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DECE´MVIRI

DECE´MVIRI the Ten Men, the name of various magistrates and functionaries at Rome.

1. DECEMVIRI CONSULARI IMPERIO LEGIBUS SCRIBENDIS were ten persons who were appointed to draw up a code of laws, and to whom the whole government of the state was entrusted. As early as B.C. 462, a law was proposed by C. Terentilius Arsa, that five commissioners should be appointed for drawing up a body of laws; but this was violently opposed by the patricians (Liv. 3.9); and it was not till after a struggle of nine years that the patricians consented to send three persons to Greece, to collect such information respecting the laws and constitutions of the Greek states as might be useful to the Romans (Liv. 3.31). They were absent a year; and on their return, after considerable dispute between the patricians and plebeians, ten commissioners were appointed with the title of “decemviri legibus scribendis,” to whom the revision of the laws was committed. No other magistrates were appointed for the year: even the tribuneship was abandoned. It is clear that the legislative commissioners were to have supreme power; and the view of Mommsen (Hist. 1.290) is very probable, that the purpose of the whole scheme was to substitute henceforward for tribunician intercession a limitation of the consular powers by written law. There is reason to doubt Livy's statement that plebeians were admitted to be ineligible: but in fact all of the ten were patricians.

The decemviri entered upon their office at the beginning of B.C. 451. They consisted of App. Claudius and T. Genucius Augurinus, the consuls elect, as Niebuhr conjectures, of the praefectus urbi, and of the two quaestores parricidii, and of five others chosen by the centuries. They discharged the duties of their office with diligence, and dispensed justice with impartiality. Each administered the government day by day in succession as during an interregnum; and the fasces were only carried before the one who presided for the day. (Liv. 3.33.) They drew up a body of laws, distributed into ten sections; which, after being approved of by the senate and the comitia [p. 1.601]centuriata, were engraven on tables of metal, and set up in the forum on the rostra in front of the senate-house.

On the expiration of their year of office, all parties were so well satisfied with the manner in which they had discharged their duties, that it was resolved to continue the same form of government for another year; more especially as some of the decemvirs said that their work was not finished. Ten new decemvirs were accordingly elected, of whom Appius Claudius alone belonged to the former body (Liv. 3.35; Dionys. A. R. 10.53); and of his nine new colleagues, at least three, and probably five, were plebeians. (Mommsen, Forsch. 1.95: Dionys. A. R. 10.58 regards only three as plebeians; Livy, 4.3, 17, carelessly speaks of all as patricians.) These magistrates framed several new laws, which were approved of by the centuries, and engraven on two additional tables. But, according to the traditional account, they used their power in a most tyrannical manner. Each was attended by twelve lictors, who carried not the rods only, but the axe, the emblem of sovereignty. They committed all kinds of outrages upon the persons and property of the plebeians and their families. When their year of office expired, they refused to resign or appoint successors. This conduct was not strictly illegal, but unquestionably it was against the spirit of the constitution, which prescribed an annual tenure of office; and they were regarded not as private citizens usurping powers, but as magistrates misusing their authority (Mommsen, Staatsr. ii.2 696). It is a probable conjecture that the unconstitutional action was connived at, as an indirect means of suppressing the tribuneship; but there is much also to be said for Mommsen's view, that Appius was endeavouring by the help of a portion of the plebs to secure despotic power. At length, the unjust decision of App. Claudius, in the case of Virginia, which led her father to kill her with his own hands to save her from prostitution, occasioned an insurrection of the people. The decemvirs were in consequence obliged to resign their office, B.C. 449; after which the usual magistracies were reestablished. (Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. ii. pp. 309-356; Arnold, Hist. of Rome, vol. i. pp. 250-313; Becker, Römisch. Alterthüm. vol. ii. part ii. pp. 126-136; Mommsen, Hist. 1.289 ff.; Herzog, Röm. Staatsverf. 1.177 ff.; Schwegler, Röm. Gesch. 3.1 ff.)

The ten tables of the former, and the two tables of the latter decemvirs, together form the laws of the Twelve Tables, of which an account is given in a separate article. [LEX DUODECIM TAB.]

2. DECEMVIRI LITIBUS or STLITIBUS JUDICANDIS were magistrates forming a court of justice, which took cognizance of civil cases. Pomponius (de Orig. Jur. Dig. 1, tit. 2, s. 2.29) says that they were instituted in the year B.C. 292, the time when the triumviri capitales were first appointed. This statement Mommsen (Staatsr. ii.2 592) decidedly rejects. Livy (3.55) mentions iudices decemviri as a plebeian magistracy very soon after the legislation of the Twelve Tables; and while Niebuhr (Hist, of Rome, vol. ii. p. 324, &c.) refers these decemvirs to the decemviral magistrates, who had shortly before been abolished, and thus abides by the account of Pomponius, Göttling (Gesch. der Röm. Staatsv. p. 241, &c.) believes that the decemvirs of Livy are the decemviri litibus judicandis, and this view is accepted by Mommsen. He shows however that the office cannot have been limited to plebeians, for we find it held by Cn. Scipio, the praetor of B.C. 140, by C. Julius Caesar, the father of the dictator, and by another patrician. This office does not appear to have been regarded as a magistracy before the middle of the seventh century of the city. After this time the decemvirs appear to have been elected in the comitia tributa. Their function was to decide in private suits (Cic. de Leg. 3.3, 6), and especially in causae liberales, suits affecting personal freedom, a fact which makes it probable that they were instituted after the downfall of the decemvirs. In the time of Cicero the office still existed, and the proceedings in it took place in the ancient form of the sacramentum. (Cic. pro Caecin. 38, 97; pro Dom. 29, 78.) Augustus transferred to these decemvirs the presidency in the courts of the centumviri. (Suet. Aug. 36; D. C. 54.26.)

3. DECEMVIRI SACRIS FACIUNDIS, sometimes called simply DECEMVIRI SACRORUM, were the members of an ecclesiastical collegium, and were elected for life. Their chief duty was to take care of the Sibylline books, and to inspect them on all important occasions, by command of the senate. (Liv. 7.27, 21.62, 31.12.) Virgil (Aen. 6.73) alludes to them in his address to the Sibyl--“Lectos sacrabo viros.”

Under the kings the care of the Sibylline books was committed to two men (duumviri) of high rank (Dionys. A. R. 4.62), one of whom, called Atilius or Tullius, was punished by Tarquinius, for being unfaithful to his trust, by being sewn up in a sack and cast into the sea. (Dionys. l.c.; V. Max. 1.1.13.) On the expulsion of the kings, the care of these books was entrusted to the noblest of the patricians, who were exempted from all military and civil duties. Their number was increased in the year 367 B.C. to ten, of whom five were chosen from the patricians and five from the plebeians. (Liv. 6.37, 42.) Subsequently their number was still further increased to fifteen (quindecemviri); but at what time is uncertain. As, however, there were decemviri in B.C. 114 (V. Max. 8.15, 12), in B.C. 98 (Obsequens, 47), and in B.C. 82, when the Capitol was burnt (Dionys. l.c.), and we read of quindecemviri in the time of Cicero (Cic. Fam. 8.4), it appears probable that their number was increased from ten to fifteen by Sulla, especially as we know that he increased the numbers of several of the other ecclesiastical corporations. Julius Caesar added one more to their number (D. C. 42.51); but this precedent was not followed, as the collegium appears to have consisted afterwards of only fifteen.

It was also the duty of the decemviri and quinqueviri to celebrate the games of Apollo (Liv. 10.8), and the secular games (Tac. Ann. 11.11; Hor. Carm. Saec. 70). They were, in fact, considered priests of Apollo, whence each of them had in his house a bronze tripod dedicated to that deity. (Serv. ad Verg. A. 3.332

So long as there were ten members of the college there were two magistri, one a patrician, [p. 1.602]one a plebeian; when the number was increased to fifteen, the magistri were five in number. (Mommsen, Res Gestae divi Aug. p. 64: cf. Tac. Ann. 6.12; Marquardt, Röm. Alt. 6.364 ff.)

4. DECEMVIRI AGRIS DIVIDUNDIS were sometimes appointed for distributing the public land among the citizens. (Liv. 31.4; 42.4.)

5. DECEMVIRI were occasionally appointed in the earlier days of the republic as commissioners to settle terms of peace. (Mommsen, Röm. St. ii.2 624, 665, 672.)

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