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date: 23 January 2021

lex Villia Annalis, 180 bcelocked

  • James R. Townshend


The only direct reference to the law is by Livy (40.44.1), when he briefly summarizes the legislative and electoral activities for the year 180bce. Livy reports that in that year (eo anno) a bill was proposed by the tribunus plebis L. Villius (Annalis) which established the ages at which one could seek and hold each magistracy: quot annos nati quemque magistratum peterent caperentque.1 That the bill was carried can be inferred from Livy’s further note that as a result (inde) the Villius family received the cognomen Annalis. Little more is known of Villius, though he was praetorperegrinus in 171bce (Livy 42.28.5 and 31.9).Livy does not state what motivated Villius’s proposal. Cicero asserts that those who used leges annales to set a minimum age for the consulship were afraid of the rashness of young men (adulescentiae temeritatem uerebantur, Cic. Phil. 5.47). Many have taken this at face value and attributed the same motive to Villius. There is good reason, however, for seeing the law as one of a number of measures at the beginning of the 2nd centurybce designed to constrain electoral competition.

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