Assembly of the Tribes
The assembly of the tribes, the Comitia Tributa, was presided over by a consul, and was composed of 35 tribes. The tribes were not ethnic or kinship groups, but rather geographical subdivisions. The order that the thirty-five tribes would vote in was selected randomly by lot. Once a measure received support from a majority of the tribes, the voting would end. While it did not pass many laws, the Comitia Tributa did elect quaestors, curule aediles, and military tribunes. The Tribal Assembly (comitia tributa) of the Roman Republic was the democratic assembly of Roman citizens. The Tribal Assembly was organized as an Assembly, and not as a Council. During the years of the Roman Republic, citizens were organized on the basis of thirty-five Tribes. The Tribes gathered into the Tribal Assembly for legislative, electoral, and judicial purposes. The president of the Tribal Assembly was usually either a Consul (the highest ranking Roman Magistrate) or a Praetor (the second-highest ranking Roman Magistrate). The Tribal Assembly elected three different magistrates: Quaestors, Curule Aediles, and Military Tribunes. The Tribal Assembly also had the power to try judicial cases. The thirty-five Tribes were not ethnic or kinship groups, but rather a generic division into which Roman citizens were distributed. When the Tribes were created the divisions were geographical, similar to modern Parliamentary constituencies. However, since one joined the same Tribe that his father belonged to, the geographical distinctions were eventually lost. The order that the 35 Tribes voted in was selected randomly by lot. The order was not chosen at once, and after each Tribe had voted, a lot was used to determine which Tribe should vote next. The first Tribe selected was usually the most important Tribe, because it often decided the matter. It was believed that the order of the lot was chosen by the Gods, and thus, that the position held by the early voting Tribes was the position of the Gods. Once a majority of Tribes had voted the sa
e way, voting ended. Plebeian Council Main article: Plebeian Council The Plebeian Council (concilium plebis) was the principal popular gathering of the Roman Republic. As the name suggests, the Plebeian Council was organized as a Council, and not as an Assembly. It functioned as a gathering through which the Plebeians (commoners) could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. This council had no political power until the offices of Plebeian Tribune and Plebeian Aedile were created in 494 BC, due to the Plebeian Secession that year. According to legend, the Roman King Servius Tullius enacted a series of constitutional reforms in the 6th century BC. One of these reforms resulted in the creation of a new organizational unit with which to divide citizens. This unit, the Tribe, was based on geography rather than family, and was created to assist in future reorganizations of the army. In 471 BC, a law was passed which allowed the Plebeians to begin organizing by Tribe. Before this point, they had organized on the basis of the Curia. The only difference between the Plebeian Council after 471 BC and the ordinary Tribal Assembly (which also organized on the basis of the Tribes) was that the Tribes of the Plebeian Council only included Plebeians, whereas the Tribes of the Tribal Assembly included both Plebeians and Patricians. The Plebeian Council elected two 'Plebeian Magistrates', the Plebeian Tribunes and the Plebeian Aediles. Usually the Plebeian Tribune presided over the assembly, although the Plebeian Aedile sometimes did as well. Originally, statutes passed by the Plebeian Council ("Plebiscites") only applied to Plebeians. However in 449 BC, a statute of an Assembly was passed which gave Plebiscites the full force of law over all Romans (Plebeians and Patricians). It was not until 287 BC, however, that the last mechanism which allowed the Roman Senate to veto acts of the Plebeian Council was revoked. After this point, almost all domestic legislation came out of the Plebeian Council.