestas'' is a
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
word meaning power or faculty. It is an important concept in
Roman Law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
.


Origin of the concept

The idea of ''potestas'' originally referred to the power, through
coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualiz ...
, of a
Roman magistrate The Roman magistrates were 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 earliest hi ...
to promulgate edicts, give action to litigants, etc. This power, in Roman political and legal theory, is considered analogous in kind though lesser in degree to military power. The most important magistrates (such as
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the 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 ...

consul
s and
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
s) are said to have
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
, which is the ultimate form of ''potestas,'' and refers indeed to military power. ''Potestas'' strongly contrasts with the power of 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 ...
and the ''prudentes'', a common way to refer to Roman
jurist A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law; someone who analyses and comments on law. This person is usually a specialist legal scholarnot necessarily with a formal qualification in law or a lawyer, legal practitioner, although in the U ...
s. While the magistrates had ''potestas'', the ''prudentes'' exercised ''
auctoritas 300px, Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catilina, Catiline, from a 19th-century fresco ''Auctoritas'' is a Latin word which is the origin of English "authority". While historically its use in English was restricted ...
''. It is said that ''auctoritas'' is a manifestation of socially recognized knowledge, while ''potestas'' is a manifestation of socially recognized power. In Roman political theory, both were necessary to guide the ''
res publica ''Res publica'' (also spelt as ''rēs pūblica'' to indicate vowel length In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for stu ...
'' and they had to inform each other.


Evolution of the concept in the Middle Ages

After the fall of the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
, most institutions of Roman public law fell into disuse, but much of Roman political theory remained. In a letter, '' Duo Sunt'',
Pope Gelasius I Pope Gelasius I was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern O ...

Pope Gelasius I
argued that Christendom was ruled, in theory, by the priests and princes. The former had the spiritual authority, which was identified with auctoritas, while the latter had temporal power, identified with potestas. At first, the Pope crowned secular rulers after
Pope Stephen II Pope Stephen II ( la, Stephanus II; 714 – 26 April 757) was the bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority an ...

Pope Stephen II
crowned the Frankish king
Pepin the Short Pepin the Short, also called the Younger (german: Pippin der Jüngere, french: Pépin le Bref, c. 714 – 24 September 768) was King of the Franks The Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was ...
in January 754, and secular rulers often appointed local bishops and abbots, but after the
Investiture Controversy#REDIRECT Investiture Controversy The Investiture Controversy, also called Investiture Contest, was a conflict between church and state in medieval Europe over the ability to choose and install bishops ( investiture) and abbots of monasteries a ...
the Pope was instead chosen by the College of Cardinals and, at least in theory, approved episcopal nominations. As the effective power of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
declined, kingdoms asserted their own independence. One way to do this was to claim that the king had, in his kingdom, the same power as the emperor in the empire, and so the king assumed the attributes of potestas. The concept of ''plena in re potesta'' was often used in 13th-century Europe, of ownership as being "in full power" to do what one likes with one's property. The use of the dogma was also used by Edward I. Although its ultimate use is ambiguous, it was used to give to parliament representatives the authority of making choices in parliament (full powers). This, in turn, helped Edward I coerce shire representatives to grant taxes.


Podestà

In some of the
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
city states A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'' ...
, the term "Potestas" describes the authority of a magistrate developed into "
Podestà 235px, The Palace of the Podestà in Florence, now the Bargello museum Podestà (, English: Potestate, Podesta) was the name given to the holder of the highest civil office in the government of the cities of Central Italy, Central and Northern Ita ...
", which was the chief magistrate's title.


References


See also

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