This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2021))
Advisory and deliberative
|Curia Julia, Rome|
Politics of ancient Rome
|Senatus consultum ultimum|
|Titles and honours|
The Roman Senate (
During the days of the Roman Kingdom, most of the time the Senate was little more than an advisory council to the king, but it also elected new Roman kings. The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown following a coup d'état led by Lucius Junius Brutus, who founded the Roman Republic.
During the early Republic, the Senate was politically weak, while the various executive magistrates were quite powerful. Since the transition from monarchy to constitutional rule was most likely gradual, it took several generations before the Senate was able to assert itself over the executive magistrates. By the middle Republic, the Senate had reached the apex of its republican power. The late Republic saw a decline in the Senate's power, which began following the reforms of the
After the transition of the Republic into the
Senate of the Roman Kingdom
The senate was a political institution in the ancient
The early Roman family was called a gens or "clan",
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,
The senate of the
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 king, Servius Tullius, was elected by the senate alone, and not by the people.
The senate's most significant task, outside 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. Only the king could make new laws, although he often involved both the senate and the curiate assembly (the popular assembly) in the process.
Senate of the Roman Republic
When the Republic began, the Senate functioned as an advisory council. It consisted of 300–500 senators who served for life. Only patricians were members in the early period, but plebeians were also admitted before long, although they were denied the senior magistracies for a longer period.
Senators were entitled to wear a toga with a broad purple stripe, maroon shoes, and an iron (later gold) ring.
The Senate of the Roman Republic passed decrees called senatus consulta, which in form constituted "advice" from the senate to a magistrate. While these decrees did not hold legal force, they usually were obeyed in practice.
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 on precedent and not in law. A senatus consultum, however, could serve to interpret a law.
Through these decrees, the senate directed the
Since the 3rd century BC the senate also played a pivotal role in cases of emergency. It could call for the appointment of a
While senate meetings could take place either inside or outside the formal boundary of the city (the
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 membership was controlled by the
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 powers.
The first emperor,
If an individual was not of senatorial rank, there were two ways for him to become a senator. Under the first method, the emperor manually 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 by the 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 Tiberius transferred all electoral powers from the assemblies to the senate, and, while theoretically the senate elected new magistrates, the approval of the emperor was always needed before an election could be finalized.
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 repository 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 western 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 Constantius II) to the senatorial curia.
According to the
Senate in the West
The peaceful coexistence of senatorial and barbarian rule continued until the Ostrogothic leader Theodahad found himself at war with Emperor Justinian I and took the senators as hostages. Several senators were executed in 552 as revenge for the death of the Ostrogothic king, Totila. After Rome was recaptured by the imperial (Byzantine) army, the senate was restored, but the institution (like classical Rome itself) had been mortally weakened by the long war. Many senators had been killed and many of those who had fled to the east chose to remain there, thanks to favorable legislation passed by Emperor Justinian, who, however, abolished virtually all senatorial offices in Italy. The importance of the Roman senate thus declined rapidly.
In 578 and again in 580, the senate sent envoys to Constantinople. They delivered 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) of
It is not known exactly when the Roman senate disappeared in the West, but it appears to have been in the early 7th century. It is last attested in 603, when the Gregorian register records that it acclaimed new statues of Emperor Phocas and Empress Leontia, and in 630 the Curia Julia was converted into a church (Sant'Adriano al Foro) by Pope Honorius I, which suggests that the Senate had ceased to meet there some time previously.
The title senator did continue to be used in the Early Middle Ages (it was held by Crescentius the Younger (d.998) and in its feminine form senatrix by Marozia (d.937), to give two prominent examples) but in this period it appears to have been regarded as a title of nobility and no longer indicated membership of an organized governing body.
In 1144, the
Most sources state that there were 56 senators in the revived senate, and modern historians have therefore interpreted this to indicate that there were four senators for each of the fourteen regiones of Rome. 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 the term consul had been deprecated as a noble styling.
The Commune came under constant pressure from the papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor during the second half of the twelfth century. From 1192 onwards the popes succeeded in reducing the 56-strong senate down to a single individual, styled Summus Senator, who subsequently became the head of the civil government of Rome under the pope's aegis. Between 1191 and 1193, this was a certain Benedetto called Carus homo or carissimo.
Senate in the East
The senate continued to exist in Constantinople, although it evolved into an institution that differed in some fundamental forms from its predecessor. Designated in Greek as synkletos, or assembly, the Senate of Constantinople was made up of all current or former holders of senior ranks and official positions, plus their descendants. At its height during the 6th and 7th centuries, the Senate represented the collective wealth and power of the Empire, on occasion nominating and dominating individual emperors.
In the second half of the 10th century a new office,
- Acta Senatus
- Comitia curiata
- Cursus honorum
- Master of the Horse
- Pontifex Maximus
- Princeps senatus
- Roman Law
- Plebeian Council
- ^ Title Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 Encyclopedia Americana Publisher Americana Corporation, 1965 Original from the University of Michigan Page: 223 URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=nM1LAAAAMAAJ&q=%22roman+senate%22+%22not+legislative%22&dq=%22roman+senate%22+%22not+legislative%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjwzor8qNr4AhVKi_0HHUinAwcQ6AF6BAgIEAI
- ^ Abbott, 3
- ^ a b Abbott, 1
- ^ Abbott, 12
- ^ a b c d Abbott, 6
- ^ Abbott, 16
- ^ a b Byrd, 42
- Ab urbe condita, 1:8
- Ab urbe condita, 1:35
- Ab urbe condita, 2.1
- ^ a b c Abbott, 10
- ^ a b Abbott, 17
- ^ a b Abbott, 14
- ^ Byrd, 20
- Ab urbe condita, 1.41
- ^ 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, 59, 60
- ^ Abbott, 382
- ^ a b c d Abbott, 385
- ^ a b Abbott, 383
- ^ Abbott, 384
- ^ a b Abbott, 386
- ^ Levillain, 907
- ^ Schnurer, 339
- ^ Bronwen, 3. "For since the Senate has failed, the people have perished, and the sufferings and groans of the few who remain are multiplied each day. Rome, now empty, is burning!"
- ^ Cooper, 23
- ^ Richards, 246
- ^ Levillain 1047
- ^ Kaegi, 196
- ^ Runciman, 60.
- ^ Phillips, 222–226.
- Cicero, Marcus Tullius De Re Publica, Book Two
- 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.
- Ab urbe condita
- Polybius (1823). The General History of Polybius: Translated from the Greek. By James Hampton. Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter. Fifth Edition, Vol 2.
- Polybius, Rome at the End of the Punic Wars: An Analysis of the Roman Government
- Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. Elibron Classics, ISBN 0-543-92749-0.
- Brewer, E. Cobham; Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898).
- Byrd, Robert (1995). The Senate of the Roman Republic. U.S. Government Printing Office, Senate Document 103–23.
- Cooper, Kate; ISBN 978-1-139-46838-1.
- Hooke, Nathaniel; The Roman History, from the Building of Rome to the Ruin of the Commonwealth, F. Rivington (Rome). Original in New York Public Library
- Kaegi, Walter Emil (2003). Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-521-81459-1.
- Levillain, Philippe (2002). The Papacy: Gaius-Proxies. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-92230-2.
- ISBN 0-19-926108-3).
- Metz, David (2008). Daily Life of the Ancient Romans. pp. 59 & 60. ISBN 978-0-87220-957-2.
- Neil, Bronwen; Matthew J. Dal Santo (2013). A Companion to Gregory the Great. Brill. p. 3. ISBN 978-90-04-25776-4.
- Phillips, Jonathan (2004). The Fourth Crusade and the Siege of Constantinople. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101127728.
- Richards, Jeffrey (1979). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages, 476–752. ISBN 978-0710000989.
- Runciman, Steven (1956). Byzantine Civilisation. Meridian.
- Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). Roman Voting Assemblies: From the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar. The University of Michigan Press (ISBN 0-472-08125-X).
- Schnurer, Gustov (1956). Church And Culture in the Middle Ages 350–814. Kessinger Publishing (ISBN 978-1-4254-2322-3).
- Wood, Reverend James, The Nuttall Encyclopædia (1907) – a work now in public domain.
- Cameron, A. The Later Roman Empire, (Fontana Press, 1993).
- Crawford, M. The Roman Republic, (Fontana Press, 1978).
- Eck, Werner. Monument und Inschrift. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur senatorischen Repräsentation in der Kaiserzeit (Berlin/New York: W. de Gruyter, 2010).
- Gruen, Erich, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (U California Press, 1974).
- Hoеlkeskamp, Karl-Joachim, Senatus populusque Romanus. Die politische Kultur der Republik – Dimensionen und Deutungen (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004).
- 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.
- Krieckhaus, Andreas, Senatorische Familien und ihre patriae (1./2. Jahrhundert n. Chr.) (Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovac, 2006) (Studien zur Geschichtesforschung des Altertums, 14).
- Millar, Fergus, The Emperor in the Roman World, (London, Duckworth, 1977, 1992).
- Mommsen, Theodor. Roman Constitutional Law. 1871–1888
- Talbert, Richard A. The Senate of Imperial Rome (Princeton, Princeton Univerversity Press, 1984).
- Tighe, Ambrose. The Development of the Roman Constitution. D. Apple & Co. 1886.
- Von Fritz, Kurt. The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity. Columbia University Press, New York. 1975.