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Lex Tabellaria

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Lex Tabellaria - A law carried by L. Cassius Longinus, a Tribune of the people, and which prohibited the Roman citizen from giving his suffrage viva voce, and required him to write down on a tablet (see tabella), the first letters of the name of the candidate for whom he voted.

The tabella was also used in public judgments (in judiciis publicis), and the praetor distributed to the judges three tablets; viz.: that of absolution, marked with a letter A; that of condemnation, on which was marked the letter C; and the third tablet, demanding more ample information, was marked with the letters N and L, signifying Non liquet.

The memory of L. Cassius Longinus, and his lex tabellaria are recalled by a denarius of the Cassia family, on the obverse of which is the head of VESTA;

and on the reverse a round temple, within which a curule chair (sella curulis). In the field of the coin is on one side an urn, and on the other a tabella, inscribed A C, that is to say Absolvo Condemno. This Cassius, having, in the year of Rome 641, been appointed, under the Peduceian law, Commisssioner with praetorian power to investigate cases of violation of chastity in Vestals, summoned again to trial, and condemned to death Licinia and Marcia, who had been aquitted by L. Metellus P M, according to Asconius Paedianus on Cic. pro Milone.

Cassius was so great an exemplar of severity that he was commonly called teorum scopulus, and Cassiana judicia became a proverb (see Morell).

The curule chair within the temple denotes the Paetorian power. The urn (or cista) is that into which the tabella were cast.

There is also another silver coin of the same family, which bearing the same reverse, but having on its obverse the head and name of LIBERTAS, belongs to the history of the same Cassius. In these designs the ballot law concerning trials is alluded to, by which, in all cases except that of treason, the people were allowed to vote by tablets (i.e. the ballot), "a regulation (adds the unsuspecting Eckhel, who had not lived to see the shameful example of the United States as to the abuses, corruptions, and intimidations practised under it), eminently adapted for the preservation of Liberty."

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