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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book I Chapter 17: Disputes as to his Successor.
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Disputes arose among the senators about the vacant throne. It was not the jealousies of individual citizens, for no one was sufficiently prominent in so young a State, but the rivalries of parties in the State that led to this strife. The Sabine families were apprehensive of losing their fair share of the sovereign power, because after the death of Tatius they had had no representative on the throne; they were anxious, therefore, that the king should be elected from amongst them. The ancient Romans could ill brook a foreign king; but amidst this diversity of political views, all were for a monarchy; they had not yet tasted the sweets of liberty. The senators began to grow apprehensive of some aggressive act on the part of the surrounding states, now that the City was without a central authority and the army without a general. They decided that there must be some head of the State, but no one could make up his mind to concede the dignity to any one else. The matter was settled by the hundred senators dividing themselves into ten " decuries," and one was chosen from each decury to exercise the supreme power. Ten therefore were in office, but only one at a time had the insignia of authority and the lictors. Their individual authority was restricted to five days, and they exercised it in rotation. This break in the monarchy lasted for a year, and it was called by the name it still bears -- that of " interregnum." After a time the plebs began to murmur that their bondage was multiplied, for they had a hundred masters instead of one. It was evident that they would insist upon a king being elected, and elected by them. When the senators became aware of this growing determination, they thought it better to offer spontaneously what they were bound to part with, so, as an act of grace, they committed the supreme power into the hands of the people, but in such a way that they did not give away more privilege than they retained. For they passed a decree that when the people had chosen a king, his election would only be valid after the senate had ratified it by their authority. The same procedure exists to-day in the passing of laws and the election of magistrates, but the power of rejection has been withdrawn; the senate give their ratification before the people proceed to vote, whilst the result of the election is still uncertain. |
At that time the interrex convened the assembly and addressed it as follows: Quirites! elect your king, and may heaven's blessing rest on your labours! If you elect one who shall be counted worthy to follow Romulus, the senate will ratify your choice." So gratified were the people at the proposal that, not to appear behindhand in generosity, they passed a resolution that it should be left to the senate to decree who should reign in Rome.
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Interregnum:The time an interrex governed the state.
Interrex:Temporary (5 days!) head of state when the king or both consuls had died.