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date: 30 November 2022



  • Christopher Pelling


Commentarii ‘memoranda’, were often private or businesslike, e.g. accounts, notebooks for speeches, legal notes, or teaching materials. Their public use (excluding the false ‘commentarii of the kings’) developed in the priestly colleges (e.g. *pontifices, see libri pontificales, and augures), and with magistrates (*consuls, *censors, *aediles) and provincial governors. They apparently recorded decisions and other material relevant for future consultation, and at least in some cases explained their rationale: this could amount to a manual of protocol. Under the empire the ‘imperial memoranda’ (commentarii principis) provided an archive of official constitutions, rescripts (see magister libellorum), etc: entering a decision in the commentarii conferred its legal authority.In the late republic a more literary usage developed, ‘memoir’ rather than ‘memoranda’. Various records, handbooks, and other learned works were so described, but especially autobiographies, under the influence of such Greek works as *Aratus (2)'s ‘memoirs’ (ὑπομνήματα, the nearest Greek equivalent): thus perhaps the work of *Sulla, more certainly *Cicero's accounts of his consulship and above all *Caesar's commentarii.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Roman Law

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