The Sources and Character of Magistrates’ Right to Auspicate: an Analysis of the Renuntiatio

Smorchkov Andrey M.

The author examines sacral aspects of renuntiatio, i.e. of announcing the winner of the election. He maintains that the act gave the magistrate the right to public auspices, an essential part and sacral basis of magistrate’s competence. The case of faulty election of M. Claudius Marcellus in 215 BC is reconsidered. Before the magistratus designatus was inducted into office, his right to take auspices remained latent as well as his potestas. Jupiter’s participation in the electoral procedure showed itself in two ways: he expressed his approval of the action itself (comitia) through the auspices conducted by the leaders of electoral comitia in the night before they were held and his approval of the choice made by the community. The approval came in the form of a lot, which determined the order of announcing the results of the vote in the community. Casting lots was an auspicial procedure; but Jupiter did not express his opinion about the new magistrate’s person. Choosing the person was the business of the community, its exclusive right. Republican political practice did not know any kind of special «divine investiture». Thus, magistrate’s competence in the sacral field depended on whether or not he received political power, which fits in well with the basic principles of sacral and political organization of the civitas.

Keywords: Roman magistrates, renuntiatio, M. Claudius Marcellus