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TRE´SVIRI were either ordinary magistrates or officers, or else extraordinary commissioners, who were frequently appointed at Rome to execute any public office. [The form triumvir is quite legitimate, and the gen. plur. is often used as a predicate of a single individual: e.g. si triumvirum sim: but it is doubtful whether there is any good authority for the nom. plur. triumviri, although it is often found in our texts: MSS. seen always to give iiiviri.] The following is a list of the most important of both classes, arranged in alphabetical order.


2. TRESVIRI CAPITALES appear to have been regularly appointed first in about B.C. 290 (Liv. Epit. 11). If Mommsen is right in identifying them with the tresviri nocturni (cf. Ussing on Plaut. Amph. 155), there is a reference to the office somewhat earlier in Liv. 9.46, 3, where he says of Cn. Flavius, curule aedile in B.C. 304, “quem aliquanto ante desisse scriptum facere arguit Macer Licinius tribunatu ante gesto triumviratibusque nocturno altero, altero coloniae deducendae:” but this reference is of doubtful authority, not only because Livy ascribes the institution of the office to a later date, but also because it certainly was not a magistracy, as Licinius regards it, until a much later date. At first the tresviri were not chosen by the people, but nominated, probably by the praetor urbanus, who at a later time presided at their election. Festus (s. v. Sacramentum) gives a quotation from the law by which L. Papirius, a tribune of the commons, enacted that they should be elected: “quicunque praetor posthac factus erit qui inter civis jus dicet, tres viros capitales populum rogato.” This law must have been after B.C. 242, for it assumes the existence of at least two praetors, and this also disposes of the conjecture of Niebuhr, that Festus meant L. Papirius, praetor in B.C. 292 (Hist. Rom. 3.407-8): but it must have been before B.C. 124, when they appear in the Bantine law and the law de repetundis (C. I. L. 1.197, 198).

In criminal cases their main duty was to look to the safer custody of the convicted, and to execute capital punishment (Dig. 1, 2, 2, 30; Liv. 32.26). The usual form of execution was, for the upper classes and for women, strangling in prison (triumvirale supplicium, Tac. Ann. 5.10), a fate which befell the fellow-conspirators of Catiline (Sal. Cat. 55; cf. V. Max. 5.4, 57, “mulierem praetor . . . capitali crimine damnatam triumviro in carcere necandam tradidit” ): slaves were crucified, also under their supervision (V. Max. 8.4, 2). They had also the duty of receiving charges (Plaut. Aul. 413; Asin. 131) and of arresting offenders; [p. 2.869]and generally of looking after the police of Rome, for which purpose they had a post in the forum near the Columna Maenia (Cic. Clu. 13, 39). Their duty was to go the round of the streets by night, and to seize and punish disorderly characters (Plaut. Amph. ad init.: cp. V. Max. 8.1, damn. 6, “P. Villius triumvir nocturnus a P. Aquilio trib. pl. accusatus populi judicio concidit, quia vigilias neglegentius circumierat” ), and, as being charged with the safety of the city, were required to be present at once in cases of fire (ib. damn. 5). There is no trace of any independent criminal jurisdiction; even a slave had to be condemned by a regular court; but this does not preclude the administration of such punishment as was necessary to keep order. Hence Arnold (Hist. of Rome, 2.389) goes too far in saying that they “tried by summary process all offenders against the public peace, who might be taken in the fact.” There are also indications that in cases virtually criminal, in which private citizens acted as prosecutors by the manus injectio, the tresviri were appointed by the praetor to act as judices (cp. Plaut. Pers. 61 ff., discussed by Götz in Rhein. Mus. 30.167), and Mommsen thinks that the number of these may have been determined with a view to this function. They had further to exact and to pay into the treasury the sacramenta due in civil suits, and to decide upon the obligation to serve as judices (Cic. Brut. 31, 117). Here as in other cases they appear as the assistants of the praetors. Under the Empire their functions were mainly discharged by the praefectus vigilum.

3. TRESVIRI COLONIAE DEDUCENDAE were persons appointed to superintend the formation of a colony. They are spoken of under COLONIA Vol. I. p. 479. Since they had besides to superintend the distribution of the land to the colonists, we find them also called Tresviri Coloniae Deducendae Agroque Dividundo (Liv. 8.16), and sometimes simply Tresviri Agro Dando (Liv. 3.1). The number three was the most usual one, but we also find commissions of five, seven, ten, fifteen, or twenty, as might be determined by the law instituting the colony.


5. TRESVIRI EQUITUM TURMAS RECOGNOSCENDI, or LEGENDIS EQUITUM DECURIIS, were magistrates first appointed by Augustus to revise the lists of the Equites, not at the census but at the transvectio equitum, and to admit persons into the order. This was formerly part of the duties of the censors (Suet. Aug. 37; Tac. Ann. 3.30).



8. TRESVIRI REFICIENDIS AEDIBUS, elected in the Comitia Tributa in the time of the Second Punic War, a commission for the purpose of repairing and rebuilding certain temples (Liv. 25.7). We do not know why this duty was not left, as usual, to the censors.

9. TRESVIRI REIPUBLICAE CONSTITUENDAE. Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, vol. iii. p. 43) supposes that magistrates under this title were appointed as early as the time of the Licinian Rogations, in order to restore peace to the state after the commotions consequent upon those Rogations (Lydus, de Mag. 1.35). Niebuhr also thinks that these were the magistrates intended by Varro, who mentions among the extraordinary magistrates that had the right of summoning the senate, Triumvirs for the regulation of the Republic, along with the Decemvirs and Consular Tribunes (Gel. 14.7). We have not, however, any certain mention of officers or magistrates under this name, till towards the close of the Republic, when the supreme power was shared between Lepidus, Antonius, and Caesar (Octavianus), who administered the affairs of the state under the title of Tresviri Reipublicae Constituendae. This office was conferred upon them in B.C. 43 by a law of P. Titius the tribune for five years (Liv. Epit. 120; Appian, App. BC 4.2-12; D. C. 46.54-56; Veil. Pat. 2.65; Plut. Cic. 46); and on the expiration of the term, in B.C. 38, was conferred upon them again, in B.C. 37, for five years more (Appian, App. BC 5.95; D. C. 48.54). The coalition between Julius Caesar, Pompeius, and Crassus, in B.C. 60 (Vell. 2.44; Liv. Epit. 103), is usually called the first triumvirate, and that between Octavianus, Antony, and Lepidus, the second; but it must be borne in mind that the former never bore the title of tresviri, nor were invested with any office under that name, whereas the latter were recognised as regular magistrates under the above-mentioned title.

10. TRESVIRI SACRIS CONQUIRENDIS DONISQUE PERSIGNANDIS, extraordinary officers elected in the Comitia Tributa in the time of the Second Punic War, seem to have had to take care that all property given or consecrated to the gods was applied to that purpose (Liv. 25.7).

11. TRESVIRI SENATUS LEGENDI were officers appointed whenever required by Augustus to admit persons into the senate. This was previously the duty of the censors (Suet. Aug. 37).

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hide References (21 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (21):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.1.2
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.3.12
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.10.95
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 13
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 46
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.30
    • Tacitus, Annales, 5.10
    • Sallust, Catilinae Coniuratio, 55
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 1
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 14.7
    • Plutarch, Cicero, 46
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 5.4
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 8.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 8.2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 8.4
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