Rights of Roman Citizens

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

The Public Rights of Roman Citizens

Foreigners might live in the city of Rome, but they enjoyed none of the rights of citizens; they were subject to a peculiar jurisdiction, and might be expelled from the city by a magistrate. They were not even permitted to wear the Roman dress.

The Public Rights of Roman Citizens included the following:

  • The jus militiae, was the right of serving in the army, which was at first peculiar to the higher order of citizens only, but afterwards the emperor took soldiers not only from Italy and the provinces, but also from barbarous nations.

  • The jus tributorum was the payment of a tax by each individual through the tribes, in proportion to the valuation of his estates. There were three kinds of tribute, one imposed equally on each person; another according to his property; and a third exacted in cases of emergency.

  • There were three other kinds of taxes, called portorium, decumae and scriptura.

    • The portorium was paid for goods exported and imported, the collectors of which were called portitores, or for carrying goods over a bridge.

    • The decumae were the tenth part of corn and the fifth part of other fruit, exacted from the cultivators of the public lands, either in Italy or without it.

    • The scriptura was paid by those who pastured their cattle upon the public lands.

  • The jus saffragii was the right of voting in the different assemblies of the people.

  • The jus honorum was the right of being priests or magistrates, at first enjoyed only by the Patricians.

The Private Rights of Roman Citizens
Many of the Public Rights of Roman Citizens were enacted by Roman Law and detailed in the Code of Law called the Twelve Tables. The Public Rights of Roman Citizens included the following:

  • The right of liberty comprehended not only liberty from the power of masters, but also from the dominion of tyrants, the severity of magistrates, the cruelty of creditors, and the insolence of more powerful citizens.

  • Citizens could appeal from the magistrates to the people, and the persons who appealed could in no way be punished, until the people determined the matter; but they were chiefly secured by the assistance of the tribunes.

  • None but the whole Roman people could pass sentence on the life of a Roman citizen. No magistrate could punish him by stripes or capitally. The single expression, I am a Roman citizen, checked their severest decrees

    • Roman citizens could not be sentenced to death unless he was found guilty of treason. If accused of treason,  Roman citizens had the right to be tried in Rome

    • No Roman citizens could be sentenced to die on the cross. Roman Citizens were not crucified (Roman Crucifixion), they were beheaded

  • Insolvent debtors should be given up to their creditors, to be bound in fetters and cords, and although they did not entirely lose the rights of freemen, yet they were in actual slavery

    • To check the cruelty of usurers, a law was afterwards made that no debtors should be kept in irons, or in bonds; that the goods of the debtor, not his person, should be given up to his creditors.

  • Each clan and family had certain sacred rights which were inherited in the same manner as effects

    • When heirs by the father's side of the same family failed, those of the same gens succeeded in preference to relations by the mother's side of the same family

    • No one could pass from a Patrician family to a Plebeian, or from a Plebeian to a Patrician, unless by that form of adoption which could only be made at the comitia curiata.

  • No Roman citizen could marry a slave, barbarian or foreigner, unless by the permission of the people.

  • A Roman father had the power of life and death over his children. He could not only expose them when infants, but when grown up he might imprison, scourge, send them bound to work in the country, and also put them to death by any punishment he pleased.

  • A son could acquire no property but with his father's consent, and what he thus acquired was called his peculium as of a slave.

  • None but a Roman citizen could make a will, or be witnesses to a testament, or inherit any thing by it

    • A father might leave whom he pleased as guardian to his children;but if he died, this charge devolved by law on the nearest relation by the father's side.

    • When there was no guardian by testament, nor a legal one, the praetor and the majority of the tribunes of the people appointed a guardian.

    • If any one died without making a will, his goods devolved on his nearest relations.

  • Women could not transact any business of importance without the concurrence of their parents, husbands, or guardians

  • The power of the master over his slave was absolute. He might whip him or put him to death at pleasure. This right was often exercised with great cruelty. If the master of a family was slain at his own house, and the murderer not discovered, all his domestic slaves were liable to be put to death.

Twelve Tables
Roman Law
Roman Punishment
Roman Colosseum
Roman Life

Privacy Statement

Cookie Statement

2017 Siteseen Ltd