In Roman law, the word actio refers to a civil lawsuit. At first sight, it seems obvious that actio derives from the verb ago, which has the basic meaning “to drive,” “to urge,” or simply “to act.” The Roman jurists themselves clearly regarded ago as the verb corresponding to the noun actio and meaning “to conduct a lawsuit” (cf. Festus, Gloss. Lat. 21, l. 15, s.v. agere). Hence, actio may be explained as referring to the claimant urging the judge (and/or the adversary) to do something,1 or simply to the claimant’s actions in court.2 Some scholars have proposed different etymologies. It seems possible that actio is not a derivative of ago (“to drive, to urge”), but of a root agjō meaning “to speak” (cf. the verb aio), and that the word was only later associated with ago.3 Alternatively, it has been argued that ago and aio have a common root that, in the context of archaic law, refers to a performative utterance which affects the Roman citizens collectively.
Lex Aebutia (de formulis) was a statute concerning Roman civil procedure. It related to the transition from legis actiones to formulary proceedings. Both its date and detailed provisions are highly debatable. The archaic procedure per legis actiones consisted of two stages, the first of which took place before a magistrate and required the use of formal words, while the second was held before a judge who decided the case. The introduction of formulae (i.e., instructions for judges written by the praetor giving them authority to condemn or free the defendant) simplified the procedure: there were still two stages, but the parties were able to state their case in an informal way, and the defendant was allowed to present circumstances in his favour.There are very few sources that mention this law. Gaius (Gai. Inst. 4.30) wrote that the legis actiones gradually fell into disuse, because the forefathers had created this law in a way that called for such a high level of exactness that even the slightest formal mistake a party made during the proceedings resulted in his losing the case. That is why the lex Aebutia and the two Julian laws on jurisdiction (see lex Iulia on jurisdiction) abolished the legis actiones, so that the parties could conduct a legal dispute by means of verba concepta, that is by the formulae.
Ius honorarium (magistrate law), derived from honos (curule office), was a classification formulated by jurists of the Roman imperial period to distinguish the private law made by juridical magistrates of the Republic from ius civile (civil law) [Dig.1.1.7. (Papinian), Dig.1.1.11 (Paulus)]. The primary juridical magistrates were, in order of creation, the urban praetor (367bce), the curule aediles (367bce), and the peregrine praetor (c. 244bce), and later the provincial governors. None of these offices was created for the express purpose of judicial action, nor was this ever their sole function. As a corollary, they did not constitute a professional judiciary. The praetors’ basis of legal authority was imperium (the supreme power), a subset of which was iurisdictio, the authority to “speak the law,” and ius edicendi, the right to issue edicts.The curule aediles, whose sphere of operation was limited to the marketplace and city administration, had only iurisdictio and ius edicendi.