Sublata priore lege. Rejection of the rogationes as a Way of Amending Legislative Bills in the Late Roman Republic

Moreau F.

This paper deals with one technical point of law-making in the late Roman Republic, with a view to stating precisely the parts of the rogatores, magistrates or tribunes, the public of the contiones and the people gathered in comitia. According to Th. Mommsen's authoritative description and later additions by L.R. Taylor, С Nicolet and M.H. Crawford, a bill (rogatio), drafted by law experts and published (promulgata) by reading and display, was discussed at public meetings (contiones), but its text could no longer be modified. In 62 ВС, lex Licinia Iunia ordered the the persons who proposed bills to deposit a copy of the bill into the aerarium, in order to prevent them from altering fraudulently the initial wording of their bills, which the people could hardly detect when the praeco read it aloud at the meeting of the comitia. Therefore, the people could only accept or repel a bill as a whole, but could not modify a single chapter of it. Nevertheless, Mommsen supposed that a rogator, when he understood that the people was not inclined to accept his bill, could withdraw it during the trinum nundinum in order to avoid a political failure. In fact, E. Flaig pointed out that very few bills were repelled by the comitia. Mommsen added that the rogator could put forth a modified proposal according to the wishes expressed by the public of the contiones. But he quotes as a piece of evidence two cases which do not seem conclusive: Cic, Att. 1,19,4 (the tr. pi. Flauius actually gave up the idea of submitting his bill) and Asa, p. 58-59 CI. (the tr. pi. Cornelius presented indeed a second form of his previous rogatio, but he did not voluntarily withdraw the first one). But some other cases can back up Mommsen's theory. In 48 ВС, praetor M. Caelius Rufus proposed a bill which he withdrew and published two other rogationes related to the previous (Caes., Bell ciu. Ill, 20, 5-21, 1: sublata priore lege... leges duaspromulgauit). In 48 ВС, the tr. pi. P. Clodius Pulcher changed the bill concerning Cicero's banishment (Cic, Att. Ill, 2: rogatione nondum correcta; 4: quod correctum erat). Lastly, in 49 ВС, during a contio, the attendants asked Caesar to modify (прооурафегу) a bill concerning currency (Dio, XLI, 38,2-3). We may suppose that Augustus resorted to such a procedure in 28 ВС, according to Prop. II, 7, 1 sublatam... legem; legem tollere is indeed the formula used by Caesar when describing Caelius' attitude in 48, and it cannot be denied (pace E. Badian) that legem tollere pertains to the withdrawal of a simple bill. We thus come to the conclusion that the withdrawal of a bill and the proposal of a modified form of a text was a usual and normal procedure at the end of the Republic (ancient historians used the words: legem corrigere, legem tollere, прооурафегу xfj yvcouri or хф vouia). In this way, rogatores could take into consideration reactions of speakers and public during the contiones and improve their proposals. Nevertheless, as the speakers (generally other magistrates and senators) and simple attendants expressed their opinions in different ways (articulate speeches opposite to shouting and applauses) during these meetings, the procedure of withdrawal and new introducing of bills was mainly a supplementary tool of senators' political influence.