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date: 24 November 2020


, categories of Roman law
  • Michael Crawford


(a) Statute, passed by one of the assemblies of the Roman people; the lex Hortensia of 287 bce conferred the force of statute on plebis scita, measures passed by a meeting of the *plebs, and these came in time to be referred to loosely as leges. See plebiscitum. The passage of a lex involved a magistrate presenting a proposal in the form of a question: ‘Would you wish, would you order, Quirites, that…? This then, as I have spoken, so I ask you, Quirites.’ The measure had normally to be promulgated, publicized, at least three market days, nundinae, beforehand (see trinundinum); and there could then be debate in a series of informal gatherings, contiones (see contio); but in the assembly the people could only answer yes or no. Once the measure had been passed, the subjunctives of the dependent clauses of the rogatio were converted into the future imperatives which are characteristic of Roman legislative style. The text was then both published and placed in the archives. In the late republic and for the period of the early empire for which legislation survived, there was a tendency not to bother to carry out this process of conversion: only the enforcement clauses of the sanctio at the end appeared in the future imperative.

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