curia (kyoor-ee-[schwa]), n. [Latin]

1. Roman law. One of 30 divisions (three tribes of ten curiae) into which the Roman people were said to be divided by Romulus. See comitia curiata under COMITIA.

2. Roman law. A legislative gathering, esp. of the Roman Senate; the building used for the gathering.

3. Hist. A judicial tribunal held in the sovereign’s palace; a royal court. ¡ª Abbr. cur.

4. Hist. A court.

5. The papal court, including its functionaries and officials.

¡°The word curia in classical Latin is used in a number of ways. Apparently, it meant at first a subdivision of the people. It was also used, by a transfer which is not too clear, for the building in which the Roman Senate met. By an almost inevitable development it became the word for the Senate itself and later the ordinary designation for the Council in municipalities of the later Empire…. How much of this was still recalled in Medieval times, we cannot tell, but … in the early Middle Ages, curia was a common word to describe both the groups of men who generally were found in attendance on pope, emperor, king or prince, and the groups which were summoned by him to give him counsel. The curia in the latter sense, however, was not really a casual group of persons, summoned spas-modically to advise the king or any other person. It had come to be in Feudal Europe the ordinary Latin word for the general meeting of the lord’s vassals, which itself grew out of the Germanic mot or thing…. The Curia of the king was in theory a larger and more important example of the same kind of assemblage.¡± Max Radin, Handbook of Anglo-American Legal History 46¨C48 (1936).

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