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praetor (prētˈər) [key], in ancient Rome, originally a consul, and later a judicial magistrate (from c.366 B.C.). In 242 B.C. two praetors were appointed, the urban praetor ( praetor urbanus ), deciding cases to which citizens were parties, and the peregrine praetor ( praetor peregrinus ) deciding cases between foreigners. The urban praetor exercised the functions of the consuls in their absence and of the peregrine praetor when he was holding a military command. Two additional praetors were appointed (227) to administer Sicily and Sardinia, and two more (197) to administer Spain. A principal duty of praetors was the production of the public games. Under the empire the functions of the praetor were gradually taken over by other magistrates.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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