often erroneously spelt CONCIO
is a contraction for
that is, a meeting, or a
In a loose mode of speaking it
denotes any popular assembly, even among non-Romans (Liv. 24.22
; Cic. pro
, § 15), and any speech or harangue
addressed to such an assembly; hence the common phrase contionem habere
means indifferently “to hold a
meeting” and “to make a speech.” Written speeches are
sometimes called contiones
(Cic. in Vat. 1
, § 3;
14.20). In the technical sense, however, a contio
was an assembly of the Roman people convened regularly (per praeconem
) by a magistrate or a sacerdos publicus
(Fest. p. 66 M.). A general in the field by
virtue of his imperium could summon his troops as often as he pleased to
hear what he had to say to them (in contionem vocare;
); and what he said before the
assembled army was pro contione
(Sal. Jug. 8
). But when L. Paullus after his
triumph (with which his imperium came to an end) wished to make an
explanatory statement, he had to obtain leave from a magistrate, who was
said contionem dare
cf. Cic. Att.
). A contio thus lawfully convened was the usual mode of
initiating public discussion, e. g. of measures which were to be brought
before the comitia, and of working upon the people either to support or
oppose the measure. Contiones were also summoned for other purposes, e. g.
of persuading the people to take part in a war (Dionys. A. R. 6.28
) or of bringing complaints against a party in
the republic or an individual (id. 9.25; Liv.
; Plut. C. Gracch.
3). But no question of any
kind could be decided by a contio, and this constitutes the difference
between contiones and comitia (Gell. N. A.
13.16 [in old edd.
15, § § 8-10]; Cic. pro Sest.
50.106; 54.115). Contrasting Roman and Greek methods, Cicero says that the
former went to the poll and voted deliberately, summota
while the Athenians in the days of their glory were
governed by the hasty decisions of the assembly, contionis temeritate
Meetings of this kind naturally were of very frequent occurrence at Rome. The
earliest that is mentioned is one held immediately after the death of
Romulus by Julius Proculus in the Campus Martins (Liv.
; Plut. Rom. 27
); the first
after the expulsion of the kings was held by Brutus (Liv.
; Dionys. A. R. 5.10
&c.), Every magistrate had the right to convene contiones, but it
was most frequently exercised by the consuls and tribunes, and the latter
more especially exercised a great influence over the people in and through
these contiones. A magistrate who was higher in rank than the one who had
convened a contio, had the right to order the people to disperse, if he
disapproved of the object (avocare,
); and such a command and the vehemence of the
haranguing tribunes rendered contiones often very tumultuous and riotous,
especially during the later period of the republic (Cic. pro Sest.
50.106); so that their powers were curtailed by
Sulla (id. pro Cluent.
40.110). The convening
magistrate either addressed the people himself, or he introduced other
persons to whom he gave permission to speak, for no private person was
allowed to speak without this permission, and the people had nothing to do
but to listen. (Dionys. A. R. 5.11
Cic. Att. 4.2
) The place where such
meetings were held does not seem to have been fixed, for we find them in the
Forum, the Capitol, the Campus Martius, and even the Circus Flaminius (Cic.