Comitia centuriata

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The Roman Republic ( res publica ) formally divided the legislative power into three separate assemblies: the comitia centuriata , the comitia tributa and the concilium plebis . In contrast to modern parliaments, these bodies did not have a separation of powers , but combined legislative , judicial and electoral functions. They had the option of changing laws retrospectively ( ex post facto ). The Roman Senate, on the other hand, was formally an advisory chamber and had (at least in theory) no legislative or judicial power. However, it could not be avoided if the chief magistrates wanted to introduce bills to the assembly of the comitia centuriata (centurion committees), because a senate resolution was necessary for this . The situation was different in relation to the tribunes , because the Senate had no authority over them.

The comitia centuriata comprised patricians and plebeians organized in five classes ( knights and senators formed the first class) divided into departments called centuries . The division according to Centuries comes from the army , so the comitia centuriata are to a certain extent the assembly of the Roman people as an army assembly . According to their wealth and the contribution they were able to make in the army as a result, the Centuries were originally divided into three voting classes: the Centuries of horsemen ( centuriae equitum ), those of heavily armed soldiers on foot ( classis ), and the voting class, which included the lightly armed and people who performed other activities in the campaign (craftsmen, carpenters, etc.) ( infra classem ). The number of Centuries from this early period is not known due to a lack of sources.

Later (the exact point in time cannot be determined, but is mostly assumed to be in the 4th century BC) the voice class of the infra classem was more precisely differentiated and divided into four classes (2nd – 5th classis , with which the former classis then the 1st classis ) as well as special centers for horn and signal blowers, craftsmen and people without wealth ( proletarii , i.e. those who could only contribute children ( proles )). Thus, in classical times, the division into centuries and classes probably looked as follows:

equestrian 18 Centuries
Foot soldiers 1st Class 80 Centuries
below the class 2nd Class 20 Centuries
3rd grade 20 Centuries
4th grade 20 Centuries
5th grade 30 Centuries
Craftsman 2 Centuries
Horn and signal blowers 2 Centuries
Wealthless 1 centurie

The Roman expansions increased the number of citizens over time. But since the number of Centuries remained fixed at 193 and the economic difference between the Roman citizens increased, the number of persons in the Centuries of the lower classes increased considerably. For example, 100 people were represented in a knight's center, around 200 in first class and soon over several thousand in one for poorer citizens.

The Comitia Centuriata met annually to elect the consuls and praetors for the following year, and usually every five years to appoint the censors . In addition, cases of high treason ( perduellio ) were dealt with , although this function was not used after Lucius Appuleius Saturninus introduced a change here ( maiestas ).

The citizen's vote was not cast directly in the comitia centuriata , but within the centurie and contributed to the voting behavior of the centurion. Each centurie had one vote in the vote. Since the upper Centuries had far fewer members for rich citizens than the lower Centuries for poorer citizens, the members of these Centuries - i.e. the wealthy knights and senators - had a disproportionate influence on the election result. The Centuries were questioned one after the other so that the voting behavior of the Equestrian Centuria could influence the decision of the following classes. When the equestrian center and the 1st class were in agreement, i.e. the majority had already been reached, the vote was ended without consulting the other classes. As a result, they often did not even appear at the meeting, as did the rural population who did not live in Rome or nearby. Since the comitia centuriata were originally a military assembly, they had to be held outside the city limits of Rome ( Pomerium ) on the Field of Mars . This made them cumbersome to call up and manage.

During his consulate in 88 BC BC and especially as a dictator (81/80) Sulla passed many laws ( Leges Corneliae ) that radically changed the political structure of the republic. His third law forbade the concilium plebis and the comitia tributa to deliberate on laws that had not been introduced by a Senate resolution ( senatus consultum ). His fourth law restructured the comitia centuriata so that the first class, the senators, and the most powerful knights had nearly half the votes. His fifth law stripped both tribal assemblies, concilium plebis and comitia tributa , of their legislative functions, so that all legislation lay with the comitia centuriata . The tribal meetings were thereby limited to the election of certain magistrates and the management of negotiations - which, however, could not be started without authorization from a senatus consultum .

These reforms were reversed by the Populares under the leadership of Marius and Lucius Cornelius Cinna , reintroduced and expanded by Sulla during his dictatorship rei publicae constituendae ("to restore the state") and suspended again soon after his death. They represent one of the most far-reaching interventions in the constitution of the Roman state, both in the republic and in the principate .

In AD 14, Emperor Tiberius withdrew the assembly's right to elect consuls and praetors; so she sank into factual insignificance.



  1. ^ Wolfgang Kunkel with Roland Wittmann : State order and state practice of the Roman Republic. Second part. The magistrate . Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-33827-5 (by Wittmann completed edition of the work left unfinished by Kunkel). P. 638 f. (Problem area: upper magistrate); P. 637 (Problem area: People's Tribunate)
  2. Klaus Bringmann : History of the Roman Republic: From the beginnings to Augustus . CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-49292-4 ( review by Manfred Clauss ). Chapter I. Rome and Italy .