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[7arg] That Marcus Varro presented Gnaeus Pompeius, when he was consul elect for the first time, with a commentary, which Varro himself called εἰσαγωγικός, 1 on the method of conducting meetings of the senate.

GNAEUS POMP/EIUS was elected consul for the first time with Marcus Crassus. When he was on the point of entering upon the office, because of his long military service he was unacquainted with the method of convening and consulting the senate, and of city affairs in general. He therefore asked his friend Marcus Varro to make him a book of instructions (εἰσαγωγικός, as Varro himself termed it), from which he might learn what he ought to say and do when he brought a measure before the House. Varro in letters which he wrote to Op [p. 49] pianus, contained in the fourth book of his Investigations in Epistolary Form, says 2 that this notebook which he made for Pompey on that subject was lost; and since what he had previously written was no longer in existence, he repeats in those letters a good deal bearing upon the same subject. 3

First of all, he tells us there by what magistrates the senate was commonly convened according to the usage of our forefathers, naming these: “the dictator, consuls, praetors, tribunes of the commons, interrex, and prefect of the city.” No other except these, he said, had the right to pass a decree of the senate, and whenever it happened that all those magistrates were in Rome at the same time, then he says that the first in the order of the list which I have just quoted had the prior right of bringing a matter before the senate; next, by an exceptional privilege, the military tribunes also who had acted as consuls, 4 and likewise the decemvirs, 5 who in their day had consular authority, and the triumvirs 6 appointed to reorganize the State, had the privilege of bringing measures before the House. Afterwards he wrote about vetoes, and said that the right to veto a decree of the senate belonged only to those who had the same authority 7 as those who wished to pass the decree, or greater power. He then added a list of the places in which a decree of the senate might lawfully be made, and he showed and maintained that this was regular only [p. 51] in a place which had been appointed by an augur, and called a “temple.” 8 Therefore in the Hostilian Senate House 9 and the Pompeian, and later in the Julian, since those were unconsecrated places, “temples” were established by the augurs, in order that in those places lawful decrees of the senate might be made according to the usage of our forefathers. In connection with which he also wrote this, that not all sacred edifices are temples, and that not even the shrine of Vesta was a temple. 10 After this he goes on to say that a decree of the senate made before sunrise or after sunset was not valid, and that those through whom a decree of the senate was made at that time were thought to have committed an act deserving censure. Then he gives much instruction on the same lines: on what days it was not lawful to hold a meeting of the senate; that one who was about to hold a meeting of the senate should first offer up a victim and take the auspices; that questions relating to the gods ought to be presented to the senate before those affecting men; then further that resolutions should be presented indefinitely, 11 as affecting the general welfare, or definitely on specific cases; that a decree of the senate was made in two ways: either by division if there was general agreement, or if the matter was disputed, by calling for the opinion of each senator; furthermore the senators ought to have been built by Numa, and was certainly very ancient. It was burned and rebuilt several times, the last restoration being in A.D. 196 by Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus. [p. 53] be asked their opinions in order, beginning with the grade of consul. And in that grade in former times the one to be called upon first was always the one who had first been enrolled in the senate; but at the time when he was writing he said that a new custom had become current, through partiality and a desire to curry favour, of asking first for the opinion of the one whom the presiding officer wished to call upon, provided however that he was of consular rank. 12 Besides this he discoursed about seizure of goods 13 and the imposing of a fine upon a senator who was not present when it was his duty to attend a meeting. These and certain other matters of that kind, first published in the book of which I spoke above, Marcus Varro treated in a letter written to Oppianus.

But when he says that a decree of the senate is commonly made in two ways, either by calling for opinions or by division, that does not seem to agree with what Ateius Capito has written in his Miscellanies. For in Book VIIII Capito says 14 that Tubero asserts 15 that no decree of the senate could be made without a division, since in all decrees of the senate, even in those which are made by calling for opinions, a division was necessary, and Capito himself declares that this is true. But I recall writing on this whole matter more fully and exactly in another place. 16

[p. 55]

1 The word means Introductory. It was what we should call a “Handbook of Parliamentary Practice.”

2 i, p. 195, Bipont.

3 i, p. 125, Bremer.

4 From 444 to 384 B.C. military tribunes with consular authority took the place of the consuls.

5 The decemviri legibus scribundis, who drew up the Twelve Tables in 450 B.C.

6 The second triumvirate of Antony, Octavian and Lepidus; cf. iii. 9. 4 and the note.

7 Potestate is used in the technical sense. “The par potestas conferred on the colleague of the presiding officer the right to interpose his veto” (Abbott, Roman Political Institutions, § 274).

8 A templum (from temno) was originally a sacred precinct.

9 The curia Hostilia, on the Comitium (see iv. 5. 1 and note 3), was the earliest senate house, ascribed to Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome. It was restored by Sulla in 80 B.C., rebuilt by Faustus Sulla after its destruction by fire in 52 B.C. The curia Julia was begun by Caesar in 45 B. c. The curia Pompei, in which Caesar was murdered, was built by Pompey in 55 B.C., near his theatre. Whether it was an exedra of his colonnade, or a separate building, is uncertain.

10 The shrine or temple of Vesta, in spite of its sacred character, was not a consecrated temnplum. It was said to

11 That is, in general terms, as in Livy xxii. 1. 5, cum (consul) de re public rettuliset, i.e. “had proposed a general discussion of the interests of the State.”

12 Cf. Suet. Jul. xxi.

13 In consequence of the issue of a writ of execution; see Mommsen, Statsr. i. 160, and cf. Suet. Jul. xvii. 2.

14 Frag. 3, Huschke; 5, Bremer.

15 Frag. 1, Huschke; De Off. Sen. 1, Bremer.

16 iii. 18.

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  • Cross-references to this page (9):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), AUGUR
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), COMIT´IA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PRAETOR
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SENATUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SENATUSCONSULTUM
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TEMPLUM
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TRE´SVIRI
    • Smith's Bio, C. Va'lgius Rufus
    • Smith's Bio, Oppia'nus
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
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