History, Facts and Information about Roman Assemblies
The assemblies of the whole Roman people, to give their vote on any subject, were called comitia. There were three kinds, the curiata, centuriata, and tributa. The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Roman Assemblies. For more facts and information regarding Roman Law click the following links:
Rights of Roman Citizens
Roman Assemblies - The Comitia Curiata
The comitia curiata were assemblies of the resident Roman citizens, who were divided into thirty curiae, a majority of which determined all matters of importance that were laid before them, such as the election of magistrates, the enacting of laws and judging of capital causes. Comitia centuriata were assemblies of the various centuries into which the six classes of the people were divided. Those who belonged to the first class were termed classici, by way of pre-eminence - hence auctores classici, respectable or standard authors; those of the last class, who had no fortune, were called capite censi, or proletarii; and those belonging to the middle classes were all said to be infra classem - below the class.
Roman Assemblies - The Comitia Centuriata - Elections and Laws
Comitia centuriata were the most important of all the assemblies of the people. In these, laws were enacted, magistrates elected, and criminals tried. Their meeting was in the Campus Martius. It was necessary that these assemblies should have been summoned seventeen days previously to their meeting, in order that the people might have time to reflect on the business which was to be transacted. Candidates for any public office, who were to be elected here, were obliged to give in their names before the comitia were summoned. Those who did so, were said to petere consulatum vel praeturam, &c.; and they wore a white robe called toga candida, to denote the purity of their motives; on which account they were called candidati. Candidates went about to solicit votes (ambire,) accompanied by a nomenclator, whose duty it was to whisper the names of those whose votes they desired; for it was supposed to be an insult not to know the name of a Roman citizen.
Roman Assemblies - The Centuria praerogativa
Centuria praerogativa was that century which obtained by ballot the privilege of voting first. When the centuria praerogativa had been elected, the presiding magistrate sitting in a tent (tabernaculum,) called upon it to come and vote.
All that century then immediately separated themselves from the rest, and entered into that place of the Campus Martius, called septa or ovilia. Going into this, they had to cross over a little bridge (pons;) hence the phrase de ponte dejici—to be deprived of the elective franchise.
At the farther end of the septa stood officers, called diribitores, who handed waxen tablets to the voters, with the names of the candidates written upon them. The voter then putting a mark (punctus) on the name of him for whom he voted, threw the tablet into a large chest; and when all were done, the votes were counted.
If the votes of a century for different magistrates, or respecting any law, were equal when counted, the vote of the entire century was not believed among the votes of the other centuries; but in trials of life and death, if the tablets pro and con were equal, the criminal was acquitted.
The candidate for whom the greatest number of centuries voted, was duly elected, (renunciatus est:) when the votes were unanimous, he was said ferre omne punctum—to be completely successful.
When a law was proposed, two ballots were given to each voter: one with U. R. written upon it, Uti Rogas—as you propose; and the other with A. for Antiquo—I am for the old one.
In voting on an impeachment, one tablet was marked with A. for Absolvo—I acquit; hence this letter was called litera salutaris; the other with C. for condemno—I condemn; hence C. was called litera tristis.
Roman Assemblies - The Comitia Tributa
In the comitia tributa, the people voted, divided into tribes, according to their regions or wards; they were held to create inferior magistrates, to elect certain priests, to make laws, and to hold trials. The comitia continued to be assembled for upwards of seven hundred years, when that liberty was abridged by Julius Caesar, and after him by Augustus, each of whom shared the right of creating magistrates with the people. Tiberius the second emperor, deprived the people altogether of the right of election.
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