1. Signified the public acts and orders of a Roman magistrate possessing the
jus agendi cum populo,
which after the
expiration of his office were submitted to the senate for approval or
rejection. (Suet. Jul. 19
; Cic. Phil.
, &c.) After the
death of Julius Caesar, the triumvirs swore, and compelled all the other
magistrates to swear (Dio, 47.48), to observe and maintain all his acta
(in acta jurare:
cf. Tac. Ann. 1.72
); and hence it became the custom on the accession of each
emperor for the new monarch to swear to observe and respect all the acta of
his predecessors from Julius Caesar downwards, with the exception of those
who had been branded with infamy after death, such as Nero and Domitian
(Tac. Ann. 4.42
; Dio, 56.33,
&c.). The senate also swore that it would recognise the validity of
the acts of the new emperor. Every year all the magistrates upon entering
office on the 1st of January swore approval of the acts of the reigning
emperor: this oath was originally taken by one magistrate in each department
on behalf of his colleagues, but subsequently it was the usual practice for
each magistrate to take the oath personally. (Dio, 47.18, 53.28; Tac. Ann. 16.22
, with the Excursus of
Lipsius; Dio, 58.17, 60.25.)
2. ACTA SENATUS, called also COMMENTARII SENATUS (Tac. Ann.
) and ACTA PATRUM (Ann.
5.4), contained an account of the various matters brought before the senate,
the opinions of the chief speakers, and the decision of the house. We may
infer from a passage of Suetonius ( “Inito honore primus omnium
instituit, ut tam senatus quam populi diurna acta confierent et
20), that the proceedings of the senate were not usually
published till the first consulship of Julius Caesar, B.C. 59; but under the
direction of the presiding magistrate, assisted by certain senators
appointed for the purpose (qui scribendo
), the decrees of the senate had been written down and
recorded in the Aerarium long previously, and the debates on the
Catilinarian conspiracy had been widely circulated by Cicero (p.
14, 15) from notes taken by some friends of his among the
senators. Julius Caesar ordered that the proceedings of the senate, which
had been only occasionally published before, should henceforth be published
regularly every day (senatus acta diurna
the authority of government, from the notes ,of shorthand writers taken
(Sen. de mort.
9). Augustus forbade the publication of the proceedings
of the senate, but they still continued to be preserved; and one of the
senators, who received the title ab actis
was chosen by the emperor to compile the account. (Tac. Ann. 5.4
; Spart. Hadr.
No. 2274, 3186.) This office was generally
held as an annual one, after the quaestorship (Spart. Hadr.
3), but before the praetorship or aedileship. The persons entrusted with
this office must not be confounded with the various clerks (actuarii, servi publici, scribae;
see also CENSUALES
), who were present
in the senate to take notes of its proceedings, and who were only excluded
when the senate passed a senatusconsultum iacitum;
that is, when they deliberated on a subject of the greatest importance,
respecting which secrecy was necessary or advisable (Capit.
12). It was doubtless from notes and papers of these
clerks that the acta were compiled by the senator, who was entrusted with
this office. The acta were deposited in the imperial archives (tabularium
) or in particular departments of the
public libraries, to which access could only be obtained by the express
permission of the praefectus urbi.
consulted and are frequently referred to by the later historians (Vopisc.
2; Lamprid. Sever.
6), and many extracts from them were
published in the Acta Diurna.
3. ACTA DIURNA, a gazette published daily at Rome
by the authority of the government during the later times of the republic,
and under the empire, corresponding in some measure to our newspapers.
(Tac. Ann. 3.3
.) In addition to
the title Acta Diurna,
we find them referred to
under the names of Diurna, Acta Publica, Acta Urbana,
Acta Rerum Urbanarum, Acta Populi,
and they are frequently
called simply Acta.
The Greek writers on Roman
history call them τὰ ὑπομνήματα, τὰ δημόσια
ὑπομνήματα, τὰ δημόσια γράμματα,
and τὰ κοινὰ ὑπομνήματα.
The nature of their
contents will be best seen from the following passage of Petronius (100.53),
where an imitation of them is given by the actuarius of
Trimalchio:--“Actuarius--tanquam acta urbis recitavit: vii. Kal.
Sextiles in praedio Cumano, quod est Trimalchionis, nati sunt pueri xxx,
puellae XL; sublata in horreum ex area tritici millia modium quingenta;
boves domiti quingenti. Eodem die Mithridates servus in crucem actus
est, quia Gai nostri genio maledixerat. Eodem die in arcam relatum est,
quod collocari non potuit, sestertium centies. Eodem die incendium
factum est in hortis Pompeianis, ortum ex aedibus Nastae villici . . .
Jam etiam edicta aedilium recitabantur, et saltuariorum testamenta,
quibus Trimalchio cum elogio exheredabatur; jam nomina villicorum et
repudiata a circitore liberta in balneatoris contubernio deprehensa;
atriensis Baias relegatus; jam reus factus dispensator; et judicium
inter cubicularios actum.” From this passage, and from the
numerous passages in ancient writers, in which the Acta Diurna are quoted
(references to which are given by Hübner), it would appear that
they usually contained the following matters:--(1) The number of births and
deaths in the city, an account of the money paid into the treasury from the
provinces, and everything relating to the supply of corn. These particulars
would be extracted from the tabulae publicae.
By an ancient regulation, ascribed to Servius Tullius (Dionys. A. R. 4.15
), all births were
registered in the temple of Venus, and all deaths in that of Libitina; and
we know that this practice was continued under the empire, only that at a
later time the temple of Saturn was substituted for that of Venus for the
registration of births. (Jul. Cap. M. Aurel.
9.) (2) Extracts
from the Acta Forensia, containing the edicts of magistrates, the testaments
of distinguished men, reports of trials, with the names of those who were
acquitted and condemned, and likewise a list of the magistrates who were
elected. (3) Extracts from the Acta Senatus, especially all [p. 1.13]
the decrees and acclamationes [ACCLAMATIO
] in honour of the reigning emperor. (4) A
court circular, containing an account of the births, deaths, festivals, and
movements of the imperial family. (5) Curious and interesting occurrences,
such as prodigies and miracles, the erection of new edifices, the
conflagration of buildings, funerals, sacrifices, a list of the various
games, and especially amatory tales and adventures, with the names of the
parties. (Comp. Cic. Fam. 2.1. 5
) News of
private affairs seem to have been communicated to the official editor by way
of advertisement (cf. Quint. 9.3, 17, where a widower speaks of himself as
). The fragments of some Acta
Diurna have been published by Pighius and Dodwell, but their genuineness is
more than doubtful. (Cf. Heinze, de spuriis diurnorum
It is certain that these acta were published under the authority of the
government, but it is not stated under whose superintendence they were drawn
up (Hübner, p. 65). It is probable, however, that this duty
devolved upon the magistrates, who had the care of the tabulae publicae,
namely, the censors under the republic
and sometimes the quaestors, sometimes the praefecti
under the empire (Tac.
Ann. xiiii. 28
). By a regulation of Alexander
Severus, seven of the fourteen curatores urbis,
whom he appointed, had to be present when the acta were drawn up (Lamprid.
33). The actual task of compiling them was
committed to subordinate officers, called actuarii
who were assisted by
various clerks, and by reporters (notarii
took down in shorthand the proceedings in the courts, &c. After the
acta had been drawn up, they were exposed for a time in some public place in
the city in albo,
where persons could read them
and take copies of them. Many scribes, whom Cicero speaks of under the name
made it their business to copy
them or make extracts from them for the use of the wealthy in Rome, and
especially in the provinces, where they were eagerly sought after and
extensively read (Cic. Fam. 8.1
; Tac. Ann.
). After the acta had been exposed in public for a certain
time, they were deposited, like the Acta Senatus, in some of the record
offices, or the public libraries.
The style of the acta, as appears from the passage in Petronius, was very
simple and concise. They contained a bare enumeration of facts without any
attempt at ornament.
Hübner has proved against Becker (Handbuch,
i. pp. 30
and 32) that these acta were first published in the first consulship of
Julius Caesar. Previous to this time it was common for a MS. chronicle of
public events at Rome to be compiled by scribes, and forwarded along with
private letters to friends at a distance (Cic. Fam.
,8, 11, 2.8, 12.22, 15.6:
cp. Hübner, p. 39; Mommsen, Hist.
There is no evidence to support an opinion adopted by many modern writers,
that the publication of the acta first commenced in B.C. 133, to supply the
place of the Annales Maximi, which were discontinued in that year (Cic. de Orat. 2.12
), while on the contrary
the great difference of their contents renders it improbable that such was
the case. The Annales Maximi dealt with the affairs of the republic
generally, especially wars, &c.; but the Acta Urbana, as their name
implies, were restricted to the news of the city. The Acta Diurna are last
mentioned by Vopiscus (Prob.
100.2), and probably continued
in use to the downfall of the Western empire, or at least till the removal
of the seat of government to Constantinople, but they were never published
at the latter city.
4. ACTA FORENSIA. These were of two kinds. (1) The
Romans were accustomed to keep their private accounts with so much accuracy
that their books accepti et expensi,
and contracts (syngrapha
) were admitted as legal evidence.
Frequently witnesses (pararii,
2.23.2) were employed toestablish their authenticity. At a
later date notaries (tabelliones
) who had
) in the public streets drew
up these documents, which were ratified by the signature (subscriptio
) of the parties. A senatus consultum passed under
Nero (Suet. Nero 17
; Quint. Inst. 12.8
; Paul. Sent. Recept.
5.25, 6) prescribed the legal form of such documents.
(2) Acta judiciorum
contained the record of all
proceedings of the magistrates, alike in contentious and in non-contentious
business. The: latter included such matters as adoptions, cessio in jure,
manumissions, the appointment of guardians,
and the like. Such magisterial functions could be discharged anywhere, even
in the baths or in the streets (Instit. Just.
). Under the republic there is no
evidence of the method of legal attestation in these cases; but under the
empire it was customary for the, parties to have a formal statement drawn up
by a public official (acta
), and confirmed by the magistrate (Instit.
and 12, 8). In the case of contentious business, so long as the legis actiones
were in use [ACTIO
], there was no need of a written record, for
the litis contestatio
was attested by witnesses. On
the other hand, when formulae
came into use,
these were: necessarily in writing, though the decision of the judex
was given viva
There was a. special form of action (judicati actio
) against a defendant who denied the existence
of a decision given against him. There is evidence of the existence of a
Frag. Vat. Jur. 112) under the
empire. The cognitiones extraordinariae
increased the importance of this. But. the existence of a written decision
was not compulsory before the Constitutions of Valentinian,, Valens, and
Gratian (100.213, Cod. Just. de sent. ex peric.
7.44, &c.). From this date, the acta judiciorum
prepared by the officials of the
) become extremely numerous
(cf. Rudorff, Röm. Rechtsgesch.
i. p. 299).
5. ACTA MILITARIA contained an account of the
duties, numbers, and expenses of each legion. (Veget. 2.19), and of the
amount of property possessed by each soldier (peculium
). They were probably preserved among the official
papers of the several legions. The soldiers who drew up these acta are
frequently mentioned in inscriptions and ancient writers under various
titles, as librarius legionis, actuarius
or actarius legionis, tabularius castrensis
Renier, Inscriptions romaines do l'Algérie,
(Lipsius, Excursus ad Tac. Ann.
5.4; Ernesti, Excursus
ad Suet. J. Caes.
20; Schlosser, Ueber die Quellen der
spätern latein Gesclhichtschreiber,
[p. 1.14]besonders über Zeitungen,
&c. in the Archiv für Geschichte,
80-106; Prutz, De Fontibus, quos in conscribendis rebus
inde a Tiberio usque ad mortem Neronis gestis auctores veteres secuti
Halle, 1840; Zell, Ueber die Zeitungen der
Friburg, 1834; Le Clerc, Des Journaux chez les
Paris, 1838; Lieberkühn, De
Diurnis Romanorum Actis,
Wiemar, 1840; and especially
Hübner, Doe senatus populique Romani actis,