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Savigny Verlagsgesellschaft

Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Romanistische Abteilung

Ed. by Kaiser, Wolfgang / Schermaier, Martin / Thür, Gerhard

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Volume 132, Issue 1


I. Maior pars – Mehrheitsdenken in der römischen Rechtskultur

Wolfgang Ernst
Published Online: 2015-07-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.7767/zrgra-2015-0104


Maior pars - The concept of majority in Roman legal culture. The term maior pars is a cornerstone of majority-concepts in the western legal tradition. Relying on D. 50,17,160 (Ulp. 76 ed.) and D. 50,1,19 (Scaev. 1 quaest.), medieval writers, and in fact scholarship ever since, has ‘explained’ the Roman majority rule as the working of a fictio iuris: the will of the majority is taken to be the will of all. A full survey of the Roman sources dealing with maior pars challenges this view. For the Romans, being in a majority as such did not come with any power over the minority. Rather, controlling powers like the praetor’s imperium were exercised by giving preference to the views of the majority over that of the minority. There are no traces of attempts to legitimize this kind of ‘majority preference’ (as distinguished from ‘majority rule’). Further philosophical legitimization is not in fact warranted, since the only alternative would be to give preference to the views of the minority over those of the minority. Neither D. 50,17,160 nor D. 50,1,19 or any of the innumerable uses of maior pars supports the notion of a fictio iuris equating the will of the majority with the will of all. An idea of representation, however, can be traced back to the 3rd ct. communal curiae, albeit with a different emphasis: A sufficient number of decuriones assembled to make up the quorum were acknowledged to validly act as the curia.

Keywords: majority - quorum - representation - Roman senate - Roman curia

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Published Online: 2015-07-06

Published in Print: 2015-08-01

Citation Information: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Romanistische Abteilung, Volume 132, Issue 1, Pages 1–67, ISSN (Online) 2304-4934, ISSN (Print) 0323-4096, DOI: https://doi.org/10.7767/zrgra-2015-0104.

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© 2016 by Böhlau Verlag GmbH & Co.KG.

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