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CU´RIA signifies both a division of the Roman people and the place of assembly for such a division. Various etymologies of the word have been proposed. Varro (de Ling. Lat. 5.32) derives it from curare, a view defended by Mommsen (Hist. 1.72). Lange (Röm. Alt. i. p. 79), who regards Quirites as derived from curia, a theory which others again invert, wavers between this view and Corssen's earlier suggestion, that is, for covisia, “a dwelling together,” from the root vas, “to dwell.” But seeing that the original meaning seems to have been “house,” it is better to trace it to the root sku, “shelter,” as Corssen now does.

Each of the three ancient Romulian tribes, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, was subdivided into 10 curiae, so that the whole body of the populus was divided into 30 curiae. (Liv. 1.13; Dionys. A. R. 2.7, 23; Plut. Rom. 19.) It has commonly been asserted that the plebeians had no connexion whatever with the curiae, and that the clients of the patricians were members of the curiae only in a passive sense. (Fest. p. 285, ed. Müller; comp. PATRICII, GENS.) But Mommsen has adduced strong reasons for denying the purely patrician character of the curiae (Röm. Forsch. 1.140-150), and accepting the view of Dionysius (4.12, 20) that plebeians were admitted. He points out first that, as is generally admitted, the curiae in their sacral character included plebeians as well as patricians. The Fornacalia was a festival celebrated by curies, but Ovid's account of it (Fast. 2.511 if.) is quite inconsistent with the notion that it was a patrician festival. Besides, in B.C. 209 we find a plebeian elected as Curio Maximus, and, according to all analogy, plebeians must have been admitted to the curies long before one of them could be found holding the highest post of dignity. Secondly, there is absolutely no proof of the purely patrician character of the comitia curiata, but much evidence to the contrary. Cicero's words (de Leg. Agr. 2.11, 27, “curiatis comitiis quae vos non initis” ) refer merely to the formal meetings of lictors [cf. COMITIA], which no citizens, patrician or plebeian, attended. Plebeians are represented as existing and voting side by side with patricians before the institution of any other than the comitia curiata. The extinction of the functions of the curies is nowhere mentioned as a result of the decay of the patriciate. By comparing Cic. pro Planc. 3, 8, and de Domo 14, 38, it is plain that the populi comitia of the former answers to the comitia centuriata et curiata of the second. The election of a magistrate and the conferring of the imperium are represented by Cicero (de Leg. Agr. 2.11, 26, “maiores de singulis magistratibus bis vos sententiam ferre voluerunt” ) as two acts of the same body; but the former took place in the centuries, the latter in the curies. The thirty lictors who represented the curies, and therefore must have had the right of voting there, were plebeians. There is no reason whatever to believe that the right of making wills and adoptions before the curies was limited to patricians, and we have one positive instance of a plebeian adopting before the curies in the case of Clodius. Hence the common theory of the purely patrician character of the curies must be abandoned. There is no historical evidence to show when [p. 1.577]the plebeians became members of them (Mommsen, Forsch. 1.149), but it is a reasonable conjecture that they were admitted at the time of the expulsion of the kings, when the comitia curiata lost their political power by the development of the comitia centuriata (Mommsen, Hist. 1.264). All the members of the different gentes belonging to one curia were called, in respect of one another, curiales. Each curia as a corporation had its peculiar sacra (Fest. pp. 174, 245; Paul. Diac. p. 49, ed. Müller), and, besides the gods of the state, they worshipped other divinities and with peculiar rites and ceremonies. For such religious purposes each curia had its own place of worship, called curia, which at first may have contained nothing but an altar, afterwards a sacellum, and finally a building in which the curiales assembled for the purpose of discussing political, financial, religious, and other matters. (Paul. Diac. pp. 62, 64; Dionys. A. R. 2.50.) The religious affairs of each curia were taken care of by a priest, curio, who was assisted by another called Flamen curialis. (Paul. Diac. pp. 49, 64; Varro, de L. L. 5.83, 6.46; Dionys. A. R. 2.21 ; comp. CURIO) The thirty curiae had their own distinct names, which are said to have been derived from the names of the Sabine women who had been carried off by the Romans, though it is evident that some derived their names from certain districts or from ancient eponymous heroes. Few of these names only are known, such as curia Titia, Faucia, Calabra, Foriensis, Rapta, Veliensis, Tifata. (Paul. Diac. pp. 49, 366; Fest. p. 174; Liv. 1.13; Dionys. A. R. 2.47; Cic. de Re Publ. 2.8, 14.) O. Gilbert has lately (Gesch. und Topogr. der Stadt Rom in Alterthum, 2 vols. 1883, 1885) advocated with much ingenuity and learning a theory that the curiae were based originally upon the gradual occupation of the seven hills of the Septimentium by tribes of different origin, and their ultimate federation. The details of this view involve too many moot points to be discussed here with advantage.

Curia is also used to designate the place in which the senate held its meetings. [See following article.] From this there gradually arose the custom of calling the senate itself curia in the coloniae and municipia, but never the senate of Rome. [DECURIO] The official residence of the Salii, which was dedicated to Mars, was likewise styled curia. (Cic. de Div. 1.1. 7; Dionys. A. R. 14.5; Plut. Camill. 32; comp. Becker, Handb. der Röm. Alterth. vol. ii. part i. p. 31, &c.; Lange, Röm. Alterth. 1.244-250; Mommsen, Röm. Forsch. 1.140-150.)

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hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Cicero, For Plancius, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 13
    • Cicero, De Republica, 2.8
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.1
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 19
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