The Republic was established in 509 B.C. when Tarquinius Superbus was forced out of Rome (ie. the Roman Revolution).

1. Citizens

a. Society was divided into two distinct classes, the Patricians and Plebeians.

b. Patricians held all political power in 509 B.C.

1. No political distinction by Cicero's time.

2. By the middle of the 4th Century B.C., Plebeians could hold most political offices.

c. Citizenship was not just restricted to Rome - citizenship was extended through coloni.

d. The Lex Iulia of 90 B.C. at the end of the Social War.

* All free inhabitants of Italy south of Cisalpine Gaul were granted citizenship.

e. Rights:

1. ius suffragi: to vote.

2. ius honorum: the right of election to office.

3. iura commerci et conubi: rights of trade and marriage.

f. Gens - "the clan"

Nomen - to denote the clan.

Praenomen - personal name.

Cognomen - to denote the family within the clan.











g. Curiae - grouping of thirty gentes.

h. Tribes - citizens were enrolled in one of the 35 tribes.

* There were four urban tribes and the rest were rural.

i. Citizens were also divided into one of five classes according to wealth.

* This was based on the Servian Constitution (Servius Tullius, the sixth of the seven kings).

j. Classes were divided into centuriae (centuries) for the purpose of voting, taxation, and military service.

2. Structure:

a. Comitia - assemblies.

b. Magistratus - magistrates.

c. Senatus - the Senate.

3. Populus (the people) - Three Assemblies.

a. Comitia Curiata: based on the division of curiae.

b. Comitia Centuriata: based on the division of centuries.

c. Comitia Tributa: based on the division of tribes.

4. In Political Theory the Assemblies were the source of all authority in the Republic.

a. They elected all magistrates.

b. They accepted or rejected laws proposed by the magistrates.

c. Heard appeals from magistrates' decisions.

d. The met either as comitia or contio.

1. Contio: citizens assembled as individuals to hear announcements by the magistrates or to debate proposals of magistrates.

2. Comitia: assembled for the purpose of balloting.

(* only magistrates could propose measures to be enacted into law).


1. It was presided over by the Pontifex Maximus, and it was the only assembly under the kings.

2. It had jurisdiction over clan affairs, and conferred general military, civil, and judicial imperium.

* It met in the Comitium (lit. the meeting place).

3. By Cicero's time, it had lost almost all political significance.


1. Originally it met on the Campus Martius, outside of the promerium.

2. Ca. 241 B.C. it was reorganized on a tribal basis consisting of 373 Centuries.

3. It elected the consuls, praetors, and censors who held imperium.

4. It could not meet on holidays (dies nefasti) or days set aside for meetings of the courts (dies fasti).

5. Voting was done by centuries, and by the middle of the 2nd Century B.C. their ballots were secret.

6. It had the right to declare an offensive war (* plenary power of the censor).


1. Its origins are obscure. Some writers believe it might have originally been plebeian.

2. The Assembly of the People: voting was done by tribes.

3. It met in the Forum and elected quaestors, curule aediles, and all lower magistrates.

4. It could legislate on all matters.


1. Organized on the basis of tribes, and only plebeians could vote.

2. It was presided over by a tribune or plebeian aedile.

3. Voting was done by tribes, and it elected tribunes and plebeian aediles.

4. It could legislate on any matter except the declaration of an offensive war.


1. Major




* By Cicero's time automatically became members of the Senate.

2. Minor




* Quaestors and Curule Aediles might be included in the Senate by the Censors.

3. Curule Magistrates

* Above the rank of quaestors (except plebeian) who could use the ivory decorated curule chair, the sella curulis.

4. Ordinary Magistrates were elected for a fixed period of time.

Extraordinary Magistrates were elected for an exceptional purpose.

5. With Imperium: consuls, praetors, dictator, and magister equitum (master of the horse).

Without Imperium: Aediles, quaestors, and officials elected by the Concilium Plebis.

a. Ordinary magistrates served a term of one year.

b. Censors were elected every five years and served a term of eighteen months.

c. Consuls and Aediles took care of the unfinished work of the Censors.

d. Consuls, Praetors, and Aediles took office on January 1st.

Quaestors took office on December 5th.

Tribunes took office on December 10th.








Magister Equitum








Viginti sex viri


(military tribunes)


a. Each office had a minimum age of qualification.

b. Two years had to elapse between holding office.

c. No salary was paid for holding public office, it was done because of one's honos (honor was enough).

d. All magistrates: consul down to aedile wore the toga praetexta, purple striped.

6. Lictors would accompany Higher Magistrates carrying the:

a. Fasces, symbol of Roman Authority.

Securis, an axe was added to the fasces (outside of the city) to indicate the power of life and death.

b. Magistrates entitled to Lictors.

1. Dictator had twenty-four.

2. Consul had twelve.

3. Praetor Urbanus had two.

4. Praetor had six.

Lictors: functioned as secretaries, messengers, heralds, and personal attendants.


NOBILITAS: Curule magistrates and their descendants - they had a virtual monopoly on public office.

NOVUS HOMO: First person in a family to hold a curule magistracy.

Consuls: Two

1. Elected annually in the Comitia Centuriata functioning as the Chiefs (Head) of State sharing power with one another.

* Each consul had the power to veto any act of his colleague.

2. During war each would take the field. However, Sulla rarely left the city.

3. The Consuls held full imperium.

a. To take the auspices and to represent the state with individuals and communities.

b. To command the army and navy, and also held civil and criminal jurisdiction.

c. Could issue edicts and proclamations as appropriate.

d. To summon the senate and popular assemblies and supervise the administration of the state.

4. Functioned as the chairman of the Senate and Assemblies of the whole people.

* Presided over the Centuriata during balloting.

5. The Senatus Consultum Ultimum passed by the Senate gave the consul dictatorial powers during emergencies.

The Formula used in enacting it: "Ne quid res publica detrementi capiat."

6. A consul would be assigned to the governorship of a province, a Pro-Consul, after his term of office.

* There were no checks on a Governor's Power in Office.

Praetors: Eight

1. The number of praetors who administered the Courts of Justice was increased from six to eight by Sulla.

2. The Praetor Urbanus

a. He heard civil cases between citizens and took precedence over the other praetors.

b. He became the chief magistrate when the consuls were out of the city.

3. The Praetor Peregrinus: he heard cases in which one or both parties were foreigners, peregrini.

4. The remaining praetors presided over permanent courts, quaesitiones perpetuae ---- they had jurisdiction over important criminal cases.

5. Praetorial assignments were made by lot after election.

6. Each published edicts setting forth the forms of procedure to be used in the coming year.

a. Much of Roman civil and criminal law was developed from these edicts.

b. Accumulation of judicial precedents: inheritance of both English and American law.

7. Praetors could be assigned to a Province at the end of their term of office.

ie. a Pro-Praetroial Province instead of a Pro-Consular Province.

Censors: Two

1. Usually ex-consuls elected every five years in the Centuriata holding office for only eighteen months.

2. They would assess the wealth of citizens and assign them to tribes, classes, and centuries for the purpose of taxation and military service.

3. They also supervised public morals and the management of public finances.

a. Originally they were responsible for the rolls of the Senate.

b. They granted contracts for tax farming and the construction of public works.

4. Sulla: selected members of the Senate to perform these functions.

5. By Cicero's time, the office had lost much of its importance besides prestige.

Aediles: Four

1. There were tow Plebeian and two Curule Aediles.

a. Plebeian Aediles were elected by the Concilium Plebis.

b. Curule Aediles were elected by the Comitia Tributa (these could either be plebeian or patrician).

2. Aediles supervised public places (maintenance and construction): streets, baths, market places and temples.

They were also in charge of the grain supply and public games.

3. Public Games:

a. Games were free to all the people, and the Aediles were responsible for the expense (cost) of them.

b. This office, though not part of the Cursus Honorum, gained political importance since a politician could gain popular support among the people.

Tribunes: Ten (established 457 B.C.)

1. Elected by the Concilium Plebis for the protection of Plebeian political rights against the arbitrary power of the magistrates.

2. Powers:

a. Inviolability of the tribunes; the right of veto, intercessio, over all magistrates.

b. could punish any magistrate who would disobey the veto of a tribune.

3. A tribune could bring the operation of government to a stand-still.

4. Presided over the Concilium Plebis, and could attend meetings of the Senate.

* They could also force the Senate to consider any measure they desired.

Quaestors: Twenty

1. Financial officials of the state functioning as receiving agents, pay masters, and record keepers.

2. Quaestores Urbani: Two, remained in the city and were in charge of the state treasury, aerarium, in the temple of Saturn.

3. The remaining eighteen were in charge of the financial administration of Italy and the Provinces.


1. Appointed by the Consuls in periods of extreme crisis: both foreign and domestic.

2. Appeal to the tribunes did not limit the authority of the Dictator.

* He was attended by 24 lictors.

3. He was appointed for the duration of the emergency (maximum of six months).

4. He would appoint his own lieutenant, the master of the horse, magister equitum.

The Interrex

1. The interrex was a provisional chief magistrate appointed by the senate to hold consular elections if a vacancy occurred during the year or if civil unrest prevented a regular election.

2. He served for five days. If there was still no duly elected head of state, the interrex would appoint his successor and the process would continue until an election had occurred.

The Viginti Sex Viri

1. Six colleges of minor officials were included in the college of twenty-six.

2. Jurisdiction:

a. decemviri stlitibus iudicandis: who passed on questions involving citizenship.

b. quattuor praefecti Capuam Cumas: the judicial representatives of the praetor in Campania.

c. triumviri capitales: police magistrates under the supervision of the aediles, charged with maintaining order in the city, arresting criminals, and securing evidence against persons under indictment.

d. triumviri monetales: who were mint officials.

e. quattuorviri viis in urbe purgandis and duumviri viis extra urbem purganids: they were supervisors respectively of the cleaning of city streets and of roads outside the city.

The Senate (Senatus)

1. In theory it was an Advisory Council of State to advice and counsel to elected magistrates.

* In reality, it became the chief governing body of the Republic.

2. Composition:

a. 300 members normally ex-magistrates who were appointed by the censors.

b. Sulla's Reforms: membership was increased to 600 which became its normal size except for a brief period when Caesar increased it to 900.

1. Sulla's legislation made all ex-magistrates members and removed the authority of the Censors to appoint members.

2. In Cicero's time, it was necessary that senator be a freedman and citizen and that he should have held one of the major magistracies.

3. Powers:

a. Discussion of legislation before it went to the assemblies.

b. Revision of the list of candidates for higher office.

c. Suspension of ordinary law by decree: Senatus Consultum Ultimum (Martial Law power for the Consuls).

d. Control of Finances: voting appropriations, taxes, and the state religion.

e. Management of Provinces and Foreign Affairs was absolute:

Power to declare war and make treaties constitutionally rested with popular assemblies, such proposals had to be approved by the senate before they could be submitted to an assembly.