The ROMAN SENATE (
During the days of the kingdom, it was little more than an advisory
council to the king. The last king of
During the early Republic, the
After the transition of the Republic into the
Principate , the Senate
lost much of its political power as well as its prestige. Following
the constitutional reforms of the Emperor
Diocletian , the Senate
became politically irrelevant, and never regained the power that it
had once held. When the seat of government was transferred out of
After the Western
* 4.1 Relationships with
* 7 Further reading
* 7.1 Primary sources * 7.2 Secondary source material
* 8 References
SENATE OF THE ROMAN KINGDOM
The senate was a political institution in the ancient Roman kingdom .
The word _senate _ derives from the
The early Roman family was called a _gens_ or "clan", and each clan
was an aggregation of families under a common living male patriarch,
called a _pater _ (the
The senate is said to have been created by Rome's first king, Romulus , initially consisting of 100 men. The descendants of those 100 men subsequently became the patrician class. Rome's fifth king, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus , chose a further 100 senators. They were chosen from the minor leading families, and were accordingly called the _patres minorum gentium_.
Rome's seventh and final king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus , executed many of the leading men in the senate, and did not replace them, thereby diminishing their number. However, in 509 BC Rome's first consuls , Lucius Junius Brutus and Publius Valerius Publicola chose from amongst the leading equites new men for the senate, these being called _conscripti_, and thus increased the size of the senate to 300.
The senate of the Roman kingdom held three principal
responsibilities: It functioned as the ultimate repository for the
executive power, it served as the king's council, and it functioned
as a legislative body in concert with the people of
The period between the death of one king, and the election of a new
king, was called the _interregnum _, during which time the Interrex
nominated a candidate to replace the king. After the senate gave its
initial approval to the nominee, he was then formally elected by the
people, and then received the senate's final approval. At least one
The senate's most significant task, outside of regal elections, was to function as the king's council, and while the king could ignore any advice it offered, its growing prestige helped make the advice that it offered increasingly difficult to ignore. Technically, the senate could also make new laws, although it would be incorrect to view the senate's decrees as "legislation" in the modern sense. Only the king could decree new laws, although he often involved both the senate and the curiate assembly (the popular assembly) in the process.
SENATE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC
Main articles: Constitution of the
When the Republic began, the
Senators were entitled to wear a toga with a broad purple stripe, maroon shoes, and an iron (later gold) ring.
If a _senatus consultum_ conflicted with a law (_lex_) that was passed by an assembly , the law overrode the _senatus consultum_ because the _senatus consultum_ had its authority based in precedent and not in law. A _senatus consultum_, however, could serve to interpret a law.
Through these decrees, the senate directed the magistrates,
especially the Roman consuls (the chief magistrates) in their
prosecution of military conflicts. The senate also had an enormous
degree of power over the civil government in Rome. This was especially
the case with regard to its management of state finances, as only it
could authorize the disbursal of public funds from the treasury. As
Since the 3rd century the senate also played a pivotal role in cases of emergency. It could call for the appointment of a dictator (a right resting with each consul with or without the senate's involvement). However, after 202, the office of dictator fell out of use (and was revived only two more times) and was replaced with the _senatus consultum ultimum _ ("ultimate decree of the senate"), a senatorial decree which authorised the consuls to employ any means necessary to solve the crisis.
While senate meetings could take place either inside or outside of the formal boundary of the city (the _pomerium _), no meeting could take place more than a mile outside of it. The senate operated while under various religious restrictions. For example, before any meeting could begin, a sacrifice to the gods was made, and a search for divine omens (the _auspices _) was taken. The senate was only allowed to assemble in places dedicated to the gods.
Meetings usually began at dawn, and a magistrate who wished to summon the senate had to issue a compulsory order. The senate meetings were public and directed by a presiding magistrate (usually a consul ). While in session, the senate had the power to act on its own, and even against the will of the presiding magistrate if it wished. The presiding magistrate began each meeting with a speech, then referred an issue to the senators, who would discuss it in order of seniority.
Senators had several other ways in which they could influence (or frustrate) a presiding magistrate. For example, every senator was permitted to speak before a vote could be held, and since all meetings had to end by nightfall, a dedicated group or even a single senator could talk a proposal to death (a filibuster or _diem consumere_). When it was time to call a vote, the presiding magistrate could bring up whatever proposals he wished, and every vote was between a proposal and its negative.
With a dictator as well as a senate, the senate could veto any of the dictator's decisions. At any point before a motion passed, the proposed motion could be vetoed , usually by a tribune . If there was no veto, and the matter was of minor importance, it could be put to either a voice vote or a show of hands. If there was no veto and no obvious majority, and the matter was of a significant nature, there was usually a physical division of the house, with senators voting by taking a place on either side of the chamber.
SENATE OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
After the fall of the
During the reigns of the first emperors, legislative, judicial, and
electoral powers were all transferred from the
Roman assemblies to the
senate. However, since the emperor held control over the senate, the
senate acted as a vehicle through which he exercised his autocratic
Curia Julia in the
The first emperor, Augustus , reduced the size of the senate from 900 members to 600, even though there were only about 100 to 200 active senators at one time. After this point, the size of the senate was never again drastically altered. Under the empire, as was the case during the late republic, one could become a senator by being elected _quaestor _ (a magistrate with financial duties), but only if one was of senatorial rank. In addition to quaestors, elected officials holding a range of senior positions were routinely granted senatorial rank by virtue of the offices that they held.
If an individual was not of senatorial rank, there were two ways for him to become a senator. Under the first method, the emperor granted that individual the authority to stand for election to the quaestorship, while under the second method, the emperor appointed that individual to the senate by issuing a decree. Under the empire, the power that the emperor held over the senate was absolute.
The two consuls were a part of the senate, but had more power than the senators. During senate meetings, the emperor sat between the two consuls, and usually acted as the presiding officer. Senators of the early empire could ask extraneous questions or request that a certain action be taken by the senate. Higher ranking senators spoke before those of lower rank, although the emperor could speak at any time.
Besides the emperor, consuls and praetors could also preside over the senate. Since no senator could stand for election to a magisterial office without the emperor's approval, senators usually did not vote against bills that had been presented by the emperor. If a senator disapproved of a bill, he usually showed his disapproval by not attending the senate meeting on the day that the bill was to be voted on.
While the Roman assemblies continued to meet after the founding of the empire, their powers were all transferred to the senate, and so senatorial decrees (_senatus consulta_) acquired the full force of law. The legislative powers of the imperial senate were principally of a financial and an administrative nature, although the senate did retain a range of powers over the provinces.
During the early Roman Empire, all judicial powers that had been held
Roman assemblies were also transferred to the senate. For
example, the senate now held jurisdiction over criminal trials. In
these cases, a consul presided, the senators constituted the jury, and
the verdict was handed down in the form of a decree (_senatus
consultum_), and, while a verdict could not be appealed, the emperor
could pardon a convicted individual through a veto. The emperor
Around 300 AD, the emperor Diocletian enacted a series of constitutional reforms. In one such reform, he asserted the right of the emperor to take power without the theoretical consent of the senate, thus depriving the senate of its status as the ultimate depository of supreme power. Diocletian's reforms also ended whatever illusion had remained that the senate had independent legislative, judicial, or electoral powers. The senate did, however, retain its legislative powers over public games in Rome, and over the senatorial order.
The senate also retained the power to try treason cases, and to elect
some magistrates, but only with the permission of the emperor. In the
final years of the empire, the senate would sometimes try to appoint
their own emperor, such as in the case of
Eugenius , who was later
defeated by forces loyal to
Theodosius I . The senate remained the
last stronghold of the traditional Roman religion in the face of the
spreading Christianity, and several times attempted to facilitate the
return of the
Altar of Victory (first removed by
POST-IMPERIAL SENATE IN ROME
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After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the senate continued to
function under the barbarian chieftain
Odoacer , and then under
Ostrogothic rule. The authority of the senate rose considerably under
barbarian leaders, who sought to protect the institution. This period
was characterized by the rise of prominent Roman senatorial families,
such as the
The peaceful coexistence of senatorial and barbarian rule continued
Theodahad found himself at war with
Justinian I and took the senators as hostages. Several
senators were executed in 552 as revenge for the death of the
Totila . After
RELATIONSHIPS WITH CONSTANTINOPLE
In 578 and again in 580, the senate sent envoys to Constantinople.
They delivered 3000 pounds (believed to be around 960 kg) of gold as a
gift to the new emperor,
It is not clearly known when the Roman senate disappeared in the West, but it is known from the Gregorian register that the senate acclaimed new statues of Emperor Phocas and Empress Leontia in 603, and that was also the last time the senate was mentioned In 630, the house of the Senate, Curia Julia , was transformed into a church by Pope Honorius I , probably with the permission of the Emperor Heraclius .
In later medieval times, the title "senator" was still in occasional use, but it had become a meaningless adjunct title of nobility and no longer implied membership in an organized governing body.
In 1144, the Commune of Rome attempted to establish a government modeled on the old Roman republic in opposition to the temporal power of the higher nobles and the pope . This included setting up a senate along the lines of the ancient one. The revolutionaries divided Rome into fourteen _regions _, each electing four senators for a total of 56 (although one source, often repeated, gives a total of 50). These senators, the first real senators since the 7th century, elected as their leader Giordano Pierleoni , son of the Roman consul Pier Leoni , with the title patrician , since _consul _ was also a deprecated noble styling.
This renovated form of government was constantly embattled. By the end of the 12th century, it had undergone a radical transformation, with the reduction of the number of senators to a single one - _Summus Senator _ - being thereafter the title of the head of the civil government of Rome. In modern terms, for example, this is comparable to the reduction of a board of commissioners to a single commissioner, such as the political head of the police department of New York City . Between 1191 and 1193, this was a certain Benedetto called _Carus homo_ or _carissimo_.
SENATE OF THE EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE
Main article: Byzantine Senate
The senate continued to exist in
In the second half of the 10th century a new office, _proëdrus _
(Greek : πρόεδρος), was created as head of the senate by
Phocas . Up to the mid-11th century, only eunuchs
could become proëdrus, but later this restriction was lifted and
several proëdri could be appointed, of which the senior proëdrus, or
_protoproëdrus_ (Greek : πρωτοπρόεδρος), served as the
head of the senate. There were two types of meetings practised:
_silentium_, in which only magistrates currently in office
participated and _conventus_, in which all syncletics (Greek :
συγκλητικοί, senators) could participate. The
* comitia curiata
* Ihne, Wilhelm . _Researches Into the History of the Roman
Constitution_. William Pickering. 1853.
* Johnston, Harold Whetstone. _Orations and Letters of Cicero: With
Historical Introduction, An Outline of the Roman Constitution, Notes,
Vocabulary and Index_. Scott, Foresman and Company. 1891.
* Mommsen, Theodor . _Roman Constitutional Law_. 1871–1888
* Tighe, Ambrose. _The Development of the Roman Constitution_. D.
Apple by Polybius
Livy , _Ab urbe condita _
* Lintott, Andrew (1999). _The Constitution of the Roman Republic_.
Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-926108-3 ).
* Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1841). _The Political Works of Marcus
Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his
Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations
and Notes in Two Volumes_. By Francis Barham, Esq. London: Edmund
Spettigue. Vol. 1.
SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIAL
* Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and
their Decline, by Montesquieu
* ^ Abbott, 3
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 1
* ^ Abbott, 12
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Abbott, 6
* ^ Abbott, 16
* ^ _A_ _B_ Byrd, 42
Livy , _Ab urbe condita _, 1:8
Livy , _Ab urbe condita _, 1:35
Livy , _Ab urbe condita _, 2.1
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Abbott, 10
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 17
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 14
* ^ Byrd, 20
Livy , _Ab urbe condita _, 1.41
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ McCullough, 1026
* ^ _A_ _B_ Byrd, 44
* ^ Abbott, 233
* ^ Abbott, 240
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Byrd, 34
* ^ Lintott, 72
* ^ Lintott, 75
* ^ _A_ _B_ Lintott, 78
* ^ Lintott, 83
* ^ Byrd, 36
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 381
* ^ Metz, David. _Daily Life of the Ancient Romans_. pp. 59 & 60.
ISBN 978-0-87220-957-2 .
* ^ Abbott, 382
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Abbott, 385
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 383
* ^ Abbott, 384
* ^ _A_ _B_ Abbott, 386
* ^ Levillain, Philippe (2002). _The Papacy: Gaius-Proxies_.
Psychology Press. p. 907. ISBN 978-0-415-92230-2 .
* ^ Schnurer, 339
* ^ Bronwen Neil; Matthew J. Dal Santo (9 September 2013). _A
Companion to Gregory the Great_. BRILL. p. 3. ISBN 978-90-04-25776-4 .
(translated from the original Latin) _For since the
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