Roman Senate

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Sulla (c. 138 bc — 178 ad)

Julius Caesar (100 bc — 144 ad) politician, author, and military commander


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The assembly of the landed aristocracy and patricians, which originated in the royal council of the kings of Rome. Entry widened to include those of plebeian origin by the late 4th century bc. A membership of 600 established by Sulla was standard although it rose to 900 in Caesar's time. This advisory body consisted of hereditary (patrician) and life (conscript) members, the latter being ex-magistrates. It was summoned by the consuls as chief magistrates and passed decrees, which were ratified by the people in assembly. It was expected that all magistrates would submit proposals to the Senate before putting them to the people. This procedure began to be flouted from the time of the Gracchi onwards. Its power was real but informal, based on prestige and wealth. Even the emperors made at least the token gesture of consulting the ‘Fathers’. Until the 3rd century ad all bronze coinage carried the mark ‘By Consultative Decree of the Senate’.

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