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Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, either before it was mustered or more typically in the field, or an elected magistrate assigned duties that varied depending on the historical period. The magistracy was called the praetura (praetorship). Its functions were described by the adjective: the praetoria potestas or praetorium imperium (praetorian power and authority) and the praetoria ius, a body of legal precedents set down by the praetors. Praetorium as a substantive meant the location from which the praetor exercised his authority, either the headquarters of his castra, the courthouse (tribunal) of his judiciary, or the city hall of his provincial governorship.<ref>All Latin dictionaries of moderate size, such as can be obtained in any public library, list the praetorial nouns and adjectives, uses and major sources.</ref>


[edit] History of the title

The events leading to the origin of the title are not described by the classical authors. The title and the magistracy existed in the time of the chief Republican historian, Titus Livius. The Republican statesman and attorney, Marcus Tullius Cicero, explored the uses and philosophy of the term in his writings.

The prae- prefix is a good indication that the title-holder was prior in some way in society. Livy mentions that the Latini were led and governed in warfare by two of them.<ref>8.3</ref> and the Samnites by one<ref>8.26</ref> A dictator was called the praetor maximus. The use of the adjectives (praetorius, praetoricius, praetorianus) in a large number of circumstances testify to a general sense. The leadership functions of any corporate body at Rome might be termed praetorial.

The praetoria potestas in Republican Rome was at first held by the consuls. These two officials, elected on a yearly basis, inherited the power of the king.<ref>8.32</ref> Very likely, the king himself was the first praetor, but in what sense? The best explanation available is that of Cicero in De legibus, in which he proposes ideal laws based on Roman constitutional theory:<ref>3.8</ref>

Regio imperio duo sunto, iique <a> praeeundo iudicando consulendo praetores iudices consules appellamino. Militiae summum ius habento,...
"Let there be two with the authority of the king, and let them be called praetors, judges and consuls from their going before, judging and consulting. Let them have the supreme law of the militia..."

This etymology of praetor became and remains the standard. Cicero considers the word to contain the same elemental parts as the verb praeire (praeeo: "to go before, to precede, to lead the way"). In exactly what way he goes before did not survive, but if we interpret praetor as leader we shall probably not go far wrong.

Livy explains<ref>6.42, 7.1</ref> that in the year 366 BC the praetura was created to relieve the consuls of their judicial duties. The praetor was, in English, the chief justice, and yet more than that. The consuls were his peers; he was elected by the same electorate and sworn in on the same day with the same oath.<ref>The Comitia Centuriata elected consuls and praetor(s) sometimes on the same day, sometimes taking two days.</ref> With them he retained the ius militiae. The constitution was amended in this way to satisfy the patricians. One position of consul had to be opened to the plebeians. Until 337 BC the praetor was chosen only from the patricians.<ref>In that year eligibility for the praetura was opened to the plebeians, and one of them, Quintus Publius Philo, won (Livy, 8.12).</ref>

From then on praetors appear frequently in Roman history, first as generals and judges, then as provincial governors. Beginning in the late Republic, a former Praetor could serve as a Propraetor ("in place of the Praetor") and act as the governor of one of Rome's provinces. Propraetors were much in demand.

[edit] Praetura

The first man to be elected to the new praetura was the patrician Spurius Furius, the son of Marcus Furius Camillus,<ref>Livy 7.1</ref> in exchange for the election of Lucius Sextius, Plebeian leader, as one of the consuls for the year. The elections were given a highly probable outcome by partisan politics, the parties being in this case the classes.

The elected Praetor was a Magistratus Curulis, exercised the Imperium, and consequently was one of the Magistratus Majores. He had the right to sit in the sella curulis and wear the toga praetexta.<ref>Livy 7.1.</ref> He was attended by six lictors.

The potestas and the imperium of the consuls and the praetors under the republic should not be exaggerated. They did not use independent judgement in resolving matters of state. Unlike today's executive branches, they were assigned high-level tasks directly by senatorial decree under the authority of the SPQR. They were of senatorial rank and served in the senate both before and after holding their office. The government, or res publica, was solidly vested in the senate. The praetors did not owe any special obedience to republican consuls, or any more respect than the consuls owed them. They all worked for the Senate and could be prosecuted for not executing its decrees. A few praetors in Roman history were charged with treason.

Livy describes the assignments given to either consuls or praetors in some detail. As magistrates they had standing duties to perform, especially of a religious nature. The senate defined what senior positions were to exist before the elections. Immediately after the elections, the new officials cast lots for the assignments, which were mainly provincial governorships. As there came to be considerably more praetors than there were consuls, the praetors took most of the provinces. A province given to consuls was termed consular. Proconsuls and propraetors joined in the lottery as well. The entire population of these elected officials were the department heads of the government.

Any consul or any praetor could at any time be pulled away from his duties of the moment to head a task force, and there were many, especially military. The Roman government worked hard and was always understaffed. Livy mentions that, among other tasks, these executive officers were told to lead troops to a threat, foreign or domestic, investigate possible subversion, raise troops, conduct special sacrifices, distribute windfall money, appoint commissioners and exterminate locusts. The one principle that limited what could be assigned to them was that it must not be minima, "little things."<ref>This principle of Roman law became a principle of later European law, Non curat minima praetor; that is, the details do not need to be legislated, they can be left up to the courts.</ref> They were by definition doers of maxima. Thus, on a military assignment, the praetor was always the commanding general, never a lesser officer. Praetors could delegate at will.

[edit] Additional Praetors and their Duties

[edit] Republican

In the year 246 BC the Senate created a second Praetura to relieve the crush of judicial business. He was to administer justice in disputes between peregrini, or between peregrini and Roman citizens. Accordingly he was called the Praetor Peregrinus. The other Praetor was then called Praetor Urbanus. He presided in cases between citizens.

The Senate required that some senior officer remain in Rome at all times. This duty now fell to the Praetor Urbanus. As is implied by the name, he was allowed to leave the city only for up to ten days at a time. He was therefore given appropriate duties at Rome. He superintended the Ludi Apollinares. He was also the chief magistrate for the administration of justice and the promulgation of Edicta, which formed a corpus of precedents.<ref>The edict was a statement of praetorial policy or decision. The praetor was careful not to attempt legislation with it. Failure in that regard would lead to a charge of treason.</ref> The development and improvement of Roman Law owes much to these precedents.

The expansion of Roman authority over other lands required the addition of praetors. Two were created in 227 BC, for the administration of Sicily and Sardinia, and two more when the two Spanish provinces were formed in 197 BC. Lucius Cornelius Sulla increased the number of Praetors to eight, which Julius Caesar raised successively to ten, then fourteen, and finally to sixteen.<ref>In the late Republic the census was discovering a population of the city of Rome numbering in the millions.</ref>

[edit] Imperial

Augustus made changes that were designed to reduce the Praetor to being an imperial administrator rather than a magistrate. The electoral body was changed to the Senate, which was now (through personal terror) an instrument of imperial ratification. The establishment of the principate was the restoration of monarchy under another name. The emperor therefore assumed the powers once held by the kings, but he used the apparatus of the republic to exercise them. For example, the emperor presided over the highest courts of appeal.

The need for administrators remained just as acute. After several changes Augustus fixed the number at twelve. Under Tiberius there were sixteen. As imperial administrators their duties extended to matters the republic would have considered minima. Two praetors were appointed by Claudius for matters relating to Fideicommissa (trusts), when the business in that department of the law had become considerable, but Titus reduced the number to one; and Nerva added a Praetor for the decision of matters between the Fiscus (treasury) and individuals. Marcus Aurelius<ref>Capitolinus, Vita Marci Antonini Chapter 10.</ref> appointed a Praetor for matters relating to tutela (guardianship).

[edit] Praetors as judges

Roman court cases fell into the two broad categories of civil or criminal trials. The involvement of a Praetor in either was as follows.

[edit] Actiones

In an actio, which was civil, the Praetor could either issue an interdictum (interdict) forbidding some circumstance or appoint a iudex (judge). Proceedings before the praetor were technically said to be in iure. After they were handed over to the iudex, they were no longer in iure before the Praetor. The iudicium of the iudex was binding.

[edit] Quaestiones perpetuae

The Praetors also presided at the Quaestiones perpetuae (which were criminal proceedings), so-called because they were of certain types, with a Praetor being assigned to one type on a permanent basis. The Praetors appointed judges who acted as jurors in voting for guilt or innocence. The verdict was either acquittal or condemnation.

These quaestiones looked into crimina publica, "crimes against the public", such as were worthy of the attention of a Praetor. The penalty on conviction was usually death, but sometimes other severe penalties were used. In the late Republic the public crimes were Repetundae,<ref>Approximately "remedy", the seeking of restitution of property taken illegally by a magistrate and conviction of the perpetrator. Example: an illegal confiscation.</ref> Ambitus,<ref>"Canvassing", an attempt to influence voters illegally. Example: buying votes.</ref> Majestas,<ref>Against the "majesty" of the people; that is, treason. Example: plotting the murder of a magistrate.</ref> and Peculatus,<ref>"Embezzlement", the theft of public property. Example: the misappropriation of public money.</ref> which, when there were six Praetors, were assigned to four out of the number. Sulla added to these Quaestiones those of Falsum,<ref>"False witness."</ref> De Sicariis et Veneficis,<ref>"Concerning stabbers and poisoners"; i.e., against professional assassins and their collaborators.</ref> and De Parricidis<ref>"Patricide", extended to the murder of relatives, presumably for property.</ref> and for this purpose he added two or according to some accounts four praetors.

[edit] Outdoor actions

The Praetor when he administered justice sat on a sella Curulis in a Tribunal, which was that part of the Court which was appropriated to the Praetor and his assessors and friends, and is opposed to the Subsellia, or part occupied by the Judices, and others who were present. But the Praetor could do many ministerial acts out of court, or as it was expressed e plano, or ex aequo loco, which terms are opposed to e tribunali or ex superiore loco: for instance, he could in certain cases give validity to the act of manumission when he was out-of-doors, as on his road to the bath or to the theatre.

[edit] Recent Praetors

Until recently some German cities retained an office entitled Praetor. [citation needed]

In Italy, until 1998, Praetor was a magistrate with particular duty (specially in civil branch).

Classical Latin Praetor became medieval Latin Pretor; Praetura, Pretura, etc.

[edit] Trivia

In the Star Trek fictional universe, Praetor is also the title given to the Romulan head of government (by analogy with Rome).

In the StarCraft fictional universe, Praetor is a title used by the Protoss to denote the leader of their planet-based defense armies. Protoss Praetors should not be confused with Executors, who command the space fleets, analogous to the difference between a General and Admiral.

In the game Final Fantasy X-2, a Praetor is the leader of the New Yevon Party.

In the Halo 2 machinima series The Codex, a Praetor is a commander of ground forces, and possibly of space forces as well, within the Covenant. One of the main characters of the series is a Praetor, and much of that character's story arc deals with the extent of a Praetor's authority within the larger military and religious structure of the Covenant.

[edit] Notes


[edit] See also

[edit] Books

  • Brennan, T. Corey (2001). The Praetorship in the Roman Republic. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513867-8

[edit] External links

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