Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 1 >> Isculapius to Or School Alexandrian Age >> Publica


news, acta and public

PUBLICA, "Public ; URBANA, "Municipal Acts.° Written daily newspapers in ancient Rome, posted up in public to be read or copied, then taken down and filed in the public archives. The news was collected by reporters (actuarii) employed by the state, and con sisted of much the same sort of matter as that contained in modern newspapers; a miscellany of everything that might interest the citizen, from the latest war news, abstracts of the best speeches in the Senate or Forum or the courts, the most important legal decisions or political events, probably even to interviews, down to the most trivial gossip of the town,— not only births, marriages, divorces and deaths, murders, domestic infelicities and accidents, but any un usual omens or prodigies, lusus naturce, etc. Petronius in 'Trimalchio s Feast' gives an ad mirable burlesque of it. The letters of Romans to out-of-town friends were regularly furnished with spicy news from the Acta Diurna, which seem to have •taken the place of the older 'An or yearly chronicles, too slow for the active later republic and only reporting the more important occurrences, some time after 131 B.C. The usual statement is that Julius

Caesar introduced them; but it hardly seems probable that the Roman people, once used to even an imperfect form of news-gathering, dis pensed with it altogether for three-quarters of a century and did not think of it again until it was invented for them. It is certain, however, that it was in use in Caesar's time, for he ordered Antony's offer of a crown to him on the Lupercalia to be set down in the Acta Diurna. Consult Le Clerc, 'Roman News papers) (in French, 1838, entertaining but not cautious in facts); Hiibner, 'Acta of the Roman Republic) (in Latin, Leipzig 1860).