1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Centumviri
CENTUMVIRI (centum, hundred; vir, man), an ancient court of civil jurisdiction at Rome, probably instituted by Servius Tullius. Its antiquity is attested by the symbol and formula used in its procedure, the lance (hasta) as the sign of true ownership, the oath or wager (sacramentum), the ancient formula for recovery of property or assertion of liberty. It is probably alluded to in Livy’s account of the Valerio-Horatian laws of 449 B.C. (Livy iii. 55, Consules ... fecerunt sanciendo ut qui tribunis plebis, aedilibus, judicibus, decemviris nocuisset, ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset). If the judices here mentioned are the centumviri, it is clear that they formed a tribunal which represented the interests of the plebs. This is in accordance with Cicero’s account (de Orat. i. 38. 173) of the sphere of their jurisdiction. He says this was mainly concerned with the property of which account was taken at the census; it was therefore in their power to make or unmake a citizen. They also decided questions concerning debt. Hence the plebs had an interest in securing their decisions against undue influence. They were never regarded as magistrates, but merely as judices, and as such would be appointed for a fixed term of service by the magistrate, probably by the praetor urbanus. But in Cicero’s time they were elected by the Comitia Tributa. They then numbered 105. Their original number is uncertain. It was probably increased by Augustus and in Pliny’s time had reached 180. The office was probably open in quite early times to both patricians and plebeians. The term is also applied in the inscriptions of Veii to the municipal senates and Cures, which numbered 100 members.
- Mommsen (Staatsrecht, i³. 275, n. 4, ii³. 231, n. I, 590 f.) believed that the Centumviri were instituted about 150 B.C.