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Plebeian Council

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The Concilium Plebis (Curia Hostilia, and would sometimes heckle during meetings. The representatives of the Plebeians in government are called Tribunes. These Tribunes had the power to veto the laws of the Senate. Only the plebeians were allowed to vote.

Contents

  • History 1
    • From 509 to 471 BC 1.1
    • From 471 to 27 BC 1.2
      • The Plebeian Council and the Conflict of the Orders 1.2.1
    • After 27 BC 1.3
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Notes 4
  • Further reading 5
    • Primary sources 5.1
    • Secondary source material 5.2

History

From 509 to 471 BC

When the Roman kings. During this time, plebeians had no political rights. Each plebeian family was dependent on a particular patrician family. Thus, each plebeian family belonged to the same curia as did its patrician patron. While the plebeians each belonged to a particular curia, only patricians could actually vote in the Curiate Assembly.

Before the first plebeian secession in 494 BC, the plebeians probably met in their own assembly on the basis of the curiae. However, this assembly probably had no political role until the offices of plebeian tribune and plebeian aedile were created that year, in order to end the secession. As a result of the plebeian movement, the patrician aristocracy formally recognized the political power of the plebeian tribune, and thus legitimized the power of the assembly over which the plebeian tribune presided. This "Plebeian Curiate Assembly" was the original Plebeian Council.[2] After 494 BC, a plebeian tribune always presided over the Plebeian Curiate Assembly. This assembly elected the plebeian tribunes and the plebeian aediles,[1] and passed legislation (plebiscita) that applied only to the plebeians.

From 471 to 27 BC

During the later years of the [2]

The only difference between the Plebeian Council after 471 BC and the ordinary Tribal Assembly (which also organized on the basis of the tribes) was that the tribes of the Plebeian Council included only plebeians, whereas the tribes of the Tribal Assembly included both plebeians and patricians. However, most Romans were plebeians. Therefore, the principal differences between the Plebeian Council and the Tribal Assembly were mostly legal rather than demographic. These legal differences derived from the fact that Roman law did not recognize an assembly consisting only of one group of people (plebeians in this case) from an assembly consisting of all of the People of Rome. Over time, however, these legal differences were mitigated with legislation.

The Plebeian Council elected two plebeian officers, the tribunes and the aediles, and thus Roman law classified these two officers as the elected representatives of the plebeians.[1] As such, they acted as the presiding officers of this assembly.

The Plebeian Council and the Conflict of the Orders

Chart showing the checks and balances of the Constitution of the Roman Republic.

The creation of the office of plebeian tribune and plebeian aedile marked the end of the first phase of the struggle between the plebeians and the patricians (the Conflict of the Orders). The next major development in this conflict occurred through the Plebeian Council. During a modification of the original Valerian law in 449 BC, plebiscites acquired the full force of law, and thus applied to all Romans. Before this time, plebiscites had applied only to plebeians. By the early 4th century BC, the plebeians, who still lacked any real political power,[5] had become exhausted and bitter. In 339 BC they facilitated the passage of a law (the lex Publilia), which brought the Conflict of the Orders closer to a conclusion. Before this time, a bill passed by any assembly could become law only after the patrician senators gave their approval, which came in the form of a decree called the auctoritas patrum ("authority of the fathers" or "authority of the patrician senators"). The lex Publilia required the auctoritas patrum to be passed before a law could be voted on by one of the assemblies, rather than afterward.[6] This modification seems to have made the auctoritas patrum irrelevant.[7] Thus, the Plebeian Council became independent of the patrician aristocracy in everything but name.

By 287 BC, the economic condition of the average plebeian had deteriorated further. The problem appears to have centered on widespread indebtedness.[8] The plebeians demanded relief, but the senators, most of whom belonged to the creditor class, refused to abide by the plebeians' demands. The plebeians withdrew en masse to the Janiculum hill, resulting in the final plebeian secession. To end this movement, a plebeian dictator (Quintus Hortensius) was appointed, who ultimately passed a law called the "Hortensian Law" (lex Hortensia). The most significant component of this law was its termination of the requirement that auctoritas patrum be obtained before any bill could be considered by the Plebeian Council.[8] In this way the law removed from the patrician senators their final check over the Plebeian Council.[9] The lex Hortensia, however, should not be viewed as the final triumph of democracy over aristocracy.[9] Close relations between the plebeian tribunes and the senate meant that the senate could still exercise a great degree of control over the Plebeian Council. Thus, the ultimate significance of this law was that it robbed the patricians of their final weapon over the plebeians.[9] This ended the Conflict of the Orders, and brought the plebeians to a level of full political equality with the patricians.

After 27 BC

Although the Plebeian Council survived the fall of the Roman Republic,[10] it quickly lost its legislative, judicial and electoral powers to the senate. By virtue of their status as perpetual tribunes, both Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus always had absolute control over the Plebeian Council.[10] The Plebeian Council disappeared shortly after the reign of Tiberius.

See also

References

  • Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. Elibron Classics (ISBN 0-543-92749-0).
  • 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 (ISBN 0-19-926108-3).
  • 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 (ISBN 0-472-08125-X).

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Abbott, 196
  2. ^ a b Abbott, 261
  3. ^ Abbott, 21
  4. ^ Abbott, 260
  5. ^ Abbott, 35
  6. ^ Abbott, 50
  7. ^ Abbott, 51
  8. ^ a b Abbott, 52
  9. ^ a b c Abbott, 53
  10. ^ a b Abbott, 397

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
  • 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
  • Rome at the End of the Punic Wars: An Analysis of the Roman Government; by Polybius

Secondary source material

  • Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, by Montesquieu
  • The Roman Constitution to the Time of Cicero
  • What a Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us
  • ConciliumSmith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, article
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