Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom
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The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Kingdom were political institutions in the ancient Roman Kingdom. While one assembly, the Curiate Assembly, had some legislative powers, these powers involved nothing more than a right to symbolically ratify decrees issued by the king. The functions of the other assembly, the Calate Assembly, was purely religious. During the years of the kingdom, the People of Rome were organized on the basis of units called Curia. All of the People of Rome were divided amongst a total of thirty Curia, and membership in an individual Curia was hereditary. Each member of a particular family belonged to the same Curia. Each Curia had an organization similar to that of the early Roman family, including specific religious rites and common festivals. These Curia were the basic units of division in the two popular assemblies. The members in each Curia would vote, and the majority in each Curia would determine how that Curia voted before the assembly. Thus, a majority of the Curia (sixteen out of the thirty total Curia) were needed during any vote before either the Curiate Assembly or the Calate Assembly.
The Curiate Assembly (Comitia Curiata) was the only popular assembly with any political significance during the period of the Roman Kingdom, and was organized on the basis of the thirty curiae. The king presided over the assembly, and submitted decrees to it for ratification. An interrex presided over the assembly during interim periods between kings (the interregnum). After a king died, the interrex selected a candidate to replace the king. After the nominee received the approval of the Roman Senate, the interrex held the formal election before the Curiate Assembly. After the Curiate Assembly elected the new king, and the Senate ratified that election, the interrex then presided over the assembly as it voted on the law that granted the king his legal powers (the lex curiata de imperio).
On the kalends (the first day of the month), and the nones (the fifth or seventh day of the month), this assembly met to hear announcements. Announcements often dealt with matters such as the exact date of a future event (such as an upcoming kalends) or any upcoming intercalary months. Appeals heard by this assembly often dealt with questions concerning Roman family law. During two fixed days in the spring, the assembly was scheduled to meet to witness wills and adoptions. All other meetings were held on an as-needed basis. The assembly also had jurisdiction over the admission of new families to a curia, the transfer of families between two curiae, the transfer of individuals from plebeian to patrician status (or vice versa), or the restoration of citizenship to an individual. The assembly usually decided these matters under the presidency of the Pontifex Maximus. Since this assembly was the principal legislative assembly, it was (theoretically) responsible for ratifying laws. However, the rejection of such laws by the assembly did not prevent their enactment. Sometimes, the Curiate Assembly reaffirmed a king's legal authority (called imperium), and sometimes it ratified a decision to go to war.
The Calate Assembly ("Comitia Calata") was the oldest of the Roman assemblies. Very little is known about this assembly. The Calate Assembly met on the Capitoline Hill, and was also organized on the basis of the thirty Curia. The purpose of this assembly was not legislative or legal, but rather religious. The Pontifex Maximus presided over the assembly, and it performed duties such as inaugurating priests and selecting Vestal virgins.
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- What a Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us