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PRAETOR (Lat. prae-itor, " he who goe...

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 245 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRAETOR (Lat. prae-itor, " he who goes before," "a leader"), originally a military title, was in classical times the designation of the highest magistrates in the Latin towns. The Roman consuls were at first called praetors; in the early code of the Twelve Tables (45o B.C.) they appear to have had no other title. By the Licinian law of 367, which abolished the military tribunes with consular power and enacted that the supreme executive should henceforward be in the hands of the two consuls, a new magistrate was at the same time created who was to be a colleague of the consuls, though with lower rank and lesser • powers. This new magistrate was entrusted with the exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases; in other respects his powers resembled those of the consuls. His distinctive title was the city praetor (praetor urbanus), and in aftertime, when the number of praetors was increased, the city praetor always ranked first. To this new magistrate the title of " praetor " was thenceforward properly restricted.' About 242 the increase of a foreign population in Rome necessitated the creation of a second praetor for the decision of suits between foreigners (peregrini) or between citizens and foreigners. This praetor was known at a later time as the " foreign praetor " (praetor peregrinus) 2 About 227 two more praetors were added to administer the recently acquired provinces of Sicily and Sardinia. The conquest of Spain occasioned the appointment of two more in 197, of whom one governed Hither and the other Further Spain. The number of praetors, thus augmented to six, remained stationary till Sulla's time (82). But in the interval their duties vastly multiplied. On the one hand, five new provinces were added to the Roman dominions—Macedonia and Achaia in 146, Africa in the same year, Asia in 134, Gallia Narbonensis in 118, Cilicia probably in 102. On the other hand, new and permanent jury courts (quaestiones per petuae) were instituted at Rome, over which the praetors were called on to preside. To meet this increase of business the tenure of office of the praetors and also of the consuls was practically prolonged from one to two years, with the distinction that in their second year of office they bore the titles of propraetor and proconsul instead of praetor and consul. The prolongation of office, together with the participation of the proconsuls in duties which properly fell to the praetors, formed the basis of Sulla's arrangements. He increased the number of the praetors from six to eight, and ordained that henceforward all the eight should in their first year administer justice at Rome and in their second should as propraetors undertake the government of provinces. The courts over which the praetors presided, in addition to those of the city praetor and the foreign praetor, dealt with the following offences: oppression of the provincials by governors (repetundarum), bribery (ambitus), embezzlement (peculatus), treason (majestatis), murder (de sicariis et veneficis), and probably forgery (falsi). A tenth province 1 Some writers, following Livy vi. 42, assert that at first the praetorship was open to patricians only, but Mommsen (Rom. Staatsrecht ii. 195 [204] shows that this is probably a mistake. The election of a plebeian to the office for the first time in 337 was certainly opposed by the consul who presided at the election, but there appears to have been no legal obstacle to it. 2 [His official title in republican times was Praetor qui inter peregrinos jus dicit, under the empire Praetor qui inter Gives peregrinos jus dicit, until the time of Vespasian, when the abbreviated title praetor peregrinus came into use.] (Gallia cisalpina) was added to the previous nine, and thus the praetorship) some lasted into the 4th century and were copied in the constitution of Constantinople. Besides their judicial functions, the praetors, as colleagues of the consuls, possessed, though in a less degree, all the consular powers, which they regularly exercised in the absence of the consuls; but in the presence of a consul they exercised them only at the special command either of the consul or, more usually, of the senate. Thus the praetor possessed military power (imperium); even the city praetor, though attached by his office to Rome, could not only levy troops but also in certain cir-, cumstances take the command in person. As provincial governors the praetors had frequent occasion to exercise their military powers, and they were often accorded a triumph. The city praetor presided over popular assemblies for the election of certain inferior magistrates, but all the praetors officiating in Rome had the right to summon assemblies for the purpose of legislation. In the absence of the consuls the city praetor, and in default of him the other praetors, were empowered to call meetings of the senate. Public religious duties, such as the fulfilment of state vows, the celebration of sacrifices and games, and the fixing of the dates of movable feasts, probably only fell to the praetors in the absence of the consuls. But since in the early times the consuls as a rule spent only the first months of their year of office in Rome, it is probable that a consider-able share of religious business devolved on the city praetor; this was certainly the case with the Festival of the Cross-roads (compitalia), and he directed the games in honour of Apollo from their institution in 212. Augustus in 22 placed the direction of all the popular festivals in the hands of the praetors, and it is not without significance that the praetors continued thus to minister to the pleasures of the Roman mob for centuries after they had ceased almost entirely to transact the business of the state. (For the praetor as provincial governor see
End of Article: PRAETOR (Lat. prae-itor, " he who goes before," "a leader")
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