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COLLE´GIUM, A collegium is an association of at least three persons (Dig. 50, 16, 85) for some permanent and lawful purpose, recognised by the state as possessing the attributes of a corporation (Liv. 10.13, 22; Tac. Ann. 3.31). The persons who for the time being were members of the collegium were called collegae or sodales (Dig. 47, 22, 4), the Greek equivalents being ἑταῖροι and ἑταιρεία (Gaius, ib.).

Collegia are, in fact, a subdivision of the class of artificial or “juristic” persons called universitates personarum. For the attributes of these in general, reference should be made to the article on UNIVERSITAS The chief characteristics of a corporation are the perpetuity of its existence independently of the lives of the natural persons who for the time being belong to it, and its recognition, apart from them, as a subject of rights and duties. Thus, a collegium could possess common property and a common chest or arca, and have its suits conducted for it by a syndicus or actor (Dig. 3, 4, 1, 1): debts owed to it were not owed to its members, nor were its own debts theirs (Dig. ib. 7, 1); its property was liable to be sold for such debts, but if it was insufficient the creditors could not, as in an ordinary partnership, resort to the separate property of the individual members. It was governed by its own regulations, which the members could settle at their pleasure, provided they were not contrary to law--a rule which Gaius (Dig. 47, 22, 4) conjecturally derives from the legislation of Solon; the voice of the majority of members present was final (Dig. 50, 17, 160, 1). The collegium still subsisted, though all the original members were changed (Dig. 3, 4, 7, 2); and even if their number was reduced to one, Ulpian was of opinion (notwithstanding Dig. 50, 16, 85, referred to above) that, at least for the purposes of litigation, the corporation still existed. But if all the members died, there was no doubt that its existence terminated.

We meet with a great variety of such collegia. in Roman history. The augurs and pontifices. were incorporated (Caesar, Caes. Civ. 1.72 ; Liv. 31.9), as were the priests of many, if not all, of the different temples (Sueton. Calig. 16 ; Dig. 32, 38, 6; Ulp. Reg. 22, 6). Magistrates bearing the same office usually formed a collegium ( “magistratus municipales cum unum magistratum administrent etiam unius hominis vicem sustinent,” Dig. 50, 1, 25). The collegium of the praetors is spoken of in Cic. de Off. 3, 20, 8: that of the tribuni plebis in Cic. in Verr. 2.2, 41; Sueton. Caes. 23; Liv. 42.32. (According to the definition of a collegium, the consuls,. being only two in number, were not a collegium, though each was called collega in respect of the other, and their union in office was termed collegium.) The decuriones of towns, who bore the municipal offices and upon whom the heaviest municipal burdens fell, also formed a corporation (see the references to Orelli's Inscriptiones in Walter, Geschichte des römischen Rechts, § 298); and some collegia consisted of single curiae in a civitas which had separate property (Dig. 3, 4, 3; ib. 7, 1); of legions and other military units (Dig. 28, 3, 6, 7; Cod. 6, 62, 2), and even of associations of government clerks (Dig. 37, 1, 3, 4). Other collegia were formed for the advancement of finance, trade, or other industry (Liv. 2.27 ; Tac. Ann. 14.17): e. g. those of the publicani, who farmed the public revenues, and who are so frequently referred to in Cicero and other classical writers; of salinae, aurifodinae, and argentifodinae, associated for the purpose of mining (Dig. 3, 4, 1, pr. ; 17, 2, 59, pr.) ; fabrorum, pistorum, &c., which more nearly resembled our city companies and guilds; and finally the collegia sodalicia, associations or clubs for less definite purposes, sometimes religious, sometimes political, and sometimes anarchical (Cic. pro Planc. 15, 36; Plin. Nat. 36.116; Dig. 47, 22, 1).

The law or custom as to the formation of these collegia and their acquisition of the corporate character is not quite clear. There are early instances of their establishment by special legal authority (Liv. 5.50, 52); but under the republic it would seem that a specific authorisation or act of the state for the creation of a corporation was not necessary. Both from the large number and variety of the collegia, and from the known anxiety of the Romans to foster and keep alive in every way the corporate civic spirit, it is probable that there was a general [p. 1.471]rule of law or custom to the effect that, if certain conditions were fulfilled (especially one requiring that the association must exist for certain specific purposes), any number of persons exceeding two might form themselves into a collegium: “neque societas neque collegium neque hujusmodi corpus passim omnibus haberi conceditur, nam et legibus et senatusconsultis et principalibus constitutionibus ea res coercetur” (Dig. 3, 4, 1, pi.). About B.C. 64, owing to the use which was made of them for secret association and plots against the state and its parties, all collegia, except a few whose utility was recognised, were dissolved by a senatusconsult: Cic. in Pison. 4, 9 (cf. Asconius, ib.); pro Sest. 15, 25; D. C. 38.13. Under the empire, it would seem (from Dig. 47, 22, 3, 1) that a special authority from the senate or emperor was required to give any such association a corporate character.

Collegia, like universitates in general, were incertae personae, and consequently under the older law could neither be instituted heirs (Ulp. Reg. 22, 5) nor take legacies under a will (Ulp. ib. 24, 18): the first, because aditio of an inheritance. was an actus legitimus, which could not be performed by an agent, and it is only through agents that corporations can act at all. But municipal corporations were allowed to be instituted heirs to their own liberti by one senatusconsultum, and another permitted certain of the gods (i. e. the collegia of their priests) to be instituted by any one (Ulp. Reg. 22, 5, 6). Under Justinian public, charitable. and ecclesiastical corporations (including churches) could in all cases be instituted ; others only by special concession from the emperor (Cod. 6, 24, 8, 12). All collegia were enabled to take legacies by a senatusconsultum passed under Marcus Aurelius (Dig. 34, 5, 21). But no restrictions were imposed on the acquisition of property by corporations in other ways (Dig. 41, 2, 1, 22). Independent states could always receive gifts by will (Tac. Ann. 4.43); and in the same way the Roman state accepted the inheritance of Attalus, king of Pergamus, a gift which came to them from a foreigner: it was considered by the Roman lawyers to be accepted under the jus gentium. (Dig. 3, 4, 47, 22 ; Savigny, System, &c., vol. ii. pp. 235, &c.; Mommsen, de Collegiis et Sodaliciis; Puchta, Institutionen, § § 191, 192.)


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