The 35 Voting Tribes

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The 35 Voting Tribes

Postby Publius Nonius Severus on Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:09 pm

Salvete Omnes!

As part of a new project I am working on, today I was doing some research into the composition of the 35 voting tribes and was fascinated by some of the more obvious and overlooked aspects. As always, I highly value your opinions.

1. The composition of the tribes as they voted in the Comitia Tributa was deemed to be more representative of the common people in that tribes were organized by locality rather than by wealth (as in the Comitia Centuriata). However, since the majority of the urban plebes were enrolled in the four urban tribes and many of the wealthy landed elite were enrolled in the more numerous (31) rural tribes (assumingly because of their large land-holdings throughout the peninsula) that the tribes may not have been as truly representative as they at first appear.

2. In regards to point one above (and three below), the reason this may have been possible is because the number of members of one tribe was not necessarily equal to the numbers in all of the tribes. There were far more citizens enrolled in the one of the urban tribes than there would have been in one of the rural tribes. So, since tribes voted as a whole, not as individual members, the votes of a large number of citizens in an urban tribe would count less than the votes of fewer citizens in a rural tribe.

3. Freedmen and poorer new citizens were almost always enrolled in one (if not only one) of the four urban tribes assumingly to limit the weight of their votes being more evenly distributed throughout the entire assembly.

4. And last but not least, lest we forget one of the more significant events in the eventual demise of the Republic, the legislation of the Tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus (and his Patron Marius) to enroll the new citizens of Italy (at the end of the Social War) across all of the 35 tribes was among the chain of events that eventually led to Sulla's (first) march on Rome.

Please feel free comment, refute, or supplement!

-Severus
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The Tribes

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:39 am

Salve, Nonii Severi -

So when Marius pushed the citizenship franchise out to the non-Roman Italians, they were actually enrolled into Roman tribes? I didn't realize that - but I guess they needed to be for them to fit into the Roman constitution.

Vale.
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Postby Publius Nonius Severus on Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:49 am

Ita mi Ioh, I believe the new citizens were only supposed to be enrolled in only 8 of the 35 tribes, thereby limiting their voting power which as you can imagine was to the satisfaction of the optimates. Cinna and Marius had other plans in order to increase their clientele and popular power.

Until I started this research, I had never given any thought to entering the new Italian citizens into the tribes, but it would have been necessary.

On an interesting side note, I wonder what kind of imact this would have actually had. In order to exercise your right to vote, a citizen had to travel to Rome. I can see people travelling to Rome for elections, but how often would they travel for other votes?

-Severus
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