Text #9545

"Valerian and Porcian laws", in Wikipedia.

The first Valerian law was said to have been enacted by Publius Valerius Publicola in 509 BC, a few years after the founding of republican Rome. It allowed a Roman citizen, condemned by a magistrate to death or scourging, the right of appeal to the people (Provocatio ad Populum), that is, to the people composed of senators, patricians, and plebeians. Thus the consuls had no longer the power of pronouncing sentence in capital cases against a Roman citizen, without the consent of the people. The Valerian law consequently divested the consuls of the power to punish crimes, thereby abolishing the vestiges within the Roman government of that unmitigated power that was the prerogative of the Tarquin kings.

Nonetheless, the Valerian law was not kept on the books throughout the five hundred years of the Roman republic. Indeed, Titus Livius (Livy) states that the Valerian law was enacted again, for the third time, in 299 BC. Andrew Lintott surmises that the effect of this third Valerian law was to regularize the provocatio: appeals to the people had been a fact of life with which magistrates had to deal prior to the law, but now magistrates were ordered to yield to the decisions of the people in capital cases. Livy notes that in all three cases the law was enacted by the Valerius family. Furthermore, Livy notes that, should a magistrate disregard the Valerian law, his only reproof was that his act be deemed unlawful and wicked. This implies that the Valerian law was not so very effective in defending the plebs.

Text #9546

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Since there is no evidence of the existence of this law prior to 299 BC, and the main source of the story about it is due to histories derived from Valerius Antias who had definite political agendas in his re-writing of Roman history, I am dating this to 299 rather than the legendary 509 BC. (Antias’ family were the Valerii Antiates, a branch of the Valeria gens). See: Valerius Antias and Caesar: Dissertation; Red Pill Press; 1 edition (February 7, 2014); ISBN-10: 1897244916 ISBN-13: 978-1897244913 Antias was not only a fabricator of an illustrious past for his own family, he was an apologist for the assassins of Caesar.

Please view our Legal Notice before you make use of this Database.

See also our Credits page for info on data we are building upon.