Roman Voting Assemblies

Information adapted from Crawford, M, 1992 - The Roman Republic (2nd Edition, Fontana Press, London).

After the expulsion of the kings of Rome in 509 B.C. the patrician class - previously the advisors to the kings - became de facto rulers of the new Republic organised into a senate. The rest of the population of the city were organised into three archaic tribes - theTities, Ramnites and Luceres. These three tribes sent ten representatives each (curiae) to form the Comitia Curiata, with the curiae voting as a group, not as individuals.

The next assembly to emerge was the Comitia Centuriata,in which the population was organised into 193 centuriae (army units). Group voting operated here too, and the citizens who were originally better armed, and therefore wealthier, got to vote first (because they were the ones who bore the brunt in battles). The lower centuries contained more people with less wealth than the higher, so the brunt of decision making went to a small number of richer citizens. As time went on, the ability to provide one's own armour and weaponry for conflict (essential for the citizen farmer/soldier system that the ancient Republic used) was replaced with a property qualification based on the taking of regular censuses. The timocratic principle of the assembly, however, remained.

The final two assemblies were the comitia tributa and the concilium plebis which emerged during the "struggle of the orders" in the fifth to third centuries B.C. The former organised all citizens into 35 tribes, while the latter had the same 35 tribes, but excluded the patrician class.


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