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.
James R. Townshend
Novus homo (“new man”), term used in the late republic (and probably earlier) in various related senses: for the first man of a family to reach the senate, where he normally remained a “small senator” (BAfr. 57); in a special sense, for such a man actually to rise to the consulship; and (although in our sources less frequently) for the first man of a senatorial family to reach the consulship (e.g. Cic. Off. 1.138). The first of these achievements was not very difficult, provided a man had at least equestrian standing (see equites), some military or oratorical ability, and good connections. The last was also far from rare: it was in this way that the *nobilitas was constantly reinvigorated. But few men rose from outside the senate to a consulship, and the most frequent use of the term in fact characterizes this unusual achievement. It took unusual merit and effort and either noble patronage (e.g. that of the Flacci for M.
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.