Decemviri: Wikis


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Decemviri (singular decemvir) is a Latin term meaning "Ten Men" which designates any such commission in the Roman Republic (cf. Triumviri, Three Men). Different types of decemvirate include the writing of laws with consular imperium (legibus scribundis consulari imperio), the judging of litigation (stlitibus iudicandis), the making of sacrifices (sacris faciundis), and the distribution of public lands (agris dandis adsignandis).


Decemviri Legibus Scribundis Consulari Imperio

In 452 BC the plebeians and patricians of Rome agreed to the appointment of a commission of ten men to write up a code of law defining the principles of Roman administration; during the decemviri's term in office, all other magistracies would be suspended, and their decisions were not subject to appeal. The first set of decemviri, composed entirely of patricians, assumed office in 451 BC, and was led by Appius Claudius Crassus and Titus Genucius Augurinus, who were consuls for that year. Each decemvir administered the government for one day in turn, and whichever decemvir presided on any given day was preceded by the twelve lictors bearing the fasces; none of the other decemviri received any protection from the lictors. Their administration of justice was exemplary and they submitted to the Comitia Centuriata a code of laws in ten headings, which was passed.

The success of the Decemvirate prompted the appointment of a second college of decemviri for 450 BC (Appius Claudius being the only decemvir returned after having controversially reappointed himself). This second set added two more headings to their predecessors' ten, completing the Law of the Twelve Tables (Lex Duodecim Tabularum), which formed the centerpiece of the Roman constitutions for the next several centuries. Nevertheless, this Decemvirate's rule became increasingly violent and tyrannical; each decemvir was attended by twelve lictors, who carried the fasces with axes even within the city (consuls and dictators alone were attended by twelve lictors, and only the dictator could display the fasces with axes within the pomerium).

When the Decemvirate's term of office expired, the decemviri refused to leave office or permit successors to take office. Appius Claudius is said to have made an unjust decision which would have forced a young woman named Verginia into prostitution or as Appius' personal slave, prompting her father to kill her, and this travesty caused an uprising against the Decemvirate; the decemviri resigned their offices in 449 BC, and the ordinary magistrates (magistratus ordinarii) were re-instituted.

Decemviri Legibus Scribundis Consulari Imperio (451 BC):

Decemviri Legibus Scribundis Consulari Imperio (450 – 449 BC):

Decemviri Stlitibus Iudicandis

This type of decemvirate (also called the decemviri litibus iudicandis and translated as "the ten men who judge lawsuits") was a civil court of ancient origin (traditionally attributed to King Servius Tullius) mainly concerned with questions bearing on the status of individuals. It originally served as a jury rendering verdict under the presidency of the praetor, but these decemviri subsequently became annual minor magistrates (magistratus minores) of the Republic, elected by the Comitia Populi Tributa and forming part of the Vigintisexviri ("Twenty-Six Men").

Suetonius and Dio Cassius record that during the Principate, Caesar Augustus transferred to the decemviri the presidency in the courts of the Centumviri ("Hundred Men"). Under imperial law, the decemvirate had jurisdiction in capital cases.

Decemviri Sacris Faciundis

This type of decemvirate (also called the decemviri sacrorum) had religious functions and was the outcome of the claim of the plebs to equal share in the administration of the state religion (five decemviri were plebeians, five were patricians). They were first appointed in 367 BC in lieu of the patrician duumviri ("Two Men") who had had responsibility for the care and consultation of the Sibylline books and the celebration of the games of Apollo. Membership in this ecclesiastical college (collegium) was for life, and the college was increased to a quindecemvirate—that is, a college of fifteen members—and renamed accordingly (see quindecemviri sacris faciundis) in the last century of the Republic, possibly by the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla; the dictator Gaius Iulius Caesar added a sixteenth member, but this precedent was not followed...

Decemviri Agris Dandis Adsignandis

This type of decemvirate was appointed from time to time to control the distribution of public lands (ager publicus).

See also



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DECEMVIRI (" the ten men"), the name applied by the Romans to any official commision of ten. The title was often followed by a statement of the purpose for which the commission was appointed, e.g. Xviri legibus scribundis, stlitibus judicandis, sacris faciundis. I. Apart from such qualification, it signified chiefly the temporary commission which superseded all the ordinary magistrates of the Republic from 451 to 449 B.C., for the purpose of drawing up a code of laws. In 462 B.C. a tribune proposed that the appointment of a commission to draw up a code expressing the legal principles of the administration was necessary to secure for the plebs a hold over magisterial caprice. Continued agitation to this effect resulted in an agreement in 452 B.C. between patricians and plebeians that decemvirs should be appointed to draw up a code, that during their tenure of office all other magistracies should be in abeyance, that they should not be subject to appeal, but that they should be bound to maintain the laws which guaranteed by religious sanctions the rights of the plebs. The first board of decemvirs (apparently consisting wholly of patricians) was appointed to hold office during 451 B.C.; and the chief man among them was Appius Claudius. Livy (iii. 32) says that only patricians were eligible. Mommsen, however, held that plebeians were legally eligible, though none were actually appointed for 451. The decemvirs ruled with singular moderation, and submitted to the Comitia Centuriata a code of laws in ten headings, which was passed. So popular were the decemvirs that another board of ten was appointed for the following year, some of whom, if the extant list of names is correct, were certainly plebeians. These added two more to the ten laws of their predecessors, thus completing the Laws of the Twelve Tables (see Roman Law). But their rule then became violent and tyrannical, and they fell before the fury of the plebs, though for some reason, not easily understood, they continued to have the support of the patricians. They were forced to abdicate (449 B.C.), and the ordinary magistrates were restored.

II. The judicial board of decemvirs (stlitibus judicandis) formed a civil court of ancient origin concerned mainly with questions bearing on the status of individuals. They were originally a body of jurors which gave a verdict under the presidency of the praetor, but eventually became annual minor magistrates of the Republic, elected by the Comitia Tributa. III. The priestly board of decemvirs (sacris faciundis) was an outcome of the claim of the plebs to a share in the administration of the state religion. Five of the decemvirs were patricians, and five plebeians. They were first appointed in 367 B.C. instead of the patrician duumviri who had hitherto performed these duties. The board was increased to fifteen in the last century of the Republic. Its chief function was the care of the Sibylline books, and the celebration of the games of Apollo (Livy x. 8) and the Secular Games (Tac. Ann. xi. ii).

IV. Decemvirs were also appointed from time to time to control the distribution of the public land (agris dandis adsi- 'see' Agrarian Laws).


B. G. Niebuhr, History of Rome (Eng. trans.), ii. 309 et seq. (Cambridge, 1832); Th. Mommsen, History of Rome, bk. ii. c. 2, vol. i. pp. 361 et seq. (Eng. trans., new ed., 1894); Romisches Staatsrecht, ii. 605 et seq., 714 (Leipzig, 1887); A. H. J. Greenidge, Legal Procedure of Cicero's Time, p. 40 et seq., 263 (Oxford, 1901); J. Muirhead, Private Law of Rome, p. 73 et seq. (London, 1899); Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopddie, iv. 2256 et seq. (Kiibler). (A. M. CL.)

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