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(1) In ancient Rome, an association of certain patrician families (gentes) that was analogous to the Greek phratry. According to tradition there were 30 curiae, ten in each tribe. Originally the curia was part of the clan organization—possibly, a men’s group connected with coming-of-age ceremonies. (There is evidence for this hypothesis in the worship of the goddess Juno, which was associated with initiations—rituals during which a youth was consecrated as a man.) During the period when the state was formed the curiae became extremely important military and political cells in Roman society. Evidently, each curia was headed by an elected curio who had priestly functions. Each curia had its own place for holding assemblies (which was also called the curia), as well as its own sanctuaries.
The curiate assembly (comitia curiata)— that is, assembly of male soldiers—elected kings during the royal period and magistrates in the early stages of the republic. But with the establishment of the centuriate assembly (comitia centuriata), the curiae confirmed elected officials and entrusted the symbols of authority to them. Under the republic all the curiae were headed by a grand curio, and plebeians were allowed to vote in the curiate assembly. During the imperial period the curiae came to be known as municipal councils.
(2) In Western Europe during the Middle Ages the feudal curia was a council consisting of a lord and his vassals. The royal curia (Curia Regis)—a feudal curia made up of the king’s direct vassals—was an advisory assembly of feudal magnates convoked by the king and granted broad but not strictly defined functions, most of which were judicial. As the royal power grew stronger, this curia became a more limited council of the king’s closest advisers (the Royal Council). Moreover, financial and judicial affairs were assigned to special offices.
(3) The Roman curia (Curia Romana) is made up of a number of institutions that are subordinate to the pope.
(4) In bourgeois countries and in prerevolutionary Russia curiae were separate categories into which voters were divided according to property, nationality, and other criteria (electoral curiae).