Tribal Assembly

The Tribal Assembly (comitia populi tributa) was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (tribus).

In the Roman Republic, citizens did not elect legislative representatives. Instead, they voted themselves on legislative matters in the popular assemblies (the comitia centuriata, the tribal assembly and the plebeian council). Bills were proposed by magistrates and the citizens only exercised their right to vote.

In the Tribal Assembly, citizens were organized on the basis of 35 tribes: four urban tribes of the citizens in the city of Rome, and 31 rural tribes of citizens outside the city. Each tribe voted separately and one after the other. In each tribe, decisions were made by majority vote and its decision counted as one vote regardless of how many electors each tribe held. Once a majority of tribes voted in the same way on a given measure, the voting ended and the matter was decided.[1]

The Tribal Assembly was chaired by a magistrate, usually a consul or a praetor. The presiding magistrate made all decisions on matters of procedure and legality. His power over the assembly could be nearly absolute. One check on his power came in the form of vetoes by other magistrates. Also, any decision made by a presiding magistrate could be vetoed by the plebeian tribunes.

The Tribal Assembly elected the quaestors, and the curule aediles.[2] It conducted trials for non-capital punishment cases. However, the Roman Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla reassigned this to special jury courts (quaestiones perpetuae) in 82 BC.[citation needed] There are disagreements among modern historians regarding the number and nature of the tribal assembly (see below).

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