Kaius Tuori

Academy Researcher

University of Helsinki, Network of European Studies

During the last few years there has been a notable rise in interest to the places where law was administered due to the publication of the T. Sulp collection.[1] Trials and legal consultation by private judges as well as magistrates and even the emperors took place in both public and private settings, the forums and basilicas of Rome, but also auditoria and cubicula of houses. The aim of this study is to explore the interrelationship between the context and content of the proceedings, the wheres and whys of legal practice.

The practical administration of Rome, including legal affairs, took place mostly within the confines of the private homes of magistrates, because prior to the second century AD there were practically no dedicated places for the administration, save the few locations were the magistrates met with the people such as under the open skies in the forum and the hub of the corn distribution. Even the imperial administration operated nominally from the private quarters of the emperor. For example as Paul mentions that something was read in the auditorium of Papinian, the praetorian prefect,[2] it would appear to be a straightforward indication of location. Unfortunately, we have just hints of where this auditorium and whether this reference is to a specific auditorium of the prefect or whether the auditorium just refers to the place where the prefect happened to be holding his audience. Relatively little is known about the physical locations where the imperial administration worked. For example, an inscription describing Caracalla adjudicating a case in Antioch simply mentions that the event took place with the emperor sitting in the auditorium, but fails to mention anything about the auditorium itself. The multiple meanings of auditorium, even when it is used to refer to a courtroom, do not make things easier. As Tamm points out, a courtroom auditorium could refer both to the legal deliberations made in the atria, peristyles, libraries, and other places in the private homes of magistrates, or to trials held in public spaces. Tamm claims to have identified several locations for the imperial auditoria. Contrary to the claims of Tamm, more recent archaeological works are more sceptical. Gros, for example, mentions only two examples that can be confidently named as auditoria, neither of them in the city of Rome.[3]

Even jurists, like other upper class persons in public life, would have been consulted in their homes and within the forum. It is also likely that there were places where jurists would habitually and unofficially meet each other, and calling these stationes would not be inconceivable either from a linguistic or an historical perspective. It should be noted that each jurist was probably trailed by an entourage of apprentices, freedmen, and slaves. According to Peachin, there were jurists who sat in publicly accessible stationes or auditoria and answered legal questions, both those directly linked with a case and those of a more theoretical nature; but as Vitruvius points out, there was also a need for both the jurists and the orators to have plenty of roomin their houses for their visitors, suggesting that they entertained pupils and clients there. That jurists would also convene in private homes is, contrary to the claims made by Liebs, probable and would fit with what is known of the way the upper classes entertained guests.[4]

[1] Tabulae Pompeianae Sulpicianae, edited by Camodeca (1992); W. Harris ja F. De Angelis (eds.), Spaces of Justice in the Roman World, 2010; Leanne Bablitz, Actors and Audience in the Roman Courtroom (2007).

[2] Dig. 1.12.40pr (Paul., 3 Quaest.): Lecta est in auditorio Aemilii Papiniani praefecti praetorio jurisconsulti cautio huiusmodi.

[3] Bernard Stolte, “Jurisdiction and the Representation of Power, Or the Emperor on Circuit.” In Lukas de Blois et al. (eds.). The Representation and Perception of Roman Imperial Power, (2003), 261-268; Elisabetta Carnabuci, I luoghi dell’amministrazione della giustizia nel foro di Augusto (1996); Birgitta Tamm, Auditorium and Palatium. A Study on Assembly-rooms in Roman Palaces during the 1st Century B.C. and the 1st Century A.D (1963); Pierre Gros, L’architecture romaine (1996).

[4] Michael Peachin, Iudex vice Caesaris: Deputy Emperors and the Administration of Justice during the Principate (1996), 36-37 refers to Vitr. 6.5.2 who mentions forenses and diserti who need space ad conventos excipiundos. Detlef  Liebs, “Rechtsschulen und Rechtsunterricht im Prinzipat.” ANRW 2.15 (1976), 197-286.

Kaius Tuori’s webpage.

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