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
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.
.) 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,
1.95: Dionys. A. R.
regards only three as plebeians; Livy, 4.3
, 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
vol. ii. pp. 309-356; Arnold, Hist. of Rome,
vol. i. pp. 250-313; Becker, Römisch.
vol. ii. part ii. pp. 126-136; Mommsen, Hist.
1.289 ff.; Herzog, Röm.
1.177 ff.; Schwegler, Röm.
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.
, 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
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
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
p. 241, &c.) believes that the
decemvirs of Livy are the decemviri litibus
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
Their function was to
decide in private suits (Cic. de Leg.
, 6), and especially in causae
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
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,
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
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
) 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.
.) 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
), 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.
), 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.
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.
; Marquardt, Röm. Alt.
4. DECEMVIRI AGRIS DIVIDUNDIS
appointed for distributing the public land among the citizens. (Liv. 31.4
appointed in the earlier days of the republic as commissioners to settle
terms of peace. (Mommsen, Röm. St.
ii.2 624, 665, 672.)