the constitution of the Italian towns (municipia,
), as regulated by the Lex Julia
Municipalis, B.C. 45, each municipality was governed by an assembly of the
which elected magistrates and made
laws, and also by a senate, which was an administrative body. Subsequently,
by a change corresponding to that which took place in Rome, the power of the
popular assembly was transferred to the senate, which thus became the
supreme municipal body for legislative and administrative purposes.
The municipal senate is sometimes called senatus,
but the terms commonly used to denote it are ordo decurionum
or simply ordo,
and in later times curia.
members of the senate, these words being used indifferently in the same
As opposed to the decuriones,
which formed a [p. 1.607]
kind of patrician class in each town, other
citizens were called plebeii.
The word municipes
usually comprehends all citizens,
but it is used in the Theodosian code so as to include only the decuriones
or citizens of the governing class.
The number of decuriones
of which a municipal
senate consisted was fixed by the constitution (lex
) of each municipality: it was frequently a hundred,
of inscriptions (Orelli, Nos.
108, 3448, 3706, 3737, 3738; cf. Cic. de
Leg. agr. 2.3. 5
, 96), but varied according to the
size and custom of communities. The office (honor
) of decurio
was obligatory on
all citizens called on to undertake it. Decuriones
held office for life. Places in a curia
which became vacant by death or incapacity of members
were filled up periodically, probably every five years. Persons were made
either by right of descent or by
free election; sons succeeded in the place of their fathers; any qualified
citizen might be chosen to fill the place of a decurio
who left no son.
co-opted new members, when its number was not complete. (Dig. 50
6.5; Fronto, Epist. ad amic.
2.10; Cod. Theod. 12.1, 1. 66:
cf. J. Gothofred, Paratit. ad Cod. Theod. xii.
p. 218.) It is, however,
maintained by some writers that, from and after the passing of the Lex
were appointed by the higher
magistrates, who drew up the album decurionum,
and who are styled in some places quinquennales.
(Tab. Heracl. Quicunque in municipiis,
coloniis, praefecturis, foris, conciliabulis civium Romanorum iiviri,
iiiiviri erunt,--ne quis eorum quem in eo municipio, colonia,
praefectura--in senatum, decuriones, conscriptosve legito neve sublegito
neve cooptato neve recitandos curato nisi in demortui damnative
Fabretti, Inscr. C.
9, p. 598. Marquardt.
i. p. 502.) To be eligible as
a person was required to be of a
certain age; the limit was thirty (Tab. Heracl. 23), till reduced by
Augustus to twenty-five for the municipal senate as well as for the Roman.
A property qualification, the amount of which depended on the constitution of
each town, was attached to the acquisition of membership in a curia,
but membership was not vacated by loss of
property. We learn from Pliny (Plin. Ep.
) that at Comum a person who had less than 100,000 sesterces
could not become a decurio.
bankrupts, persons of infamous character, and persons who followed certain
employments, as praecones, designatores,
were incapable of holding this office (Tab. Heracl.
23 (25); cf. Dig. 50
). Freedmen were likewise incapable, but
sometimes on account of extraordinary services they were given the ornamenta decurionalia
by decree of the curia
as an honorary distinction (Orelli, No. 3942).
The names of decuriones
were inscribed on an
album or register in a regular order, which was based partly on rank and
partly on seniority. The album of Canusium, which was discovered in the last
century and is now in the principal museum at Naples (Fabretti,
9, p. 598; Orelli, No. 3721), shows the plan on
which such an album was arranged.
The album contains the names of honorary and of actual members of the
the honorary members having
precedence. The honorary members are styled patroni,
and are of two classes, consisting (1) of decuriones,
free from active service on account of
their holding high office in the state; (2) of persons to whom honorary
membership was given as a distinction (Cod. Theod. 8.5, 46). Among actual
those who had served as
magistrates had the first rank, each ranking according to the importance of
the office he had held; lastly come the actual decuriones
who had not served any office: these rank according to
seniority of service in the curia
Gesch. d. R. R.
Sometimes, though not in the album of Canusium, among actual members the
first ten (decem primi
cf. Liv. 29.15
the first six, seven, or fifteen, are distinguished from the rest: in the
Theodosian Code such decuriones
are termed primati, primarii.
As they were subject to greater
responsibility than other decuriones,
were superior in rank (Cod. Theod. 16.2, 39; 16.5, 52, 54).
The first of the principales, primus
had precedence as president of the curia.
were in close connexion with the
civic magistracy, since all magistrates were elected by them, and no one who
was not a decurio
could be elected magistrate
In the early municipal constitution magisterial offices were not thus
confined to decuriones,
but open to citizens
generally, magistrates being ex-officio
of the senate (Tab. Heracl.; Grüter, Inscript.
408, n. 1). Magistrates on retiring from office nominated their successors
for election in the curia.
magistrate was responsible for the good conduct of his nominee.
The position of decurio
declined under the
despotic administration of the empire, so that from having been one which
was sought as a distinction it came to be regarded as a most oppressive
burden. This change was mainly caused by the heavy public charges which were
thrown upon decuriones;
not only were their
legal liabilities increased, but claims were enforced against them which had
no foundation in law. Thus decuriones
legally obliged to make good any deficiency in the imperial taxes of their
district, if the deficiency was due to their misconduct as tax collectors;
but by a practice which was declared by many imperial constitutions to be
illegal, they were forced to make good unpaid taxes, even when they were not
The financial and other liabilities of decuriones
were so onerous that persons tried to escape from them
by every means in their power, as by becoming soldiers or even serfs. The
difficulty of getting persons to fill the office and the degraded state into
which it had fallen are illustrated by the fact that culprits were condemned
to serve it by way of punishment: such punishment was, however, declared to
be illegal. Even Jews and heretics were admitted to the decurionatus;
but Justinian provided that persons belonging
to these classes should not be entitled to the dignity of the office, though
they were to remain subject to its liabilities. The [p. 1.608]
Theodosian Code contains numerous provisions directed against those who
tried to evade their duty of service in the curia.
As an encouragement to induce people to fulfil their duty
of service, privileges were attached to membership of the curia.
Thus illegitimate children were legitimated by being
According to a law of Constantine, decuriones
could not go out of their own districts without leave.
The first mention we find of persons being compelled to become decuriones
is in a letter of Pliny (Plin. Ep. 10.113
). The municipal institution
of the curia
was not confined to Italy, but
extended throughout the Roman empire: the statute law of the Theodosian Code
applied to municipalities
everywhere. (Savigny, Geschichte des Röm. Rechts im
i. cap. 2; J. Gothofred, Paratit. ad Cod.
12.1; Roth, de re municipali Romanorum
Hegel, Geschichte der Stadteverfassung von
Zumpt, Commentat. epigraph.
pp. 73-158, 170,
475; Marquardt, Röm. Staatsverw.
i. p. 501 ff.)