Provocatio was a method for appealing the decision of a Roman magistrate. Provocatio could occur after a normal trial had been conducted in front of a magistrate with imperium. After the final judgement, the defendant could call out “provoco.” The act of provocatio called upon the protection of the tribuni plebis, who transferred the power to adjudicate to the Roman people (iudicium populi). The people could then confirm or reject the magistrate’s sentence.
Not all judgements were subject to provocatio; it only applied to the power of coercitio of higher magistrates (consuls and praetors). Sentences meted by the quaestors were excluded. The judgements of the pontifex maximus were also excluded, although the fines he imposed could be appealed. In fact, provocatio is mentioned in the sources only for political crimes, such as perduellio. The idea that the iudicium populi was part of every trial, first suggested by Mommsen and still sometimes repeated, is therefore incorrect.Less
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