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Curia - The House of the Roman Senate

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The Roman Curia or Senate

Curia Roman Senate

Judith Geary
During the Roman Republic, Roman senators met together in their senate house, which was known as the curia, a building whose history predates the Republic.

Origins of the Curia

In the mid-6th century B.C., the legendary King Tullus Hostilius is said to have built the first curia in order to house 10 elected representatives of the Roman people. These 10 men were the curiae. This first curia was called the Curia Hostilia in honor of the king.

Location of the Curia

The forum was the center of Roman political life and the curia was part of it. More specifically, in the forum was the comitium, an area where the assembly met. [See Forum Map.] It was originally a rectangular space aligned with the cardinal points (North, South, East and West). The curia was to the north of the comitium.

Most of the following information on the Curia Hostilia comes directly from forum member Dan Reynolds.

Curia and the Curiae

The word curia refers to the original 10-elected curiae (clan leaders) of the 3 original tribes of Romans:

  1. Tities,
  2. Ramnes, and
  3. Luceres.

These 30 men met in the Comitia Curiata, the assembly of the curiae. All the voting originally took place in the Comitium, which was a templum (from which,'temple'). A templum was a consecrated space that "was circumscribed and separated by the augurs from the rest of the land by a certain solemn formula".

Responsibilities of the Curia

This assembly was responsible for ratifying the succession of kings (Lex Curiata) and for giving the king his imperium (a key concept in ancient Rome that refers to "power and authority"). The curiae may have become lictors or the lictors may have replaced the curiae, following the period of kings. During the Republic, it was the lictors (by 218 B.C.) who met in the comitia curiata to grant imperium to the newly-elected consuls, praetors and dictators.

Location of the Curia Hostilia

The Curia Hostilia, 85' long (N/S) by 75' wide (E/W), was oriented facing south. It was a templum, and, as such, was oriented north/south, as were the major temples of Rome. On the same axis as the church (facing SW), but southeast of it, was the Curia Julia. The old Curia Hostilia was dismantled and where it once stood was the entrance to Caesar's forum, which also ran northeast, away from the old comitium.

Curia Julia

Julius Caesar started the construction of a new curia, which was completed after he died and dedicated as the Curia Julia in 29 B.C. Like its predecessors, it was a templum. Emperor Domitian restored the curia, then it burnt down during the fire under Emperor Carinus, and was rebuilt by Emperor Diocletian. [See In The Steps of Julius Caesar for pictures and more on the significance of the curia for Caesar.]

Cursus Honorum

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