previous next


Judges belonging to a court which was one of the two permanent courts of plebeian judges, instituted, probably, by Servius Tullius, and continuing until the fall of the Western Empire. The other collegium was that of the decemviri (q. v.). The actual number of centumviri varied at different periods. Festus (s. v. centumviralia iudicia) says that they were nominated by the praetor, three being taken from each of the thirty tribes. The ninety thus obtained would, with the presiding decemviri, make up the exact sum which the name denotes. When the number of tribes was increased in B.C. 241 to 35, there were 105 centumviri; but the old name was retained, according to Festus, for convenience, and under the Empire the number had risen to 180 (Plin. Ep. vi. 33). At this time it is improbable that they were any longer selected from the tribes, between whose number and their own there was no relation. From a passage of Dio Casius, one might conjecture that they were taken by lot from the decuriae iudicum instituted by Augustus; and from Ovid (Trist. ii. 96), that no one could escape the duty if drawn. It would seem that under the Republic the court had no jurisdiction unless the whole number of members sat together, for it was only in the aggregate that they represented the people; but later (probably under Augustus) it was divided into four divisions or sub-courts, which sat and judged apart and independently of each other for the quicker despatch of business (Quint. Inst. xiii. 5Quint. Inst., 6), though some causes were heard by two divisions sitting together (ib. v. 2Quint. Inst., 1), and others even by the whole united body (ib. vi. 33), which then (Plin. Ep. v. 21), as under the Republic, was presided over by a praetor. The old custom was for the court to sit in the open Forum, but in Quintilian's time (xii. 5, 6) the four divisions sat on raised seats (tribunalia) in the Basilica Iulia.

The procedure before the centumviri was always that of the legis actio called sacramentum. Even when the legis actiones in the aggregate were swept away by the Lex Aebutia, about B.C. 240 (Voigt), the old process was expressly retained by that statute for centumviralia iudicia (Gaius, iv. 31; Gell. xvi. 10).

It seems to be the better opinion that the jurisdiction of the centumviri was limited to civil causes. The civil suits which fell under their cognizance especially were those known as real actions (Cic. de Orat. i. 38, 173), while the decemviri were more particularly concerned with questions of status (libertas, civitas, familia: Pro Caec. 33, 97; Pro Domo, 29, 78). The real actions comprise all suits claiming property or iura in re aliena, such as a right of way, a usufruct, etc., and those relating to inheritances; the scope of the centumviral jurisdiction is denoted by the planting of the hasta (the symbol of Quiritary ownership) in the ground where the court was sitting (Octav. 36), and by the use of the festuca in the sacramental procedure. See Schneider, De Centumviralis Iudicii apud Romanos Origine; Tigerström, De Iudicibus apud Romanos.

hide References (6 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: