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βασιλεύς, ἄναξ). A king. I. Greek.—In the Heroic Age, as depicted in the poems of Homer, the kingly form of government was universal. The authority of these kings and its limitations were derived not from any definite scheme or written code, but from the force of traditionary usage and the natural influence of the circumstances in which the kings were placed, surrounded as they were by a body of chiefs and nobles, whose power was but little inferior to that of the kings themselves. Even the title βασιλῆες is applied to them as well as to the king. The maintenance of regal authority doubtless depended greatly on the possession of personal superiority in bravery, military prowess, wisdom in council, and eloquence in debate. When old age had blunted his powers and activity, a king ran a great chance of losing his influence. There was, however, an undefined notion of a sort of divine right connected with the kingly office, whence the epithet διοτρεφής, so commonly applied to kings in Homer. The characteristic emblem of the kingly office was the σκῆπτρον. (See Sceptrum.) Our information respecting the Grecian kings in the more historical age is not ample or minute enough to enable us to draw out a detailed scheme of their functions. Respecting the kings of Sparta the reader is referred to the article Ephori. As an illustration of the gradual limitation of the prerogatives of the king or chief magistrate, the reader may consult the article Archon. The title basileus was sometimes applied to an officer who discharged the priestly functions of the more ancient kings, as in Athens. See Archon.

II. Roman.—Rome was originally governed by kings. All the ancient writers agree in representing the king as elected by the people for life, and as voluntarily intrusted by them with the supreme power in the State. No reference is made to the hereditary principle in the election of the first four kings; and it is not until the fifth king, Tarquinius Priscus, obtained the sovereignty that anything is said about the children of the deceased king. Since the people had conferred the regal power, it returned to them upon the death of the king. But as a new king could not be immediately appointed, an Interrex forthwith stepped into his place. (See Interreges.) The necessity for an immediate successor to the king arose from the circumstance that he alone had had the power of taking the auspicia on behalf of the State; and as the auspicia devolved upon the people at his death, it was imperative upon them to create a magistrate to whom they could delegate the auspicia, and who would thus possess the power of mediating between the gods and the State. Originally the peoples consisted only of the patres or patricii; and accordingly, on the death of the king, we read res ad patres redit, or, what is nearly the same thing, auspicia ad patres redeunt. The Interrex was elected by the whole body of the patricians, and he appointed (prodebat) his successor, as it was a rule that the first Interrex could not hold the Comitia for the election; but it frequently happened that the second Interrex appointed a third, the third a fourth, and so on, till the election took place. The Interrex presided over the Comitia Curiata, which were assembled for the election of the king. The person whom the Senate had selected was proposed by the Interrex to the people in a regular rogatio, which the people could only accept or reject, for they had not the initiative and could not themselves propose any name. If the people voted in favour of the rogation, they were said creare regem, and their acceptance of him was called iussus populi. But the king did not immediately enter upon his office. Two other acts had still to take place before he was invested with the full regal authority and power. First his inauguratio had to be performed, as it was necessary to obtain the divine will respecting his appointment by means of the auspices, since he was the high-priest of the people. The ceremony was performed by an augur, who conducted the newly-elected king to the Arx, or citadel, and there placed him on a stone seat with his face turned to the south, while the people waited below in anxious suspense until the augur announced that the gods had sent the favourable tokens confirming the king in his priestly character. The inauguratio did not confer upon him the auspicia, for these he obtained by his election to the royal office, as the Comitia were held auspicato. The second act which had to be performed was the conferring of the imperium upon the king. The curiae had only determined by their previous vote who was to be king, and had not by that act bestowed the necessary power upon him; they had, therefore, to grant him the imperium by a distinct vote. Accordingly the king himself proposed to the curiae a lex curiata de imperio, and the curiae by voting in favor of it gave him the imperium. Livy in his first book makes no mention of the lex curiata de imperio, but he uses the expressions patres auctores fierunt, patres auctores facti; and these expressions are equivalent to the lex curiata de imperio in the kingly period. The king possessed the supreme power in the earliest times, and the Senate and the Comitia Curiata were very slight checks upon its exercise. In the first place, the king alone possessed the right of taking the auspices on behalf of the State; and as no public business of any kind could be performed without the approbation of the gods expressed by the auspices, the king stood as mediator between the gods and the people, and in an early stage of society must necessarily have been regarded with religious awe. (See Augur.) Secondly, the people surrendered to the king the supreme military and judicial authority by conferring the imperium upon him. The king was not only the commander in war, but the supreme judge in peace. Seated on his throne in the Comitium, he administered justice to all comers, and decided in all cases which were brought before him, civil as well as criminal. Again, all the magistrates in the kingly period appear to have been appointed by the king and not elected by the curiae. Further, the king was not dependent upon the people for his support; but a large portion of the public land belonged to him, which was cultivated at the expense of the State on his behalf. He had also the absolute disposal of the booty taken in war and of the conquered lands. It must not, however, be supposed that the authority of the king was absolute. The Senate and the assembly of the people must have formed some check upon his power. But these were not independent bodies possessing the right of meeting at certain times and discussing questions of State. They could only be called together when the king chose, and, further, could only determine upon matters which the king submitted to them. The only public matter in which the king could not dispense with the coöperation of the Senate and the curiae was in declarations of war. There is no trace of the people having had anything to do with the conclusion of treaties of peace. The insignia of the king were the fasces with the axes (secures), which twelve lictors carried before him as often as he appeared in public, the trabea, the sella curulis, and the toga praetexta and picta. The trabea appears to have been the most ancient official dress, and is assigned especially to Romulus: it was of Latin origin, and is therefore represented by Vergil as worn by the Latin kings. The toga praetexta and picta were borrowed, together with the sella curulis, from the Etruscans, and their introduction is variously ascribed to Tullus Hostilius or Tarquinius Priscus.

See Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. pp. 1-17; id. History of Rome, i. ch. iv. pp. 66-70; Walter, Geschichte des röm. Rechts. 17; and Seeley's introduction to his edition of the first book of Livy.

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