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date: 11 December 2019


Plebiscitum, as opposed to lex(1), was in theory a resolution carried by any Roman assembly in which no patrician cast his vote. In practice, except perhaps on a few occasions in the late republic, it was a resolution of a plebeian tribal assembly (concilium plebis: see comitia) presided over by a plebeian magistrate. At first the plebiscite was no more than a recommendation, and it attained the force of law only if re-enacted at the instance of a consul in the full assembly of the populus; but from an early date—possibly 449 bce—all plebiscites were recognized as universally binding which received the prior sanction of the patrician senators (patrum auctoritas). By the lex Hortensia of 287 bce (see hortensius, quintus) they were afforded unconditional validity, and, with plebeian tribunes being drawn increasingly from within the governing class in the years which followed, they embodied much of the official routine legislation of the middle republic. In the post-Gracchan period they again became instruments of challenge to senatorial authority. Sulla therefore required in 88, and again in 81 bce, that all tribunician proposals should be approved by the senate before being put to the vote. This restriction was removed in 70 bce.


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