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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 earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
. The two most important were the
tribunes of the plebs #REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs#REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs 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, and was, throughout the his ...
and the
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
s. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs acted as a check on the authority 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 annual magistrates, holding the power of ''ius intercessionis'' to intervene on behalf of the
plebeians 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 ...
, and veto unfavourable legislation. There were also
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
s, who commanded portions of the
Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500–31 BC) and the (31 BC–395 AD), and its medieval continuation, the (historiographically known as the ). It i ...

Roman army
, subordinate to higher magistrates, such as 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 ...
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,
promagistrate 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 5th century AD, encompassing the Roma ...
s, and their
legates A ''legatus'' (Anglicisation, anglicised as legate) was a high-ranking Roman military officer in the Roman Army, equivalent to a modern high-ranking general officer. Initially used to delegate power, the term became formalised under Augustus as ...

legates
. Various officers within the Roman army were also known as tribunes. The title was also used for several other positions and classes in the course of Roman history.


Tribal tribunes

The word ''tribune'' is derived from the
Roman tribes A ''tribus'', or tribe, was a division of the Ancient Rome, Roman people, constituting the voting units of a legislative assembly of the Roman Republic.''Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities'', "Tribus."''Oxford Classical Dic ...
. The three original tribes known as the ''Ramnes'' or ''Ramnenses'', ''Tities'' or ''Titienses,'' and the ''Luceres,'' were each headed by a tribune, who represented each tribe in civil, religious, and military matters. Subsequently, each of the Servian tribes was also represented by a tribune.


Tribune of the ''celeres''

Under 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 ...
, the ''tribunus celerum'', in English ''tribune of the celeres,'' or ''tribune of the knights'', was commander of the king's personal bodyguard, known as the ''
celeres__NoToC__ The celeres were the bodyguard of the Kings 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 in its class. Historically, the t ...
''. This official was second only to the king, and had the authority to pass law, known as ''lex tribunicia'', and to preside over 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 ...
''. Unless the king himself elected to lead the cavalry into battle, this responsibility fell to the tribune of the celeres. In theory he could deprive the king of his
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
, or authority to command, with the agreement of the ''comitia curiata''. In the reign of
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final 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 in ...
, the last Roman king, this office was held by
Lucius Junius Brutus Lucius Junius Brutus ( 6th century BC) is the semi-legendary Organizational founder, founder of the Roman Republic, and traditionally one of its first Roman consul, consuls in 509 BC. He was reputedly responsible for the expulsion of his uncle the ...
, the king's nephew, and thus the senior member of the king's household, after the king himself and his sons. It was Brutus who convened the ''comitia'' and asked that they revoke the king's imperium. After the fall of the monarchy, the powers of the tribune of the celeres were divided between the ''
Magister Militum 300px, The original command structure of the Late Roman army, with a separate ''magister equitum'' and a ''magister peditum'' in place of the later overall ''magister militum'' in the command structure of the army of the Western Roman Empire. (L ...
'', or Master of the Infantry, also known as the ''Praetor Maximus'' or ''dictator'', and his lieutenant, the ''
magister equitum The , in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate The Roman magistrates were elected officials in Ancient Rome. During the Timeframe, period of the Roman Kingdom, the King of Rome was the principal executive ma ...
'' or "Master of the Horse".


Tribune of the plebs

The ''tribuni plebis'', known in English as ''tribunes of the plebs, tribunes of the people,'' or ''plebeian tribunes,'' were instituted in 494 BC, after the
first secession The First Secession was an exodus of ministers and members from the Church of Scotland The Church of Scotland (CoS; sco, The Scots Kirk; gd, Eaglais na h-Alba), also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national church of Scot ...
of the plebs, in order to protect the interests of the plebeians against the actions of the senate and the annual magistrates, who were uniformly
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 ...
. The ancient sources indicate the tribunes may have originally been two or five in number. If the former, the college of tribunes was expanded to five in 470 BC. Either way, the college was increased to ten in 457 BC, and remained at this number throughout Roman history. They were assisted by two '' aediles plebis'', or plebeian aediles. Only plebeians were eligible for these offices, although there were at least two exceptions. The tribunes of the plebs had the power to convene the ''
concilium plebis The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English: Plebeian Council, Plebeian Assembly, People's Assembly or Council of the Plebs) was the principal assembly of the common people of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative/judicial assembly, th ...
'', or plebeian assembly, and propose legislation before it. Only one of the tribunes could preside over this assembly, which had the power to pass laws affecting only the plebeians, known as ''plebiscita'', or plebiscites. After 287 BC, the decrees of the ''concilium plebis'' had the effect of law over all Roman citizens. By the 3rd century BC, the tribunes could also convene and propose legislation before the senate. Although sometimes referred to as "plebeian magistrates," technically the tribunes of the plebs were not magistrates, having been elected by the plebeians alone, and not the whole Roman people. However, they were sacrosanct, and the whole body of the plebeians were pledged to protect the tribunes against any assault or interference with their persons during their terms of office. Anyone who violated the sacrosanctity of the tribunes might be killed without penalty. This was also the source of the tribunes' power, known as ''ius intercessionis,'' or ''intercessio,'' by which any tribune could intercede on behalf of a Roman citizen to prohibit the act of a magistrate or other official. Citizens could appeal the decisions of the magistrates to the tribunes, who would then be obliged to determine the legality of the action before a magistrate could proceed. This power also allowed the tribunes to forbid, or ''veto'' any act of the senate or another assembly. Only a
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the c ...
was exempt from these powers. The ''tribunicia potestas'', or tribunician power, was limited by the fact that it was derived from the oath of the people to defend the tribunes. This limited most of the tribunes' actions to the boundaries of the city itself, as well as a radius of one mile around. They had no power to affect the actions of provincial governors. The powers of the tribunes were severely curtailed during the constitutional reforms of the dictator
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...

Sulla
in 81 BC. Although many of these powers were restored in further reforms of 75 BC and 70 BC, the prestige and authority of the tribunes had been irreparably damaged. In 48 BC, the senate granted tribunician powers (''tribunicia potestas'', powers equivalent to those of a tribune without actually being one) to the dictator
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
. Caesar used them to prevent the other tribunes interfering with his actions. In 23 BC, the senate granted the same power to
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
, the first
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 variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becom ...
, and from that point onwards it was regularly granted to each emperor as part of
their formal titles In Modern English, ''they'' is a Grammatical person, third-person personal pronoun, pronoun, chiefly Grammatical number, plural. Morphology In Standard English, Standard Modern English, ''they'' has five distinct word Morphology (linguistics), ...
. Under 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 tribunes continued to be elected, but had lost their independence and most of their practical power. The office became merely a step in the political careers of plebeians who aspired toward a seat in the senate.


Military tribunes

The ''tribuni militum,'' known in English as ''military tribunes'' or literally, ''tribunes of the soldiers'', were elected each year along with the annual magistrates. Their number varied throughout Roman history, but eventually reached twenty-four. These were usually young men in their late twenties, who aspired to a senatorial career. Each tribune would be assigned to command a portion of the Roman army, subordinate to the magistrates and promagistrates appointed by the senate, and their legates. Within each of the , various middle-ranking officers were also styled ''tribune''. These officers included: * ''
Tribunus laticlavius In the Roman army The Roman army (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 th ...
'', a senatorial officer, second in command of a legion; identified by a broad stripe, or ''laticlavus.'' * ''
Tribunus angusticlaviusA ''tribunus angusticlavius'' ("narrow-striped tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome ...
'', an officer chosen from among the equites, five to each legion; identified by a narrow stripe, or ''angusticlavus''. * ''Tribunus rufulus'', an officer chosen by the commander. * ''Tribunus vacans'', an unassigned officer in the Late Roman army; a member of the general's staff. * ''Tribunus cohortis'', an officer commanding a
cohort Cohort or cohortes may refer to: * Cohort (educational group), a group of students working together through the same academic curriculum * Cohort (floating point), a set of different encodings of the same numerical value * Cohort (military unit), ...
, part of a legion usually consisting of six
centuries A century is a period of 100 year A year is the orbital period of a planetary body, for example, the Earth, moving in Earth's orbit, its orbit around the Sun. Due to the Earth's axial tilt, the course of a year sees the passing of the season ...
. * ''Tribunus cohortis urbanae'', commander of one of the urban cohorts, a sort of military police unit stationed at Rome. * ''Tribunus sexmestris'', a tribune serving a tour of duty of only six months; there is no evidence to identify this officer as a cavalry commander, as sometimes stated in modern literature. In the late Roman army, a ''tribunus'' was a senior officer, sometimes called a ''
comes ''Comes'' ( ), plural ''comites'' ( ), is the Latin word for "companion", either individually or as a member of a collective denominated a "''comitatus ''Comitatus'' was in ancient times the Latin term for an armed escort or retinue. The term is ...
'', who commanded a cavalry
vexillatio A ''vexillatio'' (plural ''vexillationes'') was a detachment of a Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to ...
. As ''tribounos'', the title survived in the
East Roman army The East Roman army refers to the army of the eastern section of the Roman Empire, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by themes after the permanent loss of Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا, ''Sūr ...
until the early 7th century. From the use of ''tribunus'' to describe various military officers is derived the word ''tribunal'', originally referring to a raised platform used to address the soldiers or administer justice. Military tribunes are featured in notable works of historical fiction, including '' Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ'', by
Lew Wallace Lewis Wallace (April 10, 1827February 15, 1905) was an American lawyer, Union general in the American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States ...

Lew Wallace
, and '' The Robe'' by
Lloyd C. Douglas Lloyd Cassel Douglas (August 27, 1877 – February 13, 1951) was an American minister and author. Douglas was one of the most popular American authors of his time, although he did not write his first novel until he was 50. Biography He was b ...
. Both novels involve characters affected by the life and death of
Jesus Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...

Jesus
, and were turned into
epic film Epic films are a style of filmmaking with large scale, sweeping scope, and spectacle. The usage of the term has shifted over time, sometimes designating a film genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, d ...
s during the 1950s. Messala, the primary antagonist in '' Ben-Hur'', was played by
Stephen Boyd Stephen Boyd (born William Millar; 4 July 1931 – 2 June 1977) was a Northern Irish Northern Irish people is a demonym for all people born in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; Ulster Scots dialects, ...

Stephen Boyd
, while Marcellus Gallio, the protagonist of '' The Robe'', was played by a young
Richard Burton Richard Burton, (; born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr.; 10 November 19255 August 1984) was a Welsh People, Welsh actor. Noted for his baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a Richa ...

Richard Burton
.


Consular tribunes

In 445 BC, the tribunes of the plebs succeeded in passing the ''
lex CanuleiaThe (‘ Canuleian law’), or , was a law of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization, run through res publica, public Representation (politics), represe ...
'', repealing the law forbidding the intermarriage of patricians and plebeians, and providing that one of the consuls might be a plebeian. Rather than permit the consular dignity to pass into the hands of a plebeian, the senate proposed a compromise whereby three military tribunes, who might be either patrician or plebeian, should be elected in place of the consuls. The first ''tribuni militum consulare potestate'', or ''military tribunes with consular power'', were elected for the year 444. Although plebeians were eligible for this office, each of the first "consular tribunes" was a patrician. Military tribunes were elected in place of the consuls in half the years from 444 to 401 BC, and in each instance, all of the tribunes were patricians; nor did any plebeian succeed in obtaining the consulship. The number of tribunes increased to four beginning in 426, and six beginning in 405. At last, the plebeians elected four of their number military tribunes for the year 400; others were elected in 399, 396, 383, and 379. But apart from these years, no plebeian obtained the highest offices of the Roman State. The patricians' monopoly on power was finally broken by Gaius Licinius Calvus Stolo and
Lucius Sextius LateranusLucius Sextius Lateranus was a Roman tribune of the plebs and is noted for having been one of two men (the other being Gaius Licinius Stolo) who passed the Lex Licinia Sextia, Leges Liciniae Sextiae of 368 BC and 367 BC. Originally, these were a set ...
, tribunes of the people, who in 376 BC brought forward legislation demanding not merely that one of the consuls ''might'' be a plebeian, but that henceforth one ''must'' be chosen from their order. When the senate refused their demand, the tribunes prevented the election of annual magistrates for five years, before relenting and permitting the election of consular tribunes from 370 to 367. In the end, and with the encouragement of the dictator
Marcus Furius Camillus Marcus Furius Camillus (; c. 446 – 365 BC) was a Roman soldier and statesman of the Patrician (ancient Rome), patrician class. According to Livy and Plutarch, Camillus Roman triumph, triumphed four times, was five times Roman dictator, dictator, ...
, the senate conceded the battle, and passed the Licinian Rogations. Sextius was elected the first plebeian consul, followed by Licinius two years later; and with this settlement, the consular tribunes were abolished.


Tribunes of the treasury

The exact nature of the ''Tribuni Aerarii'', or ''Tribunes of the Treasury'' is shrouded in mystery. Originally they seem to have been tax collectors, but this power was slowly lost to other officials. By the end of the Republic, this style belonged to a class of persons slightly below the equites in wealth. When the makeup of Roman juries was reformed in 70 BC, it was stipulated that one-third of the members of each jury should belong to this class.


Later uses of the title


Republic of Venice

In the early history of the
Republic of Venice The Republic of Venice ( it, Repubblica di Venezia; vec, Repùblega de Venèsia) or Venetian Republic ( it, Repubblica Veneta; vec, Repùblega Vèneta), traditionally known as La Serenissima ( en, Most Serene Republic Most Serene Republic ( ...
, during the tenure of the sixth
Doge A doge (; ; plural dogi or doges) was an elected lord and Chief of State in several Italian city-states, notably Venice and Genoa, during the medieval and renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. was a peri ...

Doge
Domenico Monegario, Venice instituted a dual Tribunal modeled on the above Roman institution - two new Tribunes being elected each year, with the intention to oversee the Doge and prevent abuse of power (though this aim was not always successfully achieved).


French revolutionary ''tribunat''

The "Tribunat", the French word for tribunate, derived from the Latin term ''tribunatus'', meaning the office or term of a Roman ''tribunus'' (see above), was a collective organ of the young revolutionary French Republic composed of members styled ''tribun'' (the French for tribune), which, despite the apparent reference to one of ancient Rome's prestigious magistratures, never held any real political power as an assembly, its individual members no role at all. It was instituted by
Napoleon I Bonaparte Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...
's
Constitution of the Year VIII The Constitution of the Year VIII (french: Constitution de l'an VIII or french: Constitution du 22 frimaire an VIII) was a national constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that const ...
"in order to moderate the other powers" by discussing every legislative project, sending its ''orateurs'' ("orators", i.e. spokesmen) to defend or attack them in the
Corps législatif 250px, The scene outside the ''Palais du Corps Législatif'' after its final sitting, 1870, by Jacques Guiaud. The Corps législatif was a part of the French legislature during the French Revolution and beyond. It is also the generic French term ...

Corps législatif
, and asking the Senate to overturn "the lists of eligibles, the acts of the Legislative Body and those of the government" on account of unconstitutionality. Its 100 members were designated by the Senate from the list of citizens from 25 years up, and annually one fifth was renewed for a five-year term. When it opposed the first parts of Bonaparte's proposed penal code, he made the Senate nominate 20 new members at once to replace the 20 first opponents to his politic; they accepted the historically important reform of penal law. As the Tribunate opposed new despotic projects, he got the Senate in year X to allow itself to dissolve the Tribunate. In XIII it was further downsized to 50 members. On August 16, 1807 it was abolished and never revived.


See also

*
Constitution of the Roman Republic The constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of uncodified norms and customs which, together with various written laws, guided the procedural governance of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a sta ...
* List of Roman tribunes


References


Notes


Bibliography

* * for information on Tribunes of the Treasury


External links


Livius.org: Tribune
* {{Ancient Rome topics Ancient Roman titles