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11.

Our ancestors chose that you should give your votes twice about every magistrate. For as a centuriata lex 1 was passed for the censors, and a curiata lex for the other patrician magistrates, by this means a decision was come to a second time about the same men, in order that the people might have an opportunity of correcting what they had done, if they repented of the honour they had conferred on any one. [27] Now, because you have preserved the comitia centuriata and tributa, the curiata have remained only for the sake of the auspices. But this tribune of the people, because he saw that no man could possibly have any authority conferred on him without the authority of the burghers 2 or of the commonalty, confirmed that authority which he proposed to give by the curiata comitia, with which you have nothing to do, and took away the comitia tributa which belonged to you. So, though your ancestors intended you to decide at two comitia about each magistrate, this man, so attached to the interests of the people, did not leave the people the power of even one comitia. [28] But just note the scrupulousness and the diligence of the man. He saw, and was thoroughly aware, that without a lex curiata the decemvirs could not have authority, since they were elected by only nine tribes. So he directs that there should be a lex curiata passed about them, and orders the praetor to propose it. How ridiculous such a contrivance was, it is no business of mine to say. For he orders that “he who has been elected first praetor, shall propose a lex curiata; but if he be able to propose it, then the last praetor shall do it.” So that he seems either to have been playing the fool in this business, or else to have been aiming at something I know not what. But, however, let us pass over this, which is either so perverse, or so ridiculous, or so malicious and cunning, as to be unintelligible, and return to the scrupulousness of the man. [29] He sees that nothing can be done by the decemvirs except by a lex curiata. What was to happen afterwards, if a lex curiata were not passed? Remark the ingenuity of the man. “Then,” says he, “the decemvirs shall be in the same condition as those who are appointed in the strictest accordance with the law.” If this can be brought about, that, in this city which is far superior to all other states in its rights of liberty, any one may be able to obtain either military command or civil authority without the sanction of any comitia, then what is the necessity for ordering in the third chapter that some one shall propose a lex curiata, when in the fourth chapter you permit men to have the same rights without a lex curiata, which they would have if they were elected by the burghers according to the strictest form of law? Kings are being appointed, O Romans, not decemvirs; and they are starting with such beginnings and on such foundations, that the whole of your rights, and powers, and liberties are destroyed not only from the moment that they begin to act, but from the moment that they are appointed.


1 This and the preceding chapter are exceedingly obscure, and almost unintelligible to us; perhaps also the text is a little corrupt. Manutius says, “An exceedingly difficult passage, which has perplexed men of the greatest ability and learning.” His explanation is as follows: “The ancient Romans had chosen that the people should decide on the election of every magistrate in two comitia; but the magistracies are distinguished into patrician and plebeian; the patrician magistrates are the quaestor, the curule aedile, the praetor, the consul, and the censor; the plebeian are the tribune of the people, the aedile of the people, and others. But there were two comitia first about the patrician magistrates before the plebeian ones were elected, namely the centuriata comitia, and the curiata. I except the censors, who, although they were patrician magistrates, still were elected by one comitia only, the centuriata. But when the plebeian magistrates were elected, then the tributa comitia succeeded to the place of the curiata, for the curiata had nothing to do with the plebeian magistrates. For they were instituted for the sake of the patrician magistrates long before the origin of the plebeian ones. Some one may say, Why were not the centuriata taken away for the same reason, as they were instituted by king Servius when there were not yet any plebeian magistrates? The answer is, In order that there might be some comitia held with proper auspices at which the patrician magistrates might be created, for the auspices were not taken at the tributa comitia. As, therefore, in the case of the patrician magistrates, (with the exception, as I have said before, of the censor,) the people gave their votes first in the centuriata comitia and then in the curiata, before the plebeian magistrates were elected; so, when the plebeian magistrates were elected, the same people voted in the centuriata and tributa comitia.”

2 The Latin terms are populus and plebs. For the best account of the populus to be found in a small space, see Smith's Dict. Ant. p. 726, v. Patricii; and consult the same admirable book, p. 765, v. Plebes, or plebs. The word potestas, which I have translated “authority,” means strictly only civil authority, in opposition to imperium, military command.

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