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Cassiodorus was a prominent participant in the political, intellectual, and religious life of 6th-century ce Italy, and a learned scholar of the classical and Christian traditions. As a member of the administration of the Gothic government under Theoderic and his successors, he advanced through what may be considered the late-Roman cursus honorum. He was also witness to the dramatic political and religious debates of the day, including volatile interactions between the royal court at Ravenna, the Senate at Rome, and the emperor in Constantinople. Justinian’s Gothic War in Italy effectively ended his political career, after which he first became an exile in Constantinople, and then the founder of a school for Christian learning (Vivarium) on his ancestral estates in southern Italy. The literary works that he produced span the spectrum of his personal experiences and attest to the intellectual and cultural range of people living during the 6th century: panegyrics, a chronicle, ethnography, letters, treatises on reading, grammars, Christian exegesis, and ecclesiastical history.

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Charles Bartlett

The lex Ovinia, or more properly, the plebiscitum Ovinium, is a plebiscite that transferred the power to determine membership in the Roman Senate from the consuls or chief magistrates to the censors. Its date is uncertain, but it was probably passed in or just before 318bce, when evidence of its effect is first seen. The lex Ovinia therefore postdates the lex Valeria Horatia (see lex Valeria de provocatione) of 449bce, which had stipulated that plebeian legislative enactments applied equally to patricians as to plebeians (see plebs). Nevertheless, the patriciate apparently disapproved of the legislative authority invoked in the case of the lex Ovinia, objecting to the use of a plebiscite to address such an issue, although it seems not to have opposed the provisions of the law. A later lex Hortensia of 287/6bce, another plebiscite which decreed forcefully that such acts by the concilium plebis should bind the entire populace, seems to have settled this issue.

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Lorenzo Gagliardi

The leges Liciniae Sextiae are a small set of four Roman legislative acts introduced in 367bce to regulate several matters1. They take their name from their proponents, tribunes of the plebeians C. Licinius Stolo and L. Sextius Lateranus.One of these legislative acts states that in the place of the duumviri sacris faciundis [two magistrates created to perform sacrifices, of patrician status], decemviri were to be elected [and therefore a college of ten members], reserving five places to plebeians and five to patricians. Another, in reference to debt, stated that amounts already paid by way of interest had to be deducted from the capital, and the remaining sum was to be paid in three equal instalments over a three-year period. A third set a limit on lands, prohibiting anyone from holding more than 500 iugera (125 ha). The fourth placed an end to the election of tribuni militum consulari potestate [military tribunes with consular powers] and stated that one of the consuls always had to be a plebeian.