Senatum Reipublicae The Roman Republican Senate
First Points• Existed from the creation of the Republic in 509 BCE to the end of the Republic and rise of the Empire in 27 BCE• Consisted of officials appointed by either a Consul or a Censor• Predominant law-making governmental body in the Republic• When senate meetings took place within the city boundaries of Rome, they were required to take place in a building of religious significance• All senate meetings had to be held within Rome itself, or no more than a mile of its boundary (the pomerium, or limit)• Senators could not leave what is now Italy unless they received explicit permission from the Senate
Inutilis Triviae• Senators could talk as long as they wanted during debates, and since debates had to be finished before dark, it was possible to talk for hours. It was therefore possible for senators filibuster, or block legislation from passing by sustaining the debates until dark.• Senators were barred from holding public contracts (being a banker etc.) while they were active members of the assembly.
Members• Only male, free citizens of the Republic could be members of the senate.• Either patricians (descendants of the aristocracy) or plebeians (regular citizens) could be senators
Appointment• Senators were appointed by democratically- elected executive magistrates, either a consul or a censor.• Either patricians or plebeians could be appointed• After an executive magistrate’s term in office ended, he was nearly always immediately appointed to the Senate
The Roman Magistrates and the Senate– the Consul• Consul: the highest possible public office in the Roman Republic• Originally called Praetor because of their role as commander-in-chief of the army, but this title was changed to Consul (from consulere: to take counsel) in 305 BCE to accommodate the changing role of the position (from one of military command to overall command)• Two consules were elected each year, and both served alternately as presiding tribunes when the senate was in session• Originally both consules were patricians, but the Lex Licina Sextia, enacted in 367 BCE insured that at least one of the two consules elected each year was a plebeian. It was named for Gaius Licinius Stolo and Lucius Sextius Lateranus, the two plebeian consules who held office in 376 BCE, the year of the bill’s proposal.
The Roman Magistrates and the Senate– the Censor• This position was created in 318 BCE by the plebiscitum Ovinium, which was directed by the Plebeian Council (plebis concilium)• Responsible for maintaining the census (a inquiry to keep a record of the people of the Republic, those they had conquered, their social status (free or not), and their possessions, such as cattle and homes)• Highest dignity in the state, after the dictator (in the republic, the dictator was a position only appointed in times extreme crisis)
The Debates• Generally started at dawn, unless by a major event such as a festival• Had to be finished by dark• Bills were usually proposed by either a consul or a praetor. However, the senate could also pass bills that pertained to a law already passed by another arm of government• Senate meetings were called by an executive magistrate, generally a consul, who issued a compulsory summoning order to all senators (a cogere)
The Debates (continued)• Senators who failed to attend senate meetings after a cogere was issued were punished. These punishments were varied, and occasionally they constituted threats against the property of the offending senator.• After all senators had said their piece on a certain topic, they would vote. This was usually done by a show of hands, but it wasn’t uncommon for senators to vote by simply moving from one side of the building in which the meeting was being held.• Any bill that passed the senate became known as a senatus consultum: a decree of the Senate. Even though this name indicated a suggestion, magistrates such the consules usually followed these decrees exactly.
The Tribune’s Veto• The Tribune, a magistrate elected by the plebeians, generally presided over senate meetings• The tribune could veto any motion before the final vote was held. Once a bill passed, the tribune could no longer veto.
Powers of Legislation• The Senate’s rulings were based on historical precedent, much like the courts of today• The Greek historian Polybius suggested that the Senate was the preeminent branch of the Republic’s government• Controlled finances, foreign policy and administration of the Republic
Religious Elements• The 1st senate of the year was held in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, a tradition that was only broken in times of catastrophic social unrest or strife.• Before a meeting could begin, a sacrifice to the gods was made. In addition, divine omens, or auspices (auspice: chief or divine command. Also, bird-watching, which is associated with the eagle, symbol of Jupiter, king of the gods) were sought, to insure that the gods approved of the meeting.• The concept of mos maiorum, or customs of the ancestors, helped guide the Senate’s policy
Other Governmental Bodies in theRepublic• Consules: the two executive magistrates, elected by the free men of Rome, who controlled the armies of the Republic and appointed senators (until 318 BCE)• Legislative Assembly: a form of direct democracy where male citizens voted directly on policy in the Republic. Two types: - Assembly, or comitia: a gathering to supposedly represent the entire Roman people, though this was not always the case - Council, or concilium: a meeting of citizens of a certain class
Bibliography Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). A History and Description of RomanPolitical Institutions. Elibron Classics. ISBN 0-543-92749-0 Polybius (1823). The General History of Polybius: Translated from theGreek. Vol. 2 (Fifth ed.). Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter. Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). Roman Voting Assemblies: From theHannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar. The University of MichiganPress.ISBN 0-472-08125-X. Byrd, Robert (1995). The Senate of the Roman Republic. USGovernment Printing Office Senate Document 103–23. ISBN 0-16-058996-7.http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lAzDzgdgR9U/TjYTUROxjRI/AAAAAAAAa00/lEbXWdxdNP8/s1600/Roman_Senate.jpghttp://www.latin-teacher.com/xlatinIII/images/roman_republic.jpghttp://www.romanempire.net/romepage/images/PolCht/polhrcy%20chart.jpg