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Pontiff, praetor, and iurisdictio in the Roman republic

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It is generally assumed that from 367 BC the praetor was charged with iurisdictio, i.e. the supervision of civil litigation, and that, before that time, this task was performed by some other magistrate. Pontiffs were legal experts who served as advisers. However, new research has shown that the praetor originally had military duties and that it was only around 200 BC that he became involved in administering the law. In this paper the author suggests that, up to 200 BC, it was the College of Pontiffs which was responsible for supervising civil litigation. Mitchell put forward a similar hypothesis a few years ago, but so far he failed to convince his readers. In the author's view, close reading of Pomp. D. 1,2,2,6 and appreciating the fact that around 200 BC the relationship between pontiffs and magistrates changed fundamentally indicate that, before that year, the pontiffs were directly involved in civil litigation and were more than simply advisers.


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