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COMITY—COMMENTARII

The comitia tributa was in the later Republic the usual organ for laws passed by the whole people. Its presidents were the magistrates of the people, usually the consuls and praetors, and, for purposes of jurisdiction, the curule aediles. It elected these aediles and other lower magistrates of the people. Its jurisdiction was limited to monetary penalties.

The concilium plebis, although voting, like this last assembly, by tribes, could be summoned and presided over only by plebeian magistrates, and never included the patricians. Its utterances (plebiscita) had the full force of law; it elected the tribunes of the plebs and the plebeian aediles, and it pronounced judgment on the penalties which they proposed. The right of this assembly to exercise capital jurisdiction was questioned; but it possessed the undisputed right of pronouncing outlawry (aquae et ignis interdictio) against any one already in exile (Livy xxv. 4, and xxvi. 3).

When the tenure of the religious colleges—formerly filled up by co-optation—was submitted to popular election, a change effected by a lex Domitia of 104 B.C., a new type of comitia was devised for this purpose. The electoral body was composed of 17 tribes selected by lot from the whole body of 35.

There was a body of rules governing the comitia which were concerned with the time and place of meeting, the forms of promulgation and the methods of voting. Valid meetings might be held on any of the 194 “comitial” days of the year which were not market or festal days (nundinae, feriae). The comitia curiata and the two assemblies of the tribes met within the walls, the former usually in the Comitium, the latter in the Forum or on the Area Capitolii; but the elections at these assemblies were in the later Republic held in the Campus Martius outside the walls. The comitia centuriata was by law compelled to meet outside the city and its gathering place was usually the Campus. Promulgation was required for the space of 3 nundinae (i.e. 24 days) before a matter was submitted to the people. The voting was preceded by a contio at which a limited debate was permitted by the magistrate. In the assemblies of the curiae and the tribes the voting of the groups took place simultaneously, in that of the centuries in a fixed order. In elections as well as in legislative acts an absolute majority was required, and hence the candidate who gained a mere relative majority was not returned.

The comitia survived the Republic. The last known act of comitial legislation belongs to the reign of Nerva (A.D. 96–98). After the essential elements in the election of magistrates had passed to the senate in A.D. 14, the formal announcement of the successful candidates (renuntiatio) still continued to be made to the popular assemblies. Early in the 3rd century Dio Cassius still saw the comitia centuriata meeting with all its old solemnities (Dio Cassius lviii. 20).

Bibliography.—Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, iii. p. 300 foll. (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1887), and Römische Forschungen, Bd. i. (Berlin, 1879); Soltau, Entstehung und Zusammensetzung der altrömischen Volksversammlungen, and Die Gültigkeit der Plebiscite (Berlin, 1884); Huschke, Die Verfassung des Königs Servius Tullius als Grundlage zu einer römischen Verfassungsgeschichte (Heidelberg, 1838); Borgeaud, Le Plébiscite dans l’antiquité. Grèce et Rome (Geneva, 1838); Greenidge, Roman Public Life, p. 65 foll., 102, 238 foll. and App. i. (1901); G. W. Botsford, Roman Assemblies (1909).  (A. H. J. G.) 


COMITY (from the Lat. comitas, courtesy, from cemis, friendly, courteous), friendly or courteous behaviour; a term particularly used in international law, in the phrase “comity of nations,” for the courtesy of nations towards each other. This has been held by some authorities to be the basis for the recognition by courts of law of the judgments and rules of law of foreign tribunals (see International Law, Private). “Comity of nations” is sometimes wrongly used, from a confusion with the Latin comes, a companion, for the whole body or company of nations practising such international courtesy.


COMMA (Gr. κομμα, a thing stamped or cut off, from κόπτειν, to strike), originally, in Greek rhetoric, a short clause, something less than the “colon”; hence a mark (,), in punctuation, to show the smallest break in the construction of a sentence. The mark is also used to separate numerals, mathematical symbols and the like. Inverted commas, or “quotation-marks,” i.e. pairs of commas, the first inverted, and the last upright, are placed at the beginning and end of a sentence or word quoted, or of a word used in a technical or conventional sense; single commas are similarly used for quotations within quotations. The word is also applied to comma-shaped objects, such as the “comma-bacillus,” the causal agent in cholera.


COMMANDEER (from the South African Dutch kommanderen, to command), properly, to compel the performance of military duty in the field, especially of the military service of the Boer republics (see Commando); also to seize property for military purposes; hence used of any peremptory seizure for other than military purposes.


COMMANDER, in the British navy, the title of the second grade of captains. He commands a small vessel, or is second in command of a large one. A staff commander is entrusted with the navigation of a large ship, and ranks above a navigating lieutenant. Since 1838 the officer next in rank to a captain in the U.S. navy has been called commander.


COMMANDERY (through the Fr. commanderie, from med. Lat. commendaria, a trust or charge), a division of the landed property in Europe of the Knights Hospitallers (see St John of Jerusalem). The property of the order was divided into “priorates,” subdivided into “bailiwicks,” which in turn were divided into “commanderies”; these were placed in charge of a “commendator” or commander. The word is also applied to the emoluments granted to a commander of a military order of knights.


COMMANDO, a Portuguese word meaning “command,” adopted by the Boers in South Africa through whom it has come into English use, for military and semi-military expeditions against the natives. More particularly a “commando” was the administrative and tactical unit of the forces of the former Boer republics, “commandeered” under the law of the constitutions which made military service obligatory on all males between the ages of sixteen and sixty. Each “commando” was formed from the burghers of military age of an electoral district.


COMMEMORATION, a general term for celebrating some past event. It is also the name for the annual act, or Encaenia, the ceremonial closing of the academic year at Oxford University. It consists of a Latin oration in commemoration of benefactors and founders; of the recitation of prize compositions in prose and verse, and the conferring of honorary degrees upon English or foreign celebrities. The ceremony, which is usually on the third Wednesday after Trinity Sunday, is held in the Sheldonian Theatre, in Broad St., Oxford. “Commencement” is the term for the equivalent ceremony at Cambridge, and this is also used in the case of American universities.


COMMENDATION (from the Lat. commendare, to entrust to the charge of, or to procure a favour for), approval, especially when expressed to one person on behalf of another, a recommendation. The word is used in a liturgical sense for an office commending the souls of the dying and dead to the mercies of God. In feudal law the term is applied to the practice of a freeman placing himself under the protection of a lord (see Feudalism), and in ecclesiastical law to the granting of benefices in commendam. A benefice was held in commendam when granted either temporarily until a vacancy was filled up, or to a layman, or, in case of a monastery or abbey, to a secular cleric to enjoy the revenues and privileges for life (see Abbot), or to a bishop to hold together with his see. An act of 1836 prohibited the holding of benefices in commendam in England.


COMMENTARII (Lat. = Gr. ὑπομνήματα), notes to assist the memory, memoranda. This original idea of the word gave rise to a variety of meanings: notes and abstracts of speeches for the assistance of orators; family memorials, the origin of many of the legends introduced into early Roman history from a desire to glorify a particular family; diaries of events occurring in their own circle kept by private individuals,—the day-book, drawn up for Trimalchio in Petronius (Satyricon, 53) by his actuarius (a slave to whom the duty was specially assigned) is quoted as an example; memoirs of events in which they had taken part drawn up by public men,—such were the “Commentaries” of Caesar on the