Tribuni militum consulari potestate

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    The tribuni militum consulari potestate ("military tribunes with consular power"), in English commonly also Consular Tribunes, were tribunes elected with consular power during the so-called "Conflict of the Orders" in the Roman Republic, starting in 444 BC and then continuously from 408 BC to 394 BC and again from 391 BC to 367 BC.

    Origin and dissolution of the office

    According to the histories of Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the magistracy of the tribuni militum consulari potestate was created during the Conflict of the Orders, along with the magistracy of the censor, in order to give the Plebeian order access to higher levels of government without having to reform the office of consul; plebeians could be elected to the office of Consular Tribune.[1]

    The choice whether a collegium of Consular Tribunes or consuls were to be elected for a given year was made by senatus consultum,[2] thereby (according to Livy) accounting for the periods of either office interspersed with the other. The number of Consular Tribunes varied from 2 to 6, and because they were considered colleagues of the two censors, there is sometimes mention of the "eight tribunes".

    Modern scholars now believe, however, that the creation of the consular tribunes was due to the changing military and administrative requirements of the expanding Roman state.[3] In the beginning during the 440s, the consular tribunes, elected from the three ancient tribes of the Titienses, Ramnenses, and Luceres, were part of an overall redesign of the military structure of the Roman state to maximise military efficiency, which included the creation of the Censorship (responsible for taking the census to identify the numbers of men capable of military duty) and the Quaestorship (responsible for the supply of money and goods for the armies).[3] Originally patrician office holders, they were referred to as "military tribunes", and were responsible for leading the armies into battle. It was only much later that they were given the anachronistic addition of "with consular power", in an attempt to distinguish them from the Military tribunes who were the legionary officers of the middle and late Republic.[4]

    The tribunes, like their consular predecessors, exercised consular potestas,[5] indicating they must have been elected by the comitia centuriata, and that the current needs of the state could not be served by the previous consular system.[3] From their initial number of three, the consular tribunes were increased to four for the first time in 426 BC in response to the military situation which saw the Roman state capture and annex Fidenae.[3]

    Then in 405 BC, the number of consular tribunes was increased to six for the first time; and after that, apart from the very occasional year in which eight or ten consular tribunes are recorded, the Roman state was led by six consular tribunes for almost every year down to the dissolution of the office and the reintroduction of the consulship in 366 BC. The increase was due to the need for the consular tribunes to not only handle the military affairs of Rome, but also the administrative needs of the city as well.[6]

    According to Livy, the practice of electing consular tribunes came to a definitive end in 366 BC, when the Lex Licinia Sextia took effect, allowing the Plebeian order access to the office of consul. Modern understanding of this process interprets the change to one where Rome’s position in Latium had become sufficiently secure to allow the urban duties of the consular tribunes to be discharged by other office holders with different levels of competencies and powers, including imperium in the case of the Praetor.[7] Thus the reorganization of the Roman state in 367/6 BC. saw the replacement of the six consular tribunes with five officials with distinct functions: the head of state became the two consuls, who would wage Rome’s wars and lead the Senate's deliberations. In addition there was one praetor who would oversee lawsuits in the city, while two curule aediles would undertake all other administrative duties within the city, such as the organization and holding of public games and overseeing and controlling the markets in Rome.[7]

    Consular Tribunes by year

    Presented by Varronian chronology. For more information on deciphering early Roman names, see Roman names.

    444 BC

    438 BC

    434 BC

    433 BC

    432 BC

    426 BC

    425 BC

    424 BC

    422 BC

    420 BC

    419 BC

    418 BC

    417 BC

    416 BC

    415 BC

    414 BC

    408 BC

    407 BC

    406 BC

    405 BC

    404 BC

    403 BC

    402 BC

    401 BC

    400 BC

    399 BC

    398 BC

    397 BC

    396 BC

    395 BC

    394 BC

    391 BC

    390 BC

    389 BC

    388 BC

    387 BC

    386 BC

    385 BC

    384 BC

    383 BC

    382 BC

    381 BC

    380 BC

    379 BC

    378 BC

    377 BC

    376 BC

    370 BC

    369 BC

    368 BC

    367 BC

    See also


    1. Forsythe, pgs. 234-235
    2. Livy, Ab Urbe condita libri, IV.12.4
    3. 1 2 3 4 Forsythe, p. 236
    4. Bringmann, Hans; Smyth, W. J. (trans.) A History of the Roman Republic (2007), p. 15
    5. T.Corey Brennan, « The Praetorship in the Roman Republic-Vol 1 Origins to 122BC- §2.4 The Consular Tribunate», Oxford University Press, 2001
    6. Forsythe, pp. 236-237
    7. 1 2 Forsythe, pg. 237


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