Curiate Assembly

The Curiate Assembly (comitia curiata) was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom until the Comitia Centuriata organized by Servius Tullius.[1] During these first decades, the people of Rome were organized into thirty units called "Curiae".[2][3] The Curiae were ethnic in nature, and thus were organized on the basis of the early Roman family, or, more specifically, on the basis of the thirty original patrician (aristocratic) clans.[4] The Curiae formed an assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The Curiate Assembly passed laws, elected Consuls (the only elected magistrates at the time),[5] and tried judicial cases. Consuls always presided over the assembly. While plebeians (commoners) could participate in this assembly, only the patricians (the Roman aristocrats) could vote.

Since the Romans used a form of direct democracy, citizens, and not elected representatives, voted before each assembly. As such, the citizen-electors had no power, other than the power to cast a vote. Each assembly was presided over by a single Roman Magistrate, and as such, it was the presiding magistrate who made all decisions on matters of procedure and legality. Ultimately, the presiding magistrate's power over the assembly was nearly absolute. The only check on that power came in the form of vetoes handed down by other magistrates, and decisions made by presiding magistrates could also be vetoed by higher-ranking magistrates. In addition, after 493 BC, any decision made by a presiding magistrate, including one concerning the Curiate Assembly, could be vetoed by a magistrate known as a plebeian tribune (aka. tribune of the plebs).


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