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Antonio Fernández de Buján
Catedrático de Derecho Romano de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid


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The censors and their duties in the comedies of Plautus. (RI §415488)  


Los censores y sus deberes en las comedias de Plauto - Anna Tarwacka

Ninguna comedia de Plauto contiene referencias directas a los censores. El autor ha usado el potencial de esta magistradura en la manera estupenda. Algunos personajes son creados como censores. Plauto frecuentemente se refiere a diversas competencias de estos magistrados: el control de las costumbres, el censo, los contratos publicos. Cuestas alusiones tienen efecto muy comico y ademas dan a las comedias un sabor romano.

None of the surviving Plautus’ plays refer expressly to the censors. Still the author appears to have made excellent use of the comic potential offered by the censors’ office without mentioning the magistracy directly. He set up some of his characters as censors, but more often he referred to legal institutions associated with the censors’ powers. Plautus’ characters mention the census and citizens making their property declarations to the censors’ assistants; they also mention the review of the equestrian centuries. Another group of references concerns the censors’ administrative powers, the drawing up of contracts for the leasehold of public revenues and expenditure. Plautus mentions the sarta tecta, a contract for the repair and maintenance of a public building; as well as a range of taxes and duties leased out by the state to publicans. There are several mentions of portorium, customs duty; and also of pascua, the toll for grazing livestock on public land, and aratio, the rent for farming a plot of public land. Plautus was very adroit in applying such terms for comic purposes – to make fun of an over-inquisitive wife, a greedy procuress or prostitute. All of these applications endow his comedies with a characteristic Roman flavour.

Keywords: Plautus; censors; regimen morum; portorium; pascua;

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