Comitia Tributa - Roman Assembly in the Republic

The comitia tributa was an assembly just for plebeians or the “tribes” of Rome. This plebeian assembly started with minimal power, but its power grew as the republic evolved and the balance of power shifted from one group to another.

Like the centuries, the pleb assembly had the power to make laws. At first, the comitia tributa only had the power to pass non-binding resolutions. This is similar to Congress passing a resolution supporting the troops or opposing the war. A resolution like that is basically just an official statement by the body, but it has no legal power or effect on the laws of the land.

Eventually the pleb assembly was able to make laws that just affected plebeians, and it continued to grow until the comitia tributa could make laws affecting all of Rome. In matters affecting laws of the people, the pleb assembly had a lot of power to act on its own. Consultation with the senate was almost always required, however, when the comitia tributa was to act on matters affecting laws and rights of the Roman government.

Another important power of the comitia tributa was the election of magistrates. These were mostly lower level magistrates, but the tribes also elected the people’s tribunes or tribuni plebis. By the end of the Republic, the tribunes had a quite a bit of power, and as the tribunes’ power grew, so did the clout of the comitia tributa.

Yet another role of the comitia tributa was as a lower court. It could try people for lower crimes, even to include patricians. The tribes also acted as a court of appeals for crimes where the accused had been fined.