Every deviation from the law had to receive the previous approval of the assembly of the people and the council of elders; if it was not so approved, it was a null and tyrannical act carrying no legal effect. Thus the power of the king in Rome was, both morally and legally, at bottom altogether different from the sovereignty of the present day; and there is no counterpart at all in modern life either to the Roman household or to the Roman state.
The division of the body of burgesses was based on the "wardship," -curia- (probably related to -curare- = -coerare-, --koiranos--); ten wardships formed the community; every wardship furnished a hundred men to the infantry (hence -mil-es-, like -equ-es-, the thousand-walker), ten horsemen and ten councillors. When communities combined, each of course appeared as a part (-tribus-) of the whole community (-tota-in Umbrian and Oscan), and the original unit became multiplied by the number of such parts. This division had reference primarily to the personal composition of the burgess-body, but it was applied also to the domain so far as the latter was apportioned at all. That the curies had their lands as well as the tribes, admits of the less doubt, since among the few names of the Roman curies that have been handed down to us we find along with some apparently derived from -gentes-, e. g. -Faucia-, others certainly of local origin, e. g. -Veliensis-; each one of them embraced, in this primitive period of joint possession of land, a number of clan-lands, of which we have already spoken.(5)
We find this constitution under its simplest form(6) in the scheme of the Latin or burgess communities that subsequently sprang up under the influence of Rome; these had uniformly the number of a hundred councillors (-centumviri-). But the same normal numbers make their appearance throughout in the earliest tradition regarding the tripartite Rome, which assigns to it thirty curies, three hundred horsemen, three hundred senators, three thousand foot-soldiers.
Nothing is more certain than that this earliest constitutional scheme did not originate in Rome; it was a primitive institution common to all the Latins, and perhaps reached back to a period anterior to the separation of the stocks. The Roman constitutional tradition quite deserving of credit in such matters, while it accounts historically for the other divisions of the burgesses, makes the division into curies alone originate with the origin of the city; and in entire harmony with that view not only does the curial constitution present itself in Rome, but in the recently discovered scheme of the organization of the Latin communities it appears as an essential part of the Latin municipal system.
The essence of this scheme was, and remained, the distribution into curies. The tribes ("parts") cannot have been an element of essential importance for the simple reason that their occurrence at all was, not less than their number, the result of accident; where there were tribes, they certainly had no other significance than that of preserving the remembrance of an epoch when such "parts" had themselves been wholes.(7) There is no tradition that the individual tribes had special presiding magistrates or special assemblies of their own; and it is highly probable that in the interest of the unity of the commonwealth the tribes which had joined together to form it were never in reality allowed to have such institutions. Even in the army, it is true, the infantry had as many pairs of leaders as there were tribes; but each of these pairs of military tribunes did not command the contingent of a tribe; on the contrary each individual war-tribune, as well as all in conjunction, exercised command over the whole infantry. The clans were distributed among the several curies; their limits and those of the household were furnished by nature. That the legislative power interfered in these groups by way of modification, that it subdivided the large clan and counted it as two, or joined several weak ones together, there is no indication at all in Roman tradition; at any rate this took place only in a way so limited that the fundamental character of affinity belonging to the clan was not thereby altered. We may not therefore conceive the number of the clans, and still less that of the households, as a legally fixed one; if the -curia- had to furnish a hundred men on foot and ten horsemen, it is not affirmed by tradition, nor is it credible, that one horseman was taken from each clan and one foot-soldier from each house. The only member that discharged functions in the oldest constitutional organization was the -curia-. Of these there were ten, or, where there were several tribes, ten to each tribe. Such a "wardship" was a real corporate unity, the members of which assembled at least for holding common festivals. Each wardship was under the charge of a special warden (-curio-), and had a priest of its own (-flamen curialis-); beyond doubt also levies and valuations took place according to curies, and in judicial matters the burgesses met by curies and voted by curies. This organization, however, cannot have been introduced primarily with a view to voting, for in that case they would certainly have made the number of subdivisions uneven.
Equality Of The Burgesses
Sternly defined as was the contrast between burgess and non-burgess, the equality of rights within the burgess-body was complete. No people has ever perhaps equalled that of Rome in the inexorable rigour with which it has carried out these principles, the one as fully as the other. The strictness of the Roman distinction between burgesses and non-burgesses is nowhere perhaps brought out with such clearness as in the treatment of the primitive institution of honorary citizenship, which was originally designed to mediate between the two. When a stranger was, by resolution of the community, adopted into the circle of the burgesses, he might surrender his previous citizenship, in which case he passed over wholly into the new community; but he might also combine his former citizenship with that which had just been granted to him.