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Form: senatus, from senex, an old man.
The Roman State council, consisting in the earliest times of one hundred members, but before the expulsion of the Tarquins increased to three hundred, which for a long time remained its normal number. Originally none but patricians (patres) were eligible for membership; but (if tradition may be trusted) in the time of the last kings, plebeians, especially those of equestrian rank, were admitted, and on this account the senators were called by the collective title of patres (et) conscripti. Under the Republic the plebeians were eligible for membership from the outset, though they only acquired by degrees the right to wear the distinguishng dress. The election of senators (lectio senatus) rested during the regal period as a rule with the king and the curiae; during the Republic, at first with the consuls, afterwards with the censors, who also had power to expel unworthy members; otherwise, the office was held for life. Admission to the Senate could be claimed by the curule magistrates, who, after laying down their office, possessed the right of expressing their opinion in the Senate (ius sententiae dicendae) until the next census, at which the censors could only pass them over on stating special grounds for so doing. Next to these were considered the claims of the plebeian aediles, the tribunes, and the quaestors, who lost this right with the expiration of their office, and the most wealthy class of citizens, the knights, who, however, if they had not; yet been elected to any office, took a lower rank under the name of pedarii, and were only entitled to express their assent to the opinion of others. When the quaestors also were regularly added to the Senate, the minimum age legally qualifying for membership was fixed at twenty-eight years. In course of time a legal claim to admission was gained by the tribunes and plebeian aediles, and finally also by the quaestors, through the enactment of Sulla, who increased the Senate by the number of three hundred knights elected by the people, and conferred on the quaestors, now increased to twenty, the right of admission to the Senate immediately after the expiration of their office. Caesar raised the number of senators to 900, and under the triumvirs it even rose beyond 1,000. Augustus, however, limited it to 600, fixed the senatorial age at twenty-five, and enacted as a necessary qualification the possession of property worth at least one million sesterces (£10,000). Under the Empire a yearly list of the senators was published by the emperor. Prominent Italians and provincials gradually obtained admission, though at a later time only on condition of investing a certain part of their property in land in Italy. The first rank among the senators was taken by those who had held a curule magistracy, the last by those who had never filled any office at all. The title of princeps senatus was bestowed on the member set by the censors at the head of the list, usually an ex-censor, and always, it would appear, a patrician. His only privilege was that he was the first to be asked by the presiding officer to declare his opinion. From Augustus onwards the emperor for the time being was princeps senatus [though the title of princeps was independent of this position]. The distinguishing dress of members of the Senate was the tunica laticlavia, an under-garment with a broad purple stripe, and a peculiar kind of shoe (see CALCEUS). Among various other privileges enjoyed by senators was the right to a front seat in the theatre and at the games. Besides the senators themselves, their wives and children had several special privileges and distinctions, particularly under the Empire. The right of summoning the Senate (vocatio) was in early times held by the king; at the beginning of the Republic, only by the consuls and the extraordinary magistrates, such as interrex, dictator, and magister equitum; later, by the tribunes of the people and the praetors also; later still, only with the consent or at the command of the consuls; but, under the Empire, this restriction was removed. The emperor also had power to summon the Senate. It was convened by the voice of a herald or by the issue of a public placard; but, under the Empire, when (after the time of Augustus) meetings were regularly held on the Kalends and Ides, such notice was only given in the case of extraordinary meetings. Every senator was bound to attend, or to give reason for his absence, under penalty of a fine. Under the Empire, senators of more than sixty years of age were excused from compulsory attendance. When important business was before the Senate, no senator was allowed to go to a distance from Rome; special leave had to be obtained for a sojourn out of Italy. There was no number fixed as the quorum necessary for passing a resolution. Augustus attempted to enforce the presence of two-thirds of the members, but without success. Under the later Empire seventy, and finally only fifty, formed a quorum. Meetings of the Senate were not subject to the distinction between dies fasti and nefasti. (See FASTI.) As a rule, they could be held on any day on which the presiding magistrates were not otherwise engaged. No valid resolution could be passed before sun-rise or after sun-set. The meetings always had to be held in some place consecrated by the augurs, called a templum. Originally the meeting-place was the Vulcanal, a place consecrated to Vulcan, above the comitium in the Forum; later, after the time of Tullus Hostilius, it was the Curia (q.v.). Meetings were also held, at the choice of the magistrates that summoned them, in other consecrated places as well, in particular, the temples of the gods; they were held outside the city, in the temple of Apollo and Bellona on the Campus Martius, when business was to be conducted with magistrates who were still in possession of the military command, and consequently were not allowed to enter the city, or with foreign ambassadors whom it was not wished to admit within the walls. Meetings were usually held with open doors. Admission without special leave was allowed to magistrates' servants, and, until the second Punic War, and later also after Augustus, to senators' sons over twelve years of age. The senators sat on benches, the officials summoning the meeting on a raised platform, the consuls and pmtors on their sella curulis, and the tribunes on their special benches. Before opening the assembly the official summoning it had to sacrifice a victim and take the auspices in his own house. Augustus introduced the custom of the senators offering prayer one by one at the altar of the god in whose temple the meeting took place. In the Curia Iulia [16 in plan underFORUM] there were an altar and statue of Victory set up for this purpose. Business was opened by the summoning official, who brought before the meeting the matter to be discussed. This was called relatio. When the business of the meeting had been duly settled, it was open to the other magistrates present to bring forward fresh matters for discussion. At regular meetings under the Empire, the consuls had precedence in bringing forward business, unless it was claimed by the emperor, who could also, at an extraordinary meeting, take precedence of the magistrate who convoked it. The emperor usually caused his address to be read for him in the form of a speech by the quaestor principis. At an audience of ambassadors their speeches were heard before the business was laid before the meeting. After this followed the " questioning " (rogatio) of the senators, called on one after another by name in order of their rank and seniority. Towards the end of the Republic and under the Empire, after the consular elections the consuls-designate came first. If the emperor himself was presiding, he called first on the consuls then in office. The senators so called upon either stood up in their place and delivered their opinions in a speech, in which they were able (as sometimes happened) to touch on other matters than the one in hand; or, without rising, declared their assent to some opinion already delivered. After the different opinions had been delivered, they were collected together by the president and arranged for voting on. The voting took place by discessio, or separation into groups, the suporters of the various views taking up their position together. A bare majority decided th question. If there was any doubt, the numbers were counted. After the division the president dismissed the Senate, in order, with the aid of a committee of senators, to draw up the resolution of the Senate (senatus consultum) on the lines of the minutes of the meeting, unless an objection to it was raised by any of the officials present. The resolution was headed with the names of the consuls, followed by the date and place of meeting, the names of the proposers and of the members of the committee for drawing up the resolution; last of all followed the resolution itself, drawn up in certain fixed forms, The resolutions of the Senate were communicated to those concerned by word of Mouth or by writing. Those that related to the nation were published by the magistrates at the popular assembly, or by means of wooden (or in special cases bronze) tablets publicly displayed. Of resolutions affecting international relations two copies on bronze were prepared, one of which was hung up in the temple of Fides at Rome, the other in a temple of the other nation concerned. Resolutious of the Senate were preserved in early times in the office of the plebeian aediles, later in the Aerarium, the office of the quaestors. Under the Monarchy the power of the Senate was very limited. Its most important privilege was the power of appointing an interrex after the death of it king for the purpose of carrying on business and nominating a now king. During the Republic it soon extended its influence, as it had to be consulted, and its advice followed, by the magistrates on all important measures of administration. At length the whole government of the State came practically into its hands, and the magistrates were only the instruments for carrying out its will. Its predominance found expression in its taking the first place in the well-known formula, senatus populusque Romanus, especially as this was employed even in cases where the Senate acted without the co-operation of the people. In the time of the Gracchi the power of the Senate suffered a deadly blow, which it had to a great extent brought upon itself, In particular, it became customary to affix to resolutions of the people a stipulation that within a few days the Senate should swear allegiance to them. The last century B.C. saw the complete downfall of the Senate's authority. Augustus attempted to raise it by every means at his disposal. But in spite of important privileges conferred upon it, the Senate only possessed the semblance of power in opposition to the military force, of the emperor. Afterwards it sank to a mere shadow, when, from the time of Hadrian onwards, a special imperial council, the consilium principis, was instituted to deal with matters of paramount importance. The principal duties of the Senate consisted in (1) the supervision of religion, which it retained even under the Empire. This included the maintenance of the State religion, the introduction of foreign worships, arranging for the consultation of the Sibylline books , the establishment of new festivals, games, festivals for prayer and thanksgiving, etc. (2) The supervision of the whole of the State property and finances, and control of expenditure (e.g. the colonization and allotment of State lands, the revenues for building and the maintenance of public gardens, for the army, for games, etc.). Under the Empire the Senate had also the nominal control of the State treasury, until this was amalgamated with the imperial fiscus. (3) In reference to foreign affairs, the Senate had considerable influence over the declaration of war, the nomination of commanders, the decisions for the levy of troops and wax taxes, the provinces, rewards (such as triumphs and others), and the conclusion of peace and the ratification of treaties. Furthermore, the Senate had supreme power in all matters of diplomacy, as it appointed ambassadors, received and gave audience to foreign ambassadors, and conferred such tokens of honour as the titles of confederates and friends of the Roman people. Over the subjects of the Roman people it exercised an almost sovereign authority, particularly in reference to the assigning of provinces. Under the Empire, it retained control of the senatorial provinces alone. It was still sometimes consulted about concluding peace and ratifying treatises, and about business with foreign allies, and also had the right of conferring such honours as those of apotheosis, or of statues and triumphs. On the other hand, its influence over military matters could no longer continue side by side with the military power of the emperor. (4) In legislation it exercised considerable influence during the Republic, as it prepared legislative proposals to be brought before the people by the magistrates, and had the right of annulling laws passed by the people in the event of their being defective in point of form. Its resolutions also, by virtue of a kind of prescription, had considerable statutory authority. Under the Empire, when the legislative power of the people was entirely abolished, they had authority completely equal to that of the laws themselves. They were, however, merely formal ratifications of the will of the emperor, who in every year exacted from the Senate on January 1st an oath of allegiance to his independent enactments. On the accession of a new emperor the Senate conferred on him the imperial power by an enactment termed lex regia; this, however, was a mere formality. (5) During republican age, the Senate possessed no judicial power of its own (apart from the fact that, until the time of the Gracchi, the judges all belonged to the senatorial order); but the magistrate only acted as adviser to the judges in criminal jurisdiction, i e. in cases of treason and perjury on the part of allies and subjects, and in serious cases of poisoning and murder such as endangered the public peace. Under the Empire, the Senate-possessed formal jurisdiction in cases of breach of contract, disturbance in Italy, malpractices in office and extortion of provincial governors, and especially all cases of high treason and offences of senators. From the 2nd century onward all this jurisdiction passed over to the imperial courts. (6) During the Republic, the elections were only indirectly under the influence of the Senate, by means of the presiding officials, and also owing to their right of annulling elections on the score of mistakes in form, and, lastly, by having the appointment of the days for the elections. Under the Empire, it gained from Tiberius the right of proposing all the magistrates with the exception of the consuls; this right, however, was rendered insignificant by the fact that the candidates were recommended by the emperor. The right also of nominating the emperor, which it claimed when the occupant of the throne was removed by violence, was, owing to the practical power of the army, as illusory as its pretended right of deposition.
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