Why was it that the Romans, during the last fifty years of the second century BC, departed from previous practice and began to establish a system of permanent courts (quaestiones perpetuae), rather than continuing with ad hoc proceedings?
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 22:41 by Ian G. Betts
This thesis addresses the overarching question of why the Romans began to adopt from 149 the structure of permanent tribunals by reviewing, initially the judicial procedures to which the Senate had recourse in the previous quarter century. The Senate looked to these procedures with limited success in its efforts to stem the ruthless depredations visited on peregrini by its generals and provincial governors. The discussion is taken up in chapter one and provides an introduction as to the reasons for the creation in 149 of the first permanent court, the quaestio de pecuniis repetundis. In this chapter the hypothesis is advanced that the purpose of the creation of the court was more than just the desire to allow allies and friends of the Roman people a right of restitution. Rather it had a diplomatic rationale,namely to maintain existing foreign relationships and to provide the opportunity for forging new accords. The continual involvement of the Romans in foreign wars far from home with consequent stretched supply lines dictated the need for strategic alliances. In the succeeding chapters, three to seven, each court and its enabling statute is individually considered. It is argued that whilst with some courts other reasons may also have existed the primary reason can be found in the desire of the Senate as the foreign relations organ of Rome to pursue the diplomatic rationale. Thus, for example, the separate criminal courts, de sicariis and de veneficiis were established to deal with the unsettled conditions prevailing in Rome after the destruction of Carthage. However, the attempt thereby to restore a semblance of law and order is also to be seen as intended to encourage peregrini to ventilate their rights in a Rome in which their personal safety was not at risk. In chapter eight it is contended that Sulla clearly accepted the permanent system. He did not seek to change it nor to consolidate or reconstitute the permanent courts. Rather he adopted a piecemeal approach in “tacking” on to existing enabling laws measures which made moderated adjustments.