Senatus (The Senate)

The Senate functions as an advisory council for the Roman Republic. It consists of 300–500 Senators, who are patricians and serve for life. Before long, plebeians were also admitted, although they were denied the senior magistracies for a longer period.

Senators pass decrees which in form constitute "advice" from the Senate to a magistrate. While these decrees do not hold legal force, they usually are obeyed in practice. Through these decrees, the Senate directs the magistrates, especially the Roman consuls (the chief magistrates) in their prosecution of military conflicts.

The Senate also has an enormous degree of power over the civil government in Rome. This is especially the case with regard to its management of state finances, as only it can authorize the disbursal of public funds from the treasury. The Senate also supervises the administration of the provinces, which are governed by former consuls and praetors, in that it decides which magistrate should govern which province.

The Senate also plays a pivotal role in cases of emergency. It can call for the appointment of a dictator (a right resting with each consul with or without the senate's involvement).

While Senate meetings can take place either inside or outside of the formal boundary of the city (the pomerium), no meeting can take place more than a mile outside of it. The Senate operates under various religious restrictions. For example, before any meeting can begin, a sacrifice to the gods is made, and a search for divine omens (the auspices) is taken. The Senate is only allowed to assemble in places dedicated to the gods.

Senate membership is controlled by the censors. By the time of Gaius Marius, ownership of property worth at least one million sesterces was required for membership. The ethical requirements of senators are significant. In contrast to members of the Equestrian order, senators cannot engage in banking or any form of public contract. They cannot own a ship large enough to participate in foreign commerce, they cannot leave Italy without permission from the Senate, and they are not paid a salary. Election to magisterial office results in automatic Senate membership.


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Senatus (The Senate)

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