In Ancient Rome, the curiales (from co + viria, 'gathering of men') were initially the leading members of a gentes (clan) of the city of Rome. Their roles were both civil and sacred. Each gens curiales had a leader, called a curio. The whole arrangement of assemblies was presided over by the curio maximus.
The Roman civic form was replicated in the towns and cities of the empire as they came under Roman control. By the Late Empire Period, curiales referred to the merchants, businessmen, and medium-sized landowners who served in their local Curia as local magistrates and Decurions. Curiales were expected to procure funds for public building projects, temples, festivities, games, and local welfare systems. They would often pay for these expenses out of their own pocket (undoubtedly mentioning their generosity) as a means to increase their personal prestige.
The Curiales were also responsible for the collection of Imperial taxes, provided food and board for the army, and supported the imperial post (cursus publicus).
As the Empire declined and the economy floundered, membership among the curial class became financially ruinous to all but the most wealthy (who in many cases were able to purchase exemptions from their obligations). Because of this, many tried to escape by enrolling in positions that cancelled curial responsibilities, such as the army, the Imperial government, or the Church. The Emperor Julian tried to combat this development by increasing the size of curial councils, spreading the burden more evenly to make the position less costly. This attempt was not successful, and Julian himself died before he had time to see the policy through. Other efforts to remedy the situation failed as well, and the councils dwindled in importance through the Late Roman period.
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