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The Roman term for any written announcement made by a magistrate to the people. An edictum was sometimes temporary only— as, e. g., the announcements of the public assemblies or games; sometimes it contained permanent enactments—as, for instance, the edicta of the censors against luxury. The name was especially applied to the proclamations issued by judicial functionaries on assuming office, and stating the principles or rules which they intended to follow in the exercise of their authority. The edicta of the ædiles relative to the markets belong to this class. One kind of edictum was specially important in its bearing upon Roman law, the edictum of the praetor. In his edictum the praetor laid down the rules which he would observe in arranging the proceedings of the regular courts and of his voluntary jurisdiction, and in deciding cases which did not appear to be covered by the written enactments of the Twelve Tables or later legislation. These edicta, written on wood, stone, or bronze, were in early times published only as occasion required, but in later times the praetors regularly promulgated them on entering upon their office. They prevented the fossilization of the law, and allowed the enactments of the Twelve Tables to adapt themselves in natural development to the changing circumstances of civic life and intercourse. It is true that the edicta had no force beyond the praetor's year of office, but, as every new praetor observed what was found in the edicta of his predecessors, a permanent nucleus of constantly repeated rules, called edictum perpetuum (“continuous edict”), was formed in course of time. This became, for the later period, a recognized source of customary law, side by side with the leges proper. At length, under Hadrian, the mass of edicta was reduced to system by Salvius Iulianus, and received the force of law at the imperial command. This body of law included the accepted edicta of the praetor urbanus and the other praetors administering law in the provinces, of the proconsuls, propraetors, and ædiles. It was called edictum perpetuum, ius praetorium, or ius honorarium—the latter because its authors had held public offices (honores). On this collection the Corpus Iuris of Justinian is in great part founded. The emperor and imperial officials, as praefectus urbi and praefectus praetorio, had also the right of issuing edicta. See Corpus Iuris.

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