Roman Senators

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Senators
The purpose of the Roman Senate was to be the perpetual council of the republic, and at first consisted only of one hundred Senators chosen from the Patricians. They were called Patres, either on account of their age or the paternal care they had of the state. The word senate derives from the Latin word senex, which means "old man".

Therefore, senate literally means "board of old men." The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Senators.

Clothing of the Roman Senators
The clothing worn by Senators was distinguished by an oblong stripe of purple sewed on the forepart of their Senatorial gown, and black buskins, or high boots, reaching to the middle of the leg, with the letter C in silver on the top of the foot.

Privileges of the Roman Senators
The chief privilege of the Senators was their having a particular place at the public spectacles, called the orchestra. It was next the stage in the theatre, or next to the arena or open space in the amphitheatre at the Roman Colosseum.

Selection of Roman Senators
The people who would act as Senators were first chosen into the Senate by the kings, and after their expulsion, by the consuls and by the military tribunes and from 310BC by the censors. At first the Senators were chosen only from the Patricians, but eventually from the Plebeians, chiefly from the Equites.

Roman Senate - Qualification of Senators
To qualify for the role of Senator the person had to meet certain criteria:

  • Senatorshad to be rich - with an an estate worth 400, or after Augustus, 1200 sestertia
  • No person could become a Senator unless they had already served in some form of some magistracy in the Commonwealth
  • No person under the age of 30 years could become a Senator

The Forum
The forum was the center of Roman political life and the curia (senate house) was part of it. More specifically, in the forum was the comitium, an area where the Senators met. It was originally a rectangular space aligned with the cardinal points (North, South, East and West).

Roman Senators who neglected their Duty
If a Senator refused or neglected to attend, he was punished by a fine, and by seizing his goods, unless he had a just excuse. The fine was imposed by him who held the Senate, and pledges were taken till it was paid, but after 60 years of age, Senators might attend or not, as they pleased.

Religious Ceremony of the Roman Senator
The magistrate who was to preside over the Senate offered a sacrifice, and took the auspices before he entered the Senate house. If they were not favorable, or not rightly taken, the business was deferred to another day. The Emperor Augustus ordered that each Senator, before he took his seat, should pay his devotions with an offering of frankincense and wine, at the altar of that god in whose temple the Senate were assembled, that they might discharge their duty the more religiously.

In the Senate
The Roman Senators delivered their opinions standing; but when they only accepted the opinion of another they continued sitting. It was not lawful for the consuls to interrupt those who spoke. The Roman Senators usually addressed the house by the title of “patres conscripti:” sometimes to the consul, or person who presided, sometimes to both.

Power of the Roman Senator
The decrees of the Roman Senate had not properly the force of the law but they were always understood to be binding and were therefore obeyed by all orders. Decrees could be annulled or cancelled only by the Roman Senate itself. The power of the Roman Senators emcompassed the following areas:

  • Religion
    The Senators assumed the guardianship of the public religion; so that no new god could be introduced, nor altar erected, nor the Sybiline books consulted without their order.

  • Finances
    The Roman Senators had the direction of the treasury, and distributed the public money at their pleasure. The Roman Senators appointed the salary or allowance to their generals and officers, and provisions and clothing to the armies.

  • New Appointments
    The Roman Senators settled the provinces which were annually assigned to the consuls and praetors, and when it seemed fit, they prolonged their command. The Roman Senators  nominated all ambassadors sent from Rome, and gave to foreign ambassadors what answers they thought proper.

  • Honors and Enemies
    The Roman Senators decreed all public thanksgivings for victories obtained, and conferred the honor of an ovation or triumph with the title of imperator on their victorious generals. The Roman Senators could decree the title of king to any prince whom they pleased, and declare any one an enemy by a vote.

  • Crime and Punishment
    The Senators inquired into all public crimes or treasons, either in Rome or other parts of Italy; and adjusted all disputes among the allied and dependent cities. The Roman Senators exercised a power not only of interpreting the laws, but of absolving men from the obligation of them. They could postpone the assemblies of the people, and give orders in cases of any imminent danger or calamity. In instances of civil dissension or dangerous tumults within the city absolute power was granted to Senators  to punish and put to death whom they pleased without a trial; to raise forces and carry on war, without the order of the people.

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