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VOTA PUBLICA These rested on the same principle as the vows and votive offerings made at critical moments, and after an escape from danger by private persons, which have been described under DONARIA The public vows were made in time of war (Liv. 5.21, 36.2, 42.28; cf. Ov. Fast. 5.573); or of pestilence (Liv. 4.25, 40.37, 41.21). A clause often occurs to the effect that the vow is made on condition that the state should be free from trouble for five or for ten years, and such vows are called vota quinquennalia or decennalia (Liv. 21.62; 30.2,.27; 31.9; 42.28).

The things vowed, as may be seen from the above passages, were of various kinds, offerings at shrines or at pulvinaria, a tithe of the spoil, votive games [LUDI p. 84 b], or a temple. The most remarkable of all vows was the VER SACRUM which has been described in a separate article.

The consul or praetor who had been ordered by the senate suscipere votum (i.e. to undertake the obligation), or the dictator in times of a dictatorship, publicly announced (nuncupavit) [p. 2.982]the vow and its object in formal words dictated to him by the Pontifex Maximus (Liv. 4.27, 36.2). In Liv. 41.21 we find a case where XVvir sacrorum dictates the vow, and it is announced by the voices of the assembled people; but this, according to Mommsen, was because the vow was intended to bind each individual, not the state as a whole (Staatsrecht, 1.244). Finally, the vows were entered in the public records in the presence of witnesses (Fest. p. 173, 13). The fulfilment of the vow at the proper time was under the charge of the magistrate who had announced it, or of his successor, if he had vacated office in the meantime; but it might in case of necessity devolve on another magistrate (cf. Liv. 36.2). When a commander in the field made a vow, the senate afterwards determined how much money should be assigned for its discharge from the treasury or from the spoils which would otherwise be paid into the treasury (Liv. 39.5; 40.44).

Besides these extraordinary public vows, there was an annual votum publicum (of victims to be offered) made by the new consuls on Jan. 1st, “pro reipublicae salute” (the “sollemnis votorum nuncupatio” in Liv. 21.63; to this also must be referred the “sollemnia precatus” in the letter of Tiberius, Tac. Ann. 4.70). After the end of the Republic a special vow was added for the emperor's safety (D. C. 51.19). In order, however (as Mommsen thinks), to avoid confusion between the vow for the emperor and that for the state, the 3rd of January became the day for the “votum pro salute principis” ; and this day accordingly appears in the Calendars and elsewhere as votorum nuncupatio or simply as vota (C. I. L. i. p. 334; Tac. Ann. 16.22; Capitolin. Pert. 6). In the Greek writers it is called ἡμέρα τῶν εὐχῶν (D. C. 79.8). It was observed in the provinces as well as at Rome (Plin. Ep. 10.35, 36), and the practice was so far extended that we find vota for various occasions concerning the emperor, his return, his birthday, &c. (see numerous instances in Marquardt), and further for various members of the imperial family. Hence if a private person (as Sejanus) allowed his own name to be added, it was construed as a treasonable usurpation of imperial power (D. C. 58.3; cf. 75.14). For further details, see Marquardt, Staatsverw. iii. pp. 265-268; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 1.244, 2.810.


hide References (16 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (16):
    • Tacitus, Annales, 16.22
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.70
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 10.35
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 10.36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 62
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 63
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 2
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
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