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A consul held the highest elected
political office The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, administrative Work (human activity), work in order to support and realize objects an ...
of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the , Rome's control rapidly expanded durin ...
(509 to 27 BC), and ancient Romans considered the consulship the second-highest level of the ''
cursus honorum The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; ...
'' (an ascending sequence of public offices to which politicians aspired) after that of the
censor Censor may refer to: People with the name *Cato the Elder, also known as Cato the Censor (Marcus Porcius Cato, 234–149 BC), a Roman statesman *Yair Censor (born 1943), Israeli mathematician Organizations *Censor, the police of the Royal Colle ...
. Each year,
the Centuriate Assembly
the Centuriate Assembly
elected two consuls to serve jointly for a one-year term. The consuls alternated in holding ''
fasces Fasces ( ; ; a ', from the word ', meaning "bundle"; it, fascio littorio) is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe (occasionally two axes) with its blade emerging. The fasces is an Italian symbol that had its origin in the a ...

fasces
'' each month when both were in Rome and a consul's ''imperium'' extended over Rome and all its
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are gene ...
. There were two consuls in order to create a check on the power of any individual citizen in accordance with the republican belief that the powers of the rex Romae should be spread out into multiple offices. After the establishment of the
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and w ...

Empire
(27 BC), the consuls became mere symbolic representatives of Rome's republican heritage and held very little power and authority, with the
Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
acting as the supreme authority.


History


Under the Republic

After the legendary expulsion of the last King,
Tarquin the Proud Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is commonly known as Tarquin the Proud, fr ...
, a harsh ruler at the end of the
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilis ...
, most of the powers and authority of the king were ostensibly given to the newly instituted consulship. This change in leadership came about when the king's son, Sextus Tarquinius, raped the wives and daughters of powerful Roman nobles. A group of nobles led by Lucius Junius Brutus, with the support of the Roman Army, expelled Tarquinius and his family from Rome in 509 BC. Originally, consuls were called
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some langua ...
s ("leader"), referring to their duties as the chief military commanders. By at least 300 BC the title of Consul became commonly used. Ancient writers usually derive the title ''consul'' from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
verb ''consulere'', "to take counsel", but this is most likely a later gloss of the term, which probably derives—in view of the joint nature of the office—from ''con-'' and ''sal-'', "get together" or from ''con-'' and ''sell-/sedl-'', "sit down together with" or "next to". In
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, the title was originally rendered as , ''
strategos Bust of unnamed ''Strategos'' with Hadrian.html"_;"title="Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrian">Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrianic_Roman_copy_of_a_Greek_sculpture_of_c._400_BC ''Strategos'',_plural_''strategoi'',_ Corinthian_helmet;_Hadrianic_Roman_copy_of_a_G ...
hypatos ''Hypatos'' ( gr, ὕπατος; plural: , ''hypatoi'') and the variant ''apo hypatōn'' (, "former ''hypatos''", literally: "from among the consuls") was a Byzantine court dignity, originally the Greek translation of Latin Latin (, or , ) is ...
'' ("the supreme general"), and later simply as ὕπατος. The consul was believed by the Romans to date back to the traditional establishment of the Republic in 509 BC, but the succession of consuls was not continuous in the 5th century BC. During the 440s, the office was quite often replaced with the establishment of the Consular Tribunes, who was elected whenever the military needs of the state were significant enough to warrant the election of more than the two usual consuls. These remained in place until the office was abolished in 367/366 BC and the consulship was reintroduced. Consuls had extensive powers in peacetime (administrative, legislative, and judicial), and in wartime often held the highest military command. Additional religious duties included certain rites which, as a sign of their formal importance, could only be carried out by the highest state officials. Consuls also read
auguries An augur was a priest and official in the ancient Rome, classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury: Interpreting the will of the List of Roman deities, gods by studying the flight of birds – whether they were flying i ...
, an essential step before leading armies into the field. Two consuls were elected each year, serving together, each with veto power over the other's actions, a normal principle for magistracies. They were elected by the
Comitia Centuriata The Centuriate Assembly (Latin: ''comitia centuriata'') of the Roman Republic was one of the three voting assemblies in the Roman constitution. It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred m ...

Comitia Centuriata
, which had an aristocratic bias in its voting structure which only increased over the years from its foundation. However, they formally assumed powers only after the ratification of their election in the older
Comitia Curiata The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...

Comitia Curiata
, which granted the consuls their
imperium In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A histori ...

imperium
by enacting a law, the "
lex curiata de imperio In the constitution of ancient Rome, the ''lex curiata de imperio'' (plural ''leges curiatae'') was the law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to fo ...
". If a consul died during his term (not uncommon when consuls were in the forefront of battle) or was removed from office, another would be elected by the
Comitia Centuriata The Centuriate Assembly (Latin: ''comitia centuriata'') of the Roman Republic was one of the three voting assemblies in the Roman constitution. It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred m ...

Comitia Centuriata
to serve the remainder of the term as ''consul suffectus'' ("suffect consul"). A consul elected to start the yearcalled a ''consul ordinarius'' ("ordinary consul")held more prestige than a suffect consul, partly because the year would be named for ordinary consuls (see
consular dating A consul is an official representative of the government of one Sovereign state, state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between th ...
). According to tradition, the consulship was initially reserved for
patricians The patricians (from la, patriciusPatricius may refer to: People * Patricius (consul 500), prominent East Roman general and consul *Patricius (jurist), 5th-century Roman jurist * Patricius (usurper) (died 352), leader of the Jewish revolt aga ...
and only in 367 BC did
plebeians The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in ...

plebeians
win the right to stand for this supreme office, when the
Lex Licinia Sextia The Sextian-Licinian Rogations were a series of laws proposed by tribunes of the plebs Tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune ( la, tribunus plebis) was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeians ...
provided that at least one consul each year should be plebeian. The first plebeian consul,
Lucius Sextius Lucius Sextius Sextinus Lateranus was a Roman tribune of the plebs and is noted for having been one of two men (the other being Gaius Licinius Stolo) who passed the Lex Licinia Sextia, Leges Liciniae Sextiae of 368 BC and 367 BC. Originally, these w ...
, was elected the following year. Nevertheless, the office remained largely in the hands of a few families as, according to Gelzer, only fifteen '' novi homines'' - "new men" with no consular background - were elected to the consulship until the election of
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
in 63 BC. Modern historians have questioned the traditional account of plebeian emancipation during the early Republic (see
Conflict of the Orders The Conflict or Struggle of the Orders was a political struggle between the plebeians The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the It ...
), noting for instance that about thirty percent of the consuls prior to Sextius had plebeian, not patrician, names. It is possible that only the chronology has been distorted, but it seems that one of the first consuls,
Lucius Junius Brutus Lucius Junius Brutus ( 6th century BC) is the semi-legendary founder Founder or Founders may refer to: Places *Founders Park, a stadium in South Carolina, formerly known as Carolina Stadium * Founders Park, a waterside park in Islamorada, Florid ...
, came from a plebeian family. Another possible explanation is that during the 5th-century social struggles, the office of consul was gradually monopolized by a patrician elite. During times of war, the primary qualification for consul was military skill and reputation, but at all times the selection was politically charged. With the passage of time, the consulship became the normal endpoint of the ''
cursus honorum The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; ...
'', the sequence of offices pursued by the ambitious Roman who chose to pursue political power and influence. When
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Ancient Romans, Roman List of Roman generals, general and Politician, statesman. He won the first large-scale civil war in Roman history, and became the first man of Rom ...
regulated the ''cursus'' by law, the minimum age of election to consul became, in effect, 42 years of age. Beginning in the late Republic, after finishing a consular year, a former consul would usually serve a lucrative term as a
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
, the
Roman Governor A Roman governor was an official either elected or appointed to be the chief administrator of Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from t ...
of one of the (senatorial)
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are gene ...
. The most commonly chosen province for the
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
ship was
Cisalpine Gaul Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Ital ...
. It would not be uncommon for the patrician consuls of the early republic to intersperse public office with agricultural labor. In Cicero’s words: ''in agris erant tum senatores, id est senes'': ‘In those days senators—that is, seniors—would live on their farms’. This practice was obsolete by the 2nd century.


Under the Empire

Although throughout the early years of the Principate, the consuls were still formally elected by the
Comitia Centuriata The Centuriate Assembly (Latin: ''comitia centuriata'') of the Roman Republic was one of the three voting assemblies in the Roman constitution. It was named the Centuriate Assembly as it originally divided Roman citizens into groups of one hundred m ...

Comitia Centuriata
, they were de facto nominated by the princeps. As the years progressed, the distinction between the Comitia Centuriata and the
Comitia Tributa The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic, citizens did not elect legislative representatives. Instead, they voted themselves on legislat ...
(which elected the lower magisterial positions) appears to have disappeared, and so for the purposes of the consular elections, there came to be just a single "assembly of the people" which elected all the magisterial positions of the state, while the consuls continued to be nominated by the princeps. The imperial consulate during the period of the High Empire (until the 3rd century) was an important position, albeit as the method through which the Roman aristocracy could progress through to the higher levels of imperial administration – only former consuls could become consular legates, the proconsuls of Africa and Asia, or the urban prefect of Rome. It was a post that would be occupied by a man halfway through his career, in his early thirties for a patrician, or in his early forties for most others. Emperors frequently appointed themselves, or their protégés or relatives, consuls, even without regard to the age requirements. For example,
Emperor Honorius Flavius Honorius (9 September 384 – 15 August 423) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different ...
was given the consulship at birth.
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (; ) or Dio Cassius ( ''Dion Kassios'')), Cassius Lucius Dio or Cassius Claudius Dio; alleged to have the ' (nickname) Cocceianus was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek and Roman origin. He published 80 volumes of the ...
states that
Caligula Caligula (; 31 August 12 – 24 January 41 AD), formally known as Gaius (Gaius Gaius, sometimes spelled ''Gajus'', Cajus, Caius, was a common Latin praenomen The praenomen (; plural: praenomina) was a given name, personal name chosen by th ...

Caligula
intended to make his horse Incitatus consul, but was assassinated before he could do so. The need for a pool of men to fill the consular positions forced Augustus to remodel the suffect consulate, allowing more than the two elected for the ordinary consulate. During the reigns of the Julio-Claudians, the ordinary consuls who began the year usually relinquished their office mid-year, with the election for the suffect consuls occurring at the same time as that for the ordinary consuls. During reigns of the Flavian and Antonine emperors, the ordinary consuls tended to resign after a period of four months, and the elections were moved to 12 January of the year in which they were to hold office. Election of the consuls were transferred to the Senate during the Flavian or Antonine periods, although through to the 3rd century, the people were still called on to ratify the Senate's selections. The proliferation of suffect consuls through this process, and the allocation of this office to '' homines novi'' tended, over time, to devalue the office. However, the high regard placed upon the ordinary consulate remained intact, as it was one of the few offices that one could share with the emperor, and during this period it was filled mostly by patricians or by individuals who had consular ancestors. If they were especially skilled or valued, they may even have achieved a second (or rarely, a third) consulate. Prior to achieving the consulate, these individuals already had a significant career behind them, and would expect to continue serving the state, filling in the post upon which the state functioned. Consequently, holding the ordinary consulship was a great honor and the office was the major symbol of the still relatively republican constitution. Probably as part of seeking formal legitimacy, the break-away
Gallic Empire The Gallic Empire or the Gallic Roman Empire are names used in modern historiography for a breakaway part of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rh ...
had its own pairs of consuls during its existence (260–274). The list of consuls for this state is incomplete, drawn from inscriptions and coins. By the end of the 3rd century, much had changed. The loss of many pre-consular functions and the gradual encroachment of the equites into the traditional senatorial administrative and military functions, meant that senatorial careers virtually vanished prior to their appointment as consuls. This had the effect of seeing a suffect consulship granted at an earlier age, to the point that by the 4th century, it was being held by men in their early twenties, and possibly younger, without the significant political careers behind them that was normal previously. As time progressed, second consulates, usually ordinary, became far more common than had been the case during the first two centuries, while the first consulship was usually a suffect consulate. Also, the consulate during this period was no longer just the province of senators – the automatic awarding of a suffect consulship to the equestrian
praetorian prefect The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Repub ...
s (who were given the ''ornamenta consularia'' upon achieving their office) allowed them to style themselves ''cos. II'' when they were later granted an ordinary consulship by the emperor. All this had the effect of further devaluing the office of consul, to the point that by the final years of the 3rd century, holding an ordinary consulate was occasionally left out of the cursus inscriptions, while suffect consulships were hardly ever recorded by the first decades of the 4th century. One of the reforms of
Constantine I Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). Th ...

Constantine I
(r. 306–337) was to assign one of the consuls to the city of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
, and the other to
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
. Therefore, when the Roman Empire was divided into two halves on the death of
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
(r. 379–395), the emperor of each half acquired the right of appointing one of the consuls—although on occasion an emperor did allow his colleague to appoint both consuls for various reasons. The consulship, bereft of any real power, continued to be a great honor, but the celebrations attending it – above all the chariot races – had come to involve considerable expense, which only a few citizens could afford, to the extent that part of the expense had to be covered by the state. In the 6th century, the consulship was increasingly sparsely given, until it was allowed to lapse under
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...
(r. 527–565): the western consulship lapsed in 534, with Decius Paulinus the last holder, and the consulship of the East in 541, with Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius.
Consular dating A consul is an official representative of the government of one Sovereign state, state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between th ...
had already been abolished in 537, when Justinian introduced
dating Dating is a stage of romantic relationships whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in a future intimate relationship An intimate relationship is an interpersonal re ...
by the emperor's regnal year and the
indiction An indiction ( la, indictio, impost) was a periodic reassessment of taxation in the Roman Empire which took place every fifteen years. In Late Antiquity, this 15-year cycle began to be used to date documents and it continued to be used for this pu ...
. In the eastern court, the appointment to consulship became a part of the rite of proclamation of a new emperor from
Justin II Justin II or Justin the Younger ( la, Iustinus Iunior; grc-gre, Ἰουστῖνος, Ioustînos; died 5 October 578) was Eastern Roman Emperor from 565 until 578. He was the nephew of Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbat ...

Justin II
(r. 565–578) on, and is last attested in the proclamation of the future
Constans II Constans II ( gr, Κώνστας, ''Kōnstas''; 7 November 630 – 15 July 668), nicknamed "the Bearded" (ὁ Πωγωνᾶτος; ''ho Pogonâtos''), was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 641 to 668. He was the last attested emperor to serve ...
(r. 641–668) as consul in 632. In the late 9th century, Emperor Leo the Wise (r. 886–912) finally abolished consular dating with Novel 94. By that time, the Greek titles for consul and ex-consul, "''
hypatos ''Hypatos'' ( gr, ὕπατος; plural: , ''hypatoi'') and the variant ''apo hypatōn'' (, "former ''hypatos''", literally: "from among the consuls") was a Byzantine court dignity, originally the Greek translation of Latin Latin (, or , ) is ...
''" and "''
apo hypaton ''Hypatos'' ( gr, ὕπατος; plural: , ''hypatoi'') and the variant ''apo hypatōn'' (, "former ''hypatos''", literally: "from among the consuls") was a Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy, Byzantine court dignity, originally the Greek transl ...
''", had been transformed to relatively lowly honorary dignities. In the west, the rank of consul was occasionally bestowed upon individuals by the Papacy. In 719, the title of Roman consul was offered by the Pope to
Charles Martel Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient ...

Charles Martel
, although he refused it. About 853,
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 886 AD. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a numbe ...

Alfred the Great
, then a child aged four or five, was made a Roman consul by the Pope.


Powers and responsibilities


Republican duties

After the expulsion of the kings and the establishment of the Republic, all the powers that had belonged to the kings were transferred to two offices: that of the consuls and the
Rex Sacrorum In ancient Roman religion, the ''rex sacrorum'' ("king of the sacred", also sometimes ''rex sacrificulus'') was a senatorial priesthood reserved for patricians. Although in the historical era, the ''pontifex maximus The (Latin Latin (, ...
. While the Rex Sacrorum inherited the kings’ position as high priest of the state, the consuls were given the civil and military responsibilities (
imperium In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A histori ...

imperium
). However, to prevent abuse of the kingly power, the imperium was shared by two consuls, each of whom could veto the other's actions. The consuls were invested with the
executive power The executive (short for executive branch or executive power) is the part of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
of the state and headed the government of the Republic. Initially, the consuls held vast executive and judicial power. In the gradual development of the Roman legal system, however, some important functions were detached from the consulship and assigned to new officers. Thus, in 443 BC, the responsibility to conduct the
census A census is the procedure of systematically calculating, acquiring and recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In ...

census
was taken from the consuls and given to the
censors Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments, ...
. The second function taken from the consulship was their
judicial power The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government i ...
. Their position as chief judges was transferred to the
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some langua ...
s in 366 BC. After this time, the consul would only serve as judges in extraordinary criminal cases and only when called upon by decree of the Senate.


Civil sphere

For the most part, power was divided between civil and military spheres. As long as the consuls were in the
pomerium The pomerium or pomoerium was a religious boundary around the city of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan ...

pomerium
(the city of Rome), they were at the
head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administrat ...
, and all the other magistrates, with the exception of the , were subordinate to them, but retained independence of office. The internal machinery of the Republic was under the consuls’ supervision. In order to allow the consuls greater authority in executing laws, the consuls had the right of summons and arrest, which was limited only by the right of appeal from their judgment. This power of punishment even extended to inferior magistrates. As part of their executive functions, the consuls were responsible for carrying into effect the decrees of the Senate and the laws of the assemblies. Sometimes, in great emergencies, they might even act on their own authority and responsibility. The consuls also served as the chief diplomat of the Roman state. Before any foreign ambassadors reached the Senate, they met with the consuls. The consul would introduce ambassadors to the Senate, and they alone carried on the negotiations between the Senate and foreign states. The consuls could convene the Senate, and presided over its meetings. Each consul served as
president of the Senate President of the Senate is a title often given to the presiding officer of a senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative a ...

president of the Senate
for a month. They could also summon any of the three
Roman assemblies The Roman Assemblies were institutions in ancient Rome. They functioned as the machinery of the Roman legislative branch, and thus (theoretically at least) passed all legislation. Since the assemblies operated on the basis of a direct democracy, ord ...
(Curiate, Centuriate, and Tribal) and presided over them. Thus, the consuls conducted the elections and put legislative measures to the vote. When neither consul was within the city, their civic duties were assumed by the
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some langua ...
urbanus. Each consul was accompanied in every public appearance by twelve lictors, who displayed the magnificence of the office and served as his bodyguards. Each
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Ancient Rome, Roman civil servant who was an attendant and bodyguard to a Roman magistrate, magistrate who held ''imperium''. Lictors are documented since the Roman Kingdom, and may have origi ...

lictor
held a
fasces Fasces ( ; ; a ', from the word ', meaning "bundle"; it, fascio littorio) is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe (occasionally two axes) with its blade emerging. The fasces is an Italian symbol that had its origin in the a ...

fasces
, a bundle of rods that contained an axe. The rods symbolized the power of scourging, and the axe the power of capital punishment. When inside the pomerium, the lictors removed the axes from the fasces to show that a citizen could not be executed without a trial. Upon entering the Comitia Centuriata, the lictors would lower the fasces to show that the powers of the consuls derive from the people (populus romanus).


Military sphere

Outside the walls of Rome, the powers of the consuls were far more extensive in their role as commanders-in-chief of all
Roman legions The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500–31 BC) and the (31 BC– ...
. It was in this function that the consuls were vested with full imperium. When legions were ordered by a decree of the Senate, the consuls conducted the in the
Campus Martius The Campus Martius (Latin for the "Field of Mars", Italian language, Italian ''Campo Marzio'') was a publicly owned area of ancient Rome about in extent. In the Middle Ages, it was the most populous area of Rome. The IV Rioni of Rome, rione of ...

Campus Martius
. Upon entering the army, all soldiers had to take their oath of allegiance to the consuls. The consuls also oversaw the gathering of troops provided by Rome's allies. Within the city a consul could punish and arrest a citizen, but had no power to inflict capital punishment. When on campaign, however, a consul could inflict any punishment he saw fit on any soldier, officer, citizen, or ally. Each consul commanded an army, usually two legions strong, with the help of military tribunes and a
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest ...
who had financial duties. In the rare case that both consuls marched together, each one held the command for a day respectively. A typical consular army was about 20,000 men strong and consisted of two citizen and two allied legions. In the early years of the Republic, Rome's enemies were located in central Italy, so campaigns lasted a few months. As Rome's frontiers expanded, in the 2nd century BC, the campaigns became lengthier. Rome was a warlike society, and very seldom did not wage war. So the consul upon entering office was expected by the Senate and the People to march his army against Rome's enemies, and expand the Roman frontiers. His soldiers expected to return to their homes after the campaign with spoils. If the consul won an overwhelming victory, he was hailed as
imperator The Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with" ...

imperator
by his troops, and could request to be granted a triumph. The consul could conduct the campaign as he saw fit, and had unlimited powers. However, after the campaign, he could be prosecuted for his misdeeds (for example for abusing the provinces, or wasting public money, as
Scipio Africanus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (, , ; 236/235–183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side ...
was accused by Cato in 205 BC).


Abuse prevention

Abuse of power Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of "malfeasance in office Malfeasance in office is often grounds for a just cause removal of an elected official by statuteA statute reffers to the body of law that are made by legislature of t ...
by consuls was prevented with each consul given the power to
veto A veto (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Re ...
his colleague. Therefore, except in the provinces as commanders-in-chief where each consul's power was supreme, the consuls could only act not against each other's determined will. Against the sentence of one consul, an appeal could be brought before his colleague, which, if successful, would see the sentence overturned. In order to avoid unnecessary conflicts, only one consul would actually perform the office's duties every month and could act without direct interference. In the next month, the consuls would switch roles with one another. This would continue until the end of the consular term. Another point which acted as a check against consuls was the certainty that after the end of their term they would be called to account for their actions while in office. There were also three other restrictions on consular power. Their term in office was short (one year); their duties were pre-decided by the Senate; and they could not stand again for election immediately after the end of their office. Usually a period of ten years was expected between consulships.


Governorship

After leaving office, the consuls were assigned by the Senate to a province to administer as governor. The provinces to which each consul was assigned were drawn by lot and determined before the end of his consulship. Transferring his consular imperium to proconsular Imperium, the consul would become a
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
and governor of one (or several) of Rome's many
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are gene ...
. As a proconsul, his imperium was limited to only a specified province and not the entire Republic. Any exercise of proconsular imperium in any other province was illegal. Also, a proconsul was not allowed to leave his province before his term was complete or before the arrival of his successor. Exceptions were given only on special permission of the Senate. Most terms as governor lasted between one and five years.


Appointment of the dictator

In times of crisis, when Rome's territory was in immediate danger, a
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
was appointed by the consuls for a period of no more than six months, after the proposition of the Senate. While the dictator held office, the imperium of the consuls was subordinate to the dictator.


Imperial duties

After
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
became the first
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
in 27 BC with the establishment of the
principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republ ...
, the consuls lost most of their powers and responsibilities under the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. Though still officially the highest office of the state, with the emperor's superior imperium they were merely a symbol of Rome's republican heritage. One of the two consular positions was often occupied by emperors themselves and eventually became reserved solely for the Emperor. However, the imperial consuls still maintained the right to preside at meetings of the Senate, exercising this right at the pleasure of the Emperor. They partially administered justice in extraordinary cases, and presented games in the
Circus Maximus The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus"; Italian language, Italian: ''Circo Massimo'') is an ancient Rome, ancient Roman chariot racing, chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventin ...

Circus Maximus
and all public solemnities in honor of the Emperor at their own expense. After the expiration of their offices, the ex-consuls usually went on to govern one of the provinces that were administered by the Senate. They usually served proconsular terms of three to five years.


Consular dating

Roman dates were customarily kept according to the names of the two consuls who took office that year, much like a
regnal year A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Rom ...
in a monarchy. For instance, the year 59 BC in the modern calendar was called by the Romans "the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus", since the two colleagues in the consulship were
Gaius Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in Crisis of the Roman Republic, the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Rom ...

Gaius Julius Caesar
and
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus (c. 102 – 48 BC) was a politician of the Roman Republic. He was a plodding conservative and upholder of the established social order who served in several magisterial positions alongside Julius Caesar Gaius Julius ...
— although Caesar dominated the consulship so thoroughly that year that it was jokingly referred to as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar". The date the consuls took office varied: from 222 BC to 153 BC they took office 15 March, and due to the
Second Celtiberian War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict=2nd Celtiberian War , partof=the Celtiberian Wars , date= 154 to 152 BC , place= Hispania Hispania ( ; ) was the Ancient Rome, Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula and its provinces. Under the Roman Repub ...
, from 153 BC onwards the consuls took office on 1 January. The practice of dating years ''
ab urbe condita 300px, Antoninianus of Pacatianus, Roman usurper, usurper of Roman emperor Philip the Arab, Philip in 248. It reads ''ROMAE AETERANMIL ESIMOET PRIMO'', 'To eternal Rome, in its one thousand and first year.' ''Ab urbe condita'' ( ...
'' (from the supposed foundation date of Rome) was less frequently used. In Latin, the
ablative absolute Latin syntax is the part of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...
construction is frequently used to express the date, such as "''M. Messalla et M. Pupio Pisone consulibus''", translated literally as " Marcus Messalla and Marcus Pupius Piso being the consuls", which appears in Caesar's ''
De Bello Gallico ''Commentarii de Bello Gallico'' (; en, Commentaries on the Gallic War, italic=yes), also ''Bellum Gallicum'' ( en, Gallic War, italic=yes), is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caes ...
''. Consular Dating Key # 509–479 BC: 1 September–29 August (August had only 29 days in Ancient Rome) # 478–451 BC: 1 August–31 July # 449–403 BC: 13 December–12 December # 402–393 BC: 1 October–29 September (September had 29 days) # 392–329 BC: 1 July–29 June (29 days) # 222–154 BC: 15 March–14 March # 153–46 BC: 1 January–29 December (29 days)


Epigraphy

The word ''consul'' is abbreviated as ''COS.'' The disappearance of the N is explained by the fact that in Classical Latin an N before a fricative is pronounced as a nasalization of the previous vowel (meaning ''consul'' is pronounced /kõːsul/). Also, ''consul'' is pronounced o:sul as shown in ancient writing, "COSOL", whereas the classical spelling (consul) seems like an etymological reminder of the nasal consonant. Pierre Monteil, ''Éléments de phonétique et de morphologie du latin'', Nathan, 1970, . If a senator held the consulship twice then: ''COS'' becomes ''COS II''; thrice becomes ''COS III'', etc.


Lists of Roman consuls

For a complete list of Roman consuls, see: *
List of Roman consuls This is a list of Roman consul, consuls known to have held office, from the beginning of the Roman Republic to the latest use of the title in Roman Empire, Imperial times, together with those magistrates of the Republic who were appointed in plac ...
*
List of undated Roman consuls This is a list of Roman consul A consul held the highest elected political office The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, ...
* List of consuls designate


See also

* *


References


Bibliography

* ** * {{DEFAULTSORT:Roman Consul Ancient Roman titles