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PRAECO a crier. Of these there were two distinct kinds--those in private employment, and those employed and paid by the state as subordinate attendants. The praecones of the former kind were (1) criers of lost goods (Plaut. Mere. 3.4, 78; Petron. 97), and (2) especially auctioneers: they were not, it is true, the chief superintendents of the auction [see AUCTIO]; but besides advertising the time, place, and conditions of sale, they also acted the part of a modern auctioneer so far as calling out the biddings and amusing the company, though the property was knocked down by the magister auctionis. (Hor. Ars. Poet. 419; Cic. Att. 12.4. 0; de Off, 2.23, 83.) The official praecones were those whose duty it was to attend (apparere) certain magistrates, for purposes mentioned below. We have evidence from inscriptions of a collegium with three decuriae of praecones, to attend on consuls and censors (the first, or “Julian,” decuria for consuls): also for curule aediles, quaestores aerarii, and tribunes (C. I. L. 6.1944, 1945, 1869, 1847; cf. Liv. 43.16; Auct. ad Herenn. 4.55, 68): perhaps also for other magistrates, since, as Mommsen remarks, their low status may account for slighter mention of them in inscriptions. They attended the same magistrates in the provinces (Cic. in Verr. 2.10, 27; Liv. 45.29).

Their duties were to act in all cases required as the voice through which the magistrate on whom they attended conveyed his orders or remarks to the people: therefore (1) to summon the people to comitia or contiones (Liv. 1.59; 7.4; 24.8, &c.); (2) to proclaim silence (Auct. ad Herenn. 1. c.; Liv. 28.27, &c.); (3) to announce the bill which was to be voted on, when the scriba dictated [subicit] the words already written down which the praeco was to announce aloud (pronuntiare: Ascon. in Cornel. [p. 2.475]58): we often find the scribe alone mentioned as reading (Appian, App. BC 1.11), but, according to Mommsen, we are to understand that he reads through the voice of the praeco; (4) to announce the votes of different sections at an election (Cic. de Leg. agr. 2.2, 4) or the decision of the majority (Cic. pro Mil. 35, 96; Gel. 12.8, 6); (5) to summon the senators to the senate-house (Liv. 1.47; Suet. Cl. 36); (6) to make known the orders of the magistrate, the edictum being “spoken out” by the praeco, and so, for instance, in ordering slaves to quit the theatre or foreigners the city (Cic. de Harusp. Resp. 12, 26; Liv. 2.37). (7) In trials they summoned the accuser, the accused, and the witnesses (Suet. Tib. 11; Liv. 8.32; Cic. pro Flacc. 15, 34): they announced the conclusion of the pleadings, gave the dismissal of the judices (by the word ilicet), and ordered the executioner to do his office (Liv. 26.15). (8) At the public funeral (funus indictivum) they summoned those who were to take part with the formal words: “Ollus Quiris leto datus: exsequias ire, cui commodum est, jam tempus est. Ollus ex aedibus effertur.” It is clear that the praeco comes in here because it is a state funeral, by order of the senate and arranged by a quaestor or praetor. (See Fest. p. 106; Cic. de Leg. 2.2. 4; Becker-Göll, 3.496; Marquardt, Privatl. 351.)

The official dress of the praeco was marked by the angustus clavus (see Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 3.218). The praecones were of a low grade, with little education (Mart. 5.56,10), as tar as can be gathered from inscriptions, of the freedman class: and the contempt in which their office (praeconium) was held is seen not only from such passages as Juv. 3.33, 7.6 (cf. κήρυξ, Theophrast. 16.10, and Jebb's note), but also from the law (Lex Julia) forbidding those who had exercised it to hold office in the municipia (Tab. Heracl. 54 = C. I. L. 1.206; Cic. Fam. 6.1. 8, 2). Nevertheless the office (probably the auctioneering part of it) was often very profitable, and made it possible for the praeco to become a rich man: for instances, see Mayor's note on Juv. 7.6; among them the Gallonius mentioned in Hor. Sat. 2.2, 47. (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, i.3 pp. 363-366.)

[W.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (23 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (23):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 6.1.2
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.1.11
    • Cicero, For Milo, 35
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.27
    • Cicero, For Flaccus, 15
    • Cicero, On the Agrarian Law, 2.2
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 12
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 36
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 43, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 47
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 59
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 15
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.2
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 12.6
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 12.8
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.56
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