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AUDITO´RIUM as the name implies, is any place for hearing. It was the practice among the Romans for poets and orators to read their compositions to their friends, who were sometimes called the auditorium (Plin. Ep. 4.7); but under the empire the word was applied to a court of justice. Under the republic the place for all judicial proceedings was the Comitium and the Forum ( “ni pagunt in comitio aut in foro ante meridiem causam conjicito quum perorant ambo praesentes,” Dirksen, Uebersicht, &c., p. 725). Under the empire, the Forum continued to be the place where magistrates and judices heard civil causes. But for the sake of shelter and convenience, it became [p. 1.248]a practice to hold courts in the Basilicae, halls of temples, and other suitable places about the Forum. Such enclosed courts were called auditoria, or places in which the plaints of litigants were heard. The effect of this change was that courts of justice were less frequented by the public than when they were held in an open space. So in the dialogue de Oratoribus (100.39) the writer observes that oratory had lost much by cases being generally heard in auditoria and tabularia. The courts of the provincial governors were not always open to the public in the time of Cicero (Cic. Ver. 5.11, 27). Their courts appear to have been held at a later period, either in the hall of their Praetorium or in the open Forum (St. John 18.33, 19.9-13; Acts of the Apost. 15.23, ἀκροατήριον).

The emperors at first sometimes sat in the Forum, but they soon gave up the practice, and only exercised justice within their own palace. The place where the court sat was called the auditorium principis or sacrum auditorium. The auditorium principis is first mentioned in reference to M. Aurelius, and afterwards becomes a common term (Dig. 36, tit. 1, s. 22; 49, tit. 9, s. 1 ; D. C. 76.11; Dig. 4, tit. 4, s. 18). The praefectus praetorio and praefectus urbi, who exercised the imperial jurisdiction, also sat in auditoria (Dig. 12, tit. 1, s. 40 ; 23, tit. 3, s. 78.4). The imperial court of justice (auditorium principis) is sometimes distinguished from the imperial administrative council (consistorium principis), but in later Roman law the distinction is not always maintained.

Under the later empire, judicial proceedings were carried on with less publicity.

In the time of Diocletian, the auditorium was also called secretarium. In a constitution of Constantine the two words were used as equivalent (Cod. Th. i. tit. 16, s. 6), when he enacts that both criminal and civil cases should be heard openly from the tribunal, and not in auditoria or secretaria.

Valentinianus and Valens allowed causes to be heard either before the tribunal or in the secretarium; but in the latter the doors were to be left open.

From the 5th cent. causes were exclusively heard in the secretarium or secretum. The public was shut off by cancelli and curtains (vela), which in exceptional cases were drawn aside (levato velo cognoscere, Cod. Theod. vi. tit. 13, s. 9). Under the despotic system of the late empire the public was excluded from the inner secretarium, but persons of a certain rank (honorati) and those invited by the magistrate were admitted to it. (Bethmann-Hollweg, Civil-Process, § 147.)

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