Roman consuls under Roman rex

Wikipedia says that the consuls were initially the king's counsels judging from the name of the office. I wonder whether it is the fact and is there any reliable evidence for consuls under reges?

It isn't that likely that the consul's name was taken from a kingly adviser, since in the initial years of the Roman Republic the name of the office was "praetor". Only later was the job renamed and praetor used for the judicial officers of the Republic.

A more likely derivation of the name consul is from con- and sal- "get together" because the two officers were supposed to come up with a policy together.


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Imperium, (Latin: “command,” “empire”), the supreme executive power in the Roman state, involving both military and judicial authority. It was exercised first by the kings of Rome under the republic (c. 509 bc –27 bc ) it was held by the chief magistrates (consuls, dictators, praetors, military tribunes with consular power, and masters of the cavalry) and private citizens entrusted with a special command. In the later republic, proconsuls, propraetors, second members of certain commissions also possessed the imperium. Restrictions on its use were instituted from the inception of the republic. The principle of collegiality provided that each of the magistrates of the same level (e.g., the two consuls) who held it should hold it to the same degree. Down to the 2nd century bc , a series of laws was passed requiring trials for Roman citizens in capital cases, and also the right of appeal to the people (jus provocandi ad populum). The same rights were conventionally extended to Roman citizens in the military or other official service outside Rome. Magistrates were required to exercise imperium within the limits of their office (provincia). Imperium was officially conferred by the Comitia Curiata (a popular assembly) for one year or until the official completed his commission. Only in the last years of the republic was the imperium granted for specific terms beyond one year.

Caesar’s opponent Pompey was the first to receive such a commission, specifically for three years by the Lex Gabinia (67 bc ). Octavian obtained the imperium as holder of various offices under the republic before he became the first emperor, under the name of Augustus, in 27 bc . From then on he was granted imperium for 10- or 5-year periods by the Senate throughout his tenure of office. The Senate thereafter voted the imperium to each succeeding emperor upon his accession. Some emperors, such as Augustus, had it voted to their chosen successor. Under the empire the title imperator (emperor), which had been used by victorious Roman generals under the republic, was reserved as an exclusive title for the head of state. The emperors received their first acclamation as emperor at their accession and thereafter each time a Roman general won a victory. Imperium was sometimes given to others in cases of special military commands, such as that of Germanicus in ad 17. When it was granted with no special duties, as in the case of Tiberius in ad 13, it implied that the recipient was an appropriate successor to the princeps, the unofficial title used by Augustus and subsequent emperors. With the expansion of Roman power during and after the reign of Augustus, imperium took on the meaning of “empire.”

Roman consuls under Roman rex - History

After Tarquinius Superbus was thrown out of Rome in 509 BC, a king was not welcome. Now the Romans had to create a new form of government. That form of government is known as a republic, which means "public good." In a republic, people elect representatives to make decisions for them. The United States of America has a republic.

The ancient Roman republic had three branches of government. In the beginning, the legislative branch was the Senate, a group made up of 300 citizens from Rome's patrician class, the oldest and wealthiest families of Rome. It was the patricians, tired of obeying the king, who revolted and threw out Tarquinius Superbus. The Senate was the most powerful branch of the Roman republic, and senators held the position for life. The executive branch was made up of two consuls, elected yearly. These two consuls had almost kingly powers, and each could veto, or disapprove of the other's decision. It is quite possible that the idea of two consuls came from Sparta with its two kings. Praetors were part of the judicial branch, they were elected yearly by the people of Rome, and acted as judges.

In the beginning of the Roman republic, all officials came from the patrician, or wealthy class, this led to the plebeians, Rome's poor and middle class feeling left out. Who would care for the concerns of the plebeians? In 494 BC, an event occurred known as the "Struggle of the Orders." Most of the Roman army was made up of soldiers who came from the lower, plebeian class. The plebeians complained that they were serving as soldiers, but had very little say in the government. The plebeians refused to fight, and left to city to start their own settlement. It didn't take the patricians, Rome's wealthy, too long realize they needed the plebeians. Reforms in government followed. Tribunes were added to the legislative branch of government. Tribunes were elected yearly, and represented the concerns of the plebeians. In 451 BC, the plebeians pressured the senate to write down the laws of Rome, the result was the Twelve Tables, twelve stone tablets with written laws that were posted in the forum, or marketplace of Rome for all to see. Before the Twelve Tables, the patricians could change the laws at any time to their benefit. And then in 376 BC, the Licinian Law said that one consul must be elected from the plebeian class.

One of the disadvantages of a republic is that many officials are involved in decision-making. This can be troublesome when, at times, swift action is necessary. The Romans were prepared for this by granting one man total power in Rome in a time of crisis, called a dictator. The term of dictator was six-months. The dictator could make decisions on his own, without consulting the Senate. One early dictator of Rome was Cincinnatus. Cincinnatus was asked to be dictator in 458 BC, when Rome had an enemy army approaching. Cincinnatus was once a consul, but had retired to his farm in the country. Cincinnatus accepted the role of dictator, he led an army and defeated the foe, then he stepped down as dictator after only sixteen days. Cincinnatus could have gone the whole term of six months, which would have brought him great power, but Cincinnatus felt that the crisis was over, and he preferred to go back to his farming. Not all dictators of Rome would be as humble as Cincinnatus.

The Gauls, as the Romans called them, where a group of people living in what is now modern-day France. The Gauls, or Celts, were considered barbarians by the Romans because the Gauls lived in villages rather than building cities, and could not read or write. However, the Gauls were excellent craftsmen and courageous warriors. The Romans feared the Gauls. For whatever reason, in 450 BC, some of the Gauls moved across the Alps from their homeland and into Central Italy. As the Gauls moved through Etruria, the land of the Etruscans, many Etruscan cities were destroyed. In 386 BC, the Gauls attacked the city of Rome. The Romans were unable to defeat the Gauls in battle and the Gauls advanced on the city. Many Romans fled, but the senators and a few soldiers stayed on top of one of the hills of Rome. The Gauls then destroyed most of the city. The Gauls left Rome and settled permanently in the northern part of Italy, in an area called the Po River Valley. The Romans have two stories about the invasion of Rome by the Gauls. In one, the sacred geese living in a temple on top of the Capitaline Hill alerted the Romans on the hilltop about the advancing Gauls trying to sneak up the hill. In the second stories, Camillus, a Roman who had been asked to leave the city, returned with an army and drove out the Gauls. We are not sure if these stories are true, but one thing is for sure, the Romans were deeply affected by the invasion of the Gauls, and vowed that Rome would never be invaded again.

Because of the invasion of the Gauls, the Romans, now weakened, were attacked by the Latins. It took many years, but Rome defeated the Latins and other enemies. Whenever Rome won a war, they allowed the defeated people to rule themselves, as long as they were loyal Roman allies. The Roman army grew as it added allies of defeated people. Rome also granted Roman citizenship to defeated people. In this way Rome expanded its territory and influence beyond the city limits of Rome, creating a Roman condeferacy. Soon, no one group of people outside of the Roman confederacy could stand up to Rome.

In 295 BC, a great battle was fought between Rome and an alliance of the Gauls, Samnites (people from Central Italy) and the Etruscans, this was the turning point of the Third Samnite War. None of these groups of people were in the Roman confederacy, and they saw Roman expansion as a threat. At the Battle of Sentinum, Rome defeated the alliance. During battles, the consuls led Roman armies. The legendary Roman hero of this battle was Decius Mus, one of the Roman consuls at the battlefield. Decuis Mus had a dream the night before the battle that one of the consuls would die, but the Romans would win the battle. During the battle, the Romans were losing the battle, so Decuis Mus sacrificed himself by riding his horse directly into the enemy lines to inspire his troops. The move was successful, Decius Mus was pulled from his horse and killed, but the Romans rallied and won the battle. The Romans call this self-sacrifice devotio. After the Battle of Sentinum, only the Samnites and the Greeks in the southern part of Italy were free of Roman rule. Romans left garrisons within newly conquered territories, but also offered Roman citizenship to the conquered people. Newly built Roman roads connected Roman territory, and allowed Roman soldiers to move quickly from one area to another in Italy if trouble arose.

The Pyrrhic War (280-272 BC)

An interesting character in ancient times was King Pyrrhus of the Hellenistic kingdom of Epirus. As you have read in the chapter on Alexander the Great, Olympias, Alexander's mother, came from Epirus, a neighboring kingdom of Macedonia. In 307 BC, Pyrrhus, a second cousin of Alexander through Olympias, became the king of Epirus. Pyrrhus was impressed by the past conquests of Alexander, and felt that he too could carve out a vast empire. Therefore, when the Greek city-state of Taras (Tarentum in Latin) in Southern Italy asked Pyrrhus to send an army to defend them from the Romans, who had declared war on Taras in 280 BC, it was not surprising that Pyrrhus sailed across the Adriatic Sea with an army. The defense of Taras, and the possibility of defeating the Romans was just the adventure Pyrrhus was looking for.

Pyrrhus brought along his friend and trusted advisor, Cineas. It was Cineas who did most of the talking and negotiating with both friend and foe in Italy. Pyrrhus also brought with him 20 war elephants, originally from India. As this was the Hellenistic Age, Hellenistic armies brought elephants to battle against each other, but this would be the first time the Roman army had ever faced, or even seen these beasts. Pyrrhus carried the elephants over the Adriatic Sea from Epirus to Italy, and amazing feat, and the first amphibious attack by war elephants in history.

When Pyrrhus entered the city of Taras, he was not impressed with the people whom he came to defend. The people of Taras were lazy they over-ate and attended plays, while they expected Pyrrhus to fight for them. Pyrrhus closed the amphitheaters to stop the plays. Pyrrhus then forced the men of Taras to join the army, and he worked them into shape. Pyrrhus would not fight for lazy men who did not care to defend themselves.

The first time the Romans fought Pyrrhus was in 280 BC, at the Battle of Heraclea. The Roman horses were terrified of the elephants, and although Pyrrhus won the battle, he admired the strength and courage of the Roman army. "If only I had men like the Romans on my side, I could conquer the world," is what Pyrrhus was quoted as saying about the Roman army after the battle. Pyrrhus admired the organization of the Roman army, and the fact that all of the dead Romans had wounds in the front of their bodies, no Romans had fled the battlefield that day.

After the Battle of Heraclea, Pyrrhus sent Cineas to Rome with an offer of peace. The terms were that Rome must end the war with Taras and allow Pyrrhus' army to move about Italy. The Roman Senate seemed to agree until Appius Claudius, an old Roman who had once been a senator, but stepped down due to his age and blindness, stood up and gave a great speech that convinced the Romans to continue the fight.

The Romans sent Fabricius, an honest but poor man, to Pyrrhus' camp to try to convince Pyrrhus to release the Roman prisoners of war captured at Heraclea. Pyrrhus tested Fabricius first by trying to bribe him with gold, and next by trying to scare him with an elephant, but Fabricius, though poor, would not take the gold, and was unafraid of the beast. Pyrrhus, impressed by Fabricius, asked Fabricius to join his army Fabricius refused. Later, when Fabricius was elected consul, Pyrrhus' doctor sent Fabricius a letter saying that, for a fee, he would poison the king. Fabricius sent a letter to Pyrrhus telling him about his doctor. Pyrrhus punished the doctor, and allowed all of the Roman prisoners of war to return home.

The following year in 279 BC, the Romans fought Pyrrhus again at Asculum. The Romans tried to handle the elephant attack, but after a long battle, Pyrrhus won again, though he had lost many men and was wounded himself in the battle. After one of this commanders congratulated him on the victory, Pyrrhus said, "Another victory like this, and I will be totally ruined!" To this day we call any victory at a high cost a Pyrrhic victory, named after the king of Epirus. Pyrrhus called the Roman army a hydra, because, though they lost many men in battle, they could always find replacements. Pyrrhus' army, on the other hand was running out of men, and was finding it difficult to replace his losses.

Frustrated with his war with the Romans, Pyrrhus turned his attention to the nearby island of Sicily, a land he wished to conquer. Leaving a garrision behind in Taras, Pyrrhus crossed the Straits of Messina, into Sicily in 279 BC. The City of Syracuse on Sicily asked Pyrrhus to drive out the Carthaginians, who also settled in Sicily. Carthage was an ancient Phoenician settlement in Africa, very close to Sicily. The Mamertines,mercenary fighters, hired by the king of Syracuse, took over a whole city in the north-east corner of Sicily, and were also a threat to Syracuse. Upon his arrival, Pyrrhus was proclaimed the King of Sicily.

Pyrrhus fought both the Carthaginians and the Mamertines, but again became frustrated and returned back to Italy to fight the Romans. One great victory for Pyrrhus in Sicily was the battle of Eryx, where he took over the Carthaginian city. When Pyrrhus left Sicily, he said, "What a battlefield I leave for Rome and Carthage," predicting that Rome and Carthage would go to war over the possession of the island.

In 275 BC, Pyrrhus fought the Romans for the third time at Beneventum. This was a Roman victory. The Romans captured some of Pyrrhus' elephants and riders, and paraded them through the streets of Rome. Pyrrhus left Italy with very little of his original army. In 272 BC, Rome defeated Taras, adding southern Italy to its growing empire. In that same year, Pyrrhus was killed in the streets of Argos, trying to add southern Greece to his territory.

Rome was now the master of Italy and had stood up to a Hellenistic army considered one of the best in the ancient world. But would Pyrrhus' prediction of Rome and Carthage fighting over Sicily come true? We will find out in the next online textbook page.

The Emperor Caligula

Caligula was not quite 25 years old when he took power in 37 A.D. At first, his succession was welcomed in Rome: He announced political reforms and recalled all exiles. But in October of 37, a serious illness unhinged Caligula, leading him to spend the remainder of his reign exploring the worst aspects of his nature.

Caligula lavished money on building projects, from the practical (aqueducts and harbors) to the cultural (theaters and temples) to the downright bizarre (requisitioning hundreds of Roman merchant ships to construct a 2-mile floating bridge across the Bay of Bauli so he could spend two days galloping back and forth across it). In 39 and 40 he led military campaigns to the Rhine and the English Channel, where he eschewed battles for theatrical displays, commanding his troops to “plunder the sea” by gathering shells in their helmets).

His relationships with other individuals were turbulent as well. His biographer Suetonius quotes his oft-repeated phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” He tormented high-ranking senators by making them run for miles in front of his chariot. He had brazen affairs with the wives of his allies and was rumored to have incestuous relationships with his sisters.

Caligula was tall, pale and so hairy that he made it a capital offense to mention a goat in his presence. He worked to accentuate his natural ugliness by practicing terrifying facial expressions in a mirror. But he literally wallowed in luxury, allegedly rolling around in piles of money and drinking precious pearls dissolved in vinegar. He continued his childhood games of dress-up, donning strange clothing, women’s shoes and lavish accessories and wigs�ger, according to his biographer Cassius Dio, “to appear to be anything rather than a human being and an emperor.”

Roman Consul

Consul (abbrev. cos. Latin plural consules) was the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic and the Empire.

During the time of ancient Rome as a Republic, the Consuls were the highest civil and military magistrates, serving as the heads of government for the Republic. There were two consuls, and they ruled together. However, under the era of early Rome as an Empire, the Consuls were merely a figurative representative of Rome’s republican heritage and held very little power and authority, with the Emperor acting as the supreme leader.

Under the Republic After the legendary expulsion of the last Etruscan King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and the end of the Roman Kingdom, most of the powers and authority of the king were ostensibly given to the newly instituted consulship. Originally, consuls were called praetors ("leader"), referring to their duties as the chief military commanders. In 305 BC the name was changed to consul and the title praetor was given to an entirely new office.

The office of consul was believed by the Romans to date back to the traditional establishment of the Republic in 509 BC but the Succession of Consuls was not continuous in the 5th century. Consuls had extensive capacities in peacetime (administrative, legislative and judicial), and in war time often held the highest military command. Additional religious duties included certain rights which, as a sign of their formal importance, could only be carried out by top level state officials. Consuls also read auguries, an essential step before leading armies into the field.

Under the laws of the Republic, the minimum age of election to consul for patricians was 41 years of age, for plebeians 42. Two consuls were elected each year, serving together with veto power over each other's actions, a normal principle for magistracies. However these laws were not always applied and there are several cases of consuls elected before the appropriate age.

Consuls were elected by the massive Comitia Centuriata, which had a profound aristocratic bias in its voting structure which only increased over the years from its foundation. However, they formally assumed powers after the ratification of their election in the older Comitia Curiata, which granted the consuls their imperium, through the passing of a bill "lex curiata de imperio".

In Latin, consulere means "to take counsel". If a consul died during his term (not uncommon when consuls were in the forefront of battle), another would be elected, and be known as a consul suffectus.

According to tradition, the consulship was initially reserved for patricians and only in 367 BC did plebeians win the right to stand for this supreme office, when the Lex Licinia Sextia provided that at least one consul each year should be plebeian. The first plebeian consul, Lucius Sextius, was thereby elected the following year. Modern historians have questioned the traditional account of plebeian emancipation during the Early Republic (see Conflict of the Orders), noting for instance that about thirty percent of the consuls prior to Sextius had plebeian, not patrician, names. It might be possible that only the chronology has been distorted, but it seems that one of the first consuls, Lucius Junius Brutus came from a plebeian family.[1] Another possible explanation is that during the 5th century social struggles, the office of consul was gradually monopolized by a patrician elite[2]

During times of war, the primary criterion for consul was military skill and reputation, but at all times the selection was politically charged. With the passage of time, the consulship became the normal endpoint of the cursus honorum, the sequence of offices pursued by the ambitious Roman.

Beginning in the late Republic, after finishing a consular year, a former consul would usually serve a lucrative term as a Proconsul, the Roman Governor of one of the (senatorial) provinces. The most commonly chosen province for the proconsulship was Cisalpine Gaul.

When Augustus established the Principate, he changed the political nature of the office, stripping it of most of its military powers. While still a great honor — in fact invariably the constitutional head of state, hence eponymous — and a requirement for other offices, many consuls would resign part way through the year to allow other men to finish their term as suffects. Those who held the office on January 1, known as the consules ordinarii, had the honor of associating their names with that year. As a result, about half of the men who held the rank of praetor could also reach the consulship. Sometimes a suffect consul would in turn resign, and another suffect would be appointed. This reached its extreme under Commodus, when in 190 twenty-five men held the consulship.

Emperors frequently appointed themselves, protégés, or relatives consul, even without regard to the age requirements. For example, Emperor Honorius was given the consulship at birth. Some didn't even stick to species limitations: Cassius Dio states that Caligula intended to make his horse Incitatus consul, but was assassinated before he could do so.

Holding the consulship was a great honor and the office was the major symbol of the still republican constitution. Probably as part of seeking formal legitimacy, the break-away Gallic Empire had its own pairs of consuls during its existence (260–274). The list of consuls for this state is incomplete, drawn from inscriptions and coins.

One of the reforms of Constantine I was to assign one of the consuls to the city of Rome, and the other to Constantinople. Therefore, when the Roman Empire was divided into two halves on the death of Theodosius I, the emperor of each half acquired the right of appointing one of the consuls—although one emperor did allow his colleague to appoint both consuls for various reasons. As a result, after the formal end of the Roman Empire in the West, many years would be named for only a single consul[citation needed]. This rank was finally allowed to lapse in the reign of Justinian I: first with the consul of Rome in 534, Decius Paulinus, then the consul of Constantinople in 541, Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius. The appointment to consulship became a part of the rite of proclamation of new emperor and Constans II was the last person to hold the position until Leo the Wise finally abolished ordinary consulship and consular dating, although honorary consulship still was widely granted, although was mostly known under the Greek name of the title hypatos. Despite this, the title of Roman consul was offered by the Pope to Charles Martel in 739, although he refused[3] because this could have promoted a conflict with the Byzantine emperor.

After the expulsion of the kings and the establishment of the Republic, all the powers that had belonged to the kings were transferred to two offices: that of the Consuls and the Rex Sacrorum. While the Rex Sacrorum inherited the kings’ position as high priest of the state, the Consuls were given the civil and military responsibilities (imperium). However, to prevent abuse of the kingly power, the imperium was shared by two Consuls, each of whom could veto the other’s actions.

The Consuls were invested with the executive power of the state and headed the government of the Republic. Initially, the Consuls' powers were vast and held considerably more power than as just executives. In the gradual development of the Roman legal system, however, some important functions were detached from the Consulship and assigned to new officers. This was the case in 443 BC when the responsibility to conduct the census was stripped from the office and given to the office of Censor. The second function taken from the Consulship was their judicial power. Their position as chief judges was transferred to the Praetors in 366 BC. After this time, the Consul would only serve as judges in extraordinary criminal cases and only when called upon by decree of the Senate.

For the most part, power is divided between civil and military spheres. As long as the Consuls were in the pomerium (the city of Rome), they were at the head of government, and all the other magistrates, with the exception of the Tribunes of the Plebs, were subordinate to them, but remained independence of office. The internal machinery of the republic was under the Consuls’ superintendence. In order to allow the Consuls greater authority in executing laws, the Consuls had the right of summoning and arrest, which was limited only by the right of appeal from their judgment. This power of punishment even extended to inferior magistrates.

As part of their executive functions, the Consuls were responsible for carrying into effect the decrees of the Senate and the laws of the assemblies. Sometimes in urgent emergencies, they might even act on their own authority and responsibility. The Consuls also served as the chief diplomat of the Roman state. Before any foreign ambassadors reached the Senate, they met with the Consuls. The Consul would introduce ambassadors to the Senate, and they alone carried on the negotiations between the Senate and foreign states.

The Consuls could convene the Senate, and presided over its meetings. Each consul served, as President of the Senate, for a month. They also could convene both the Centuriate Assembly and Curiate Assembly and presided over both. Thus, the Consuls conducted the elections and put legislative measures to the vote. When both consuls were not in the city, their duties were assumed by the praetor urbanus.

Each Consul was accompanied in every public appearance by twelve lictors, who displayed the magnificence of the office and served as his bodyguard. Each lictor held the fasces, a bundle of rods that contained an axe. The rods symbolized the power of scourging, and the axe the power of capital punishment. When inside the pomerium, the lictors removed the axes from the fasces to show that a citizen couldn't be executed without a trial. Upon entering the Comitia Centuriata, the lictors would lower the fasces to show that the powers of the Consuls derive from the people (populus romanus).

Outside the walls of Rome, the powers of the Consuls were far more extensive in their role as commanders-in-chief of all Roman legions. It was in this function that the Consuls were vested with full imperium. When legions were ordered by a decree of the Senate, the Consuls conducted the levy in Campus Martius. Upon entering the army, all soldiers had to take their oath of allegiance to the Consuls. The Consuls also oversaw the gathering of troops provide by Rome’s allies [4].

Within the city a Consul could punish and arrest a citizen, but had not the power to inflict capital punishment. When on campaign however, the consul could inflict any punishment he saw fit to any soldier, or officer, citizen or ally.

Each consul commanded an army, usually two legions strong, with the help of military tribunes and a quaestor who had financial duties. In the rare case that both consuls marched together, each one held the command for a day respectively. Normally a consular army was about 20.000 men strong and consisted of two citizen and two allied legions. In the early years of the republic, Rome's enemies were located in central Italy, so campaigns lasted a few months. As Rome's frontiers expanded, in the 2nd century BC, the campaigns became lengthier. Romans were a warlike society, and very seldom did not wage war [5]. So the Consul upon entering office was expected by the Senate and the People to march his army against Rome's enemies, and expand the Roman frontiers. His soldiers expected to return to their homes after the campaign with spoils. If the Consul won an overwhelming victory, was hailed as imperator by his troops, and could request to be granted a triumph.

The Consul could conduct the campaign as he saw fit, and had unlimited powers. However after the campaign, he could be prosecuted for his misdeeds (for example for abusing the provinces, or wasting public money, as Scipio Africanus was accused by Cato in 205 BC).

Abuse of Consular power was prevented with each Consul given the power to veto his colleague. Therefore, except in the provinces as Commanders-in-chief where each Consul’s power was supreme, the Consuls could only act in unison, or, at least, not against each other's determined will. Against the sentence of one Consul, an appeal could be brought before his colleague and overturn the sentencing. In order to avoid unnecessary conflicts, only one Consul would actually perform the office’s duties every month. This is not to say that the other Consul held no power but merely allowed the first Consul to act without direct interference. Then in the next month, the Consuls would switch roles with one another. This would continue until the end of the Consular term.

Another point which acted as a check against Consuls was the certainty that after the end of their term they would be called to account for their actions while in office.

There were also three other restrictions on consular power. Their term in office was short (one year) their duties were pre-decided by the Senate and they could not stand again for election immediately after the end of their office. Usually a period of ten years was expected between each consulship.

Main article: Roman Governor After leaving office, the Consuls were assigned a province to administer by the Senate as Governor. The provinces each Consul was assigned were drawn by lot and determined before the end of his Consulship. Transferring his Consular Imperium to Proconsular Imperium, the Consul would become a Proconsul and governor of one (or several) of Rome’s many provinces. As a Proconsul, his imperium was limited to only a specificed province and not the entire Republic. Any exercise of Proconsular imperium in any other province was illegal. Also, a Proconsul was not allowed to leave his province before his term was complete or before the arrival of his successor. Exceptions were given only on special permission of the Senate. Most terms as governor lasted between one and five years.

In times of crisis, usually when Rome's territory was in immediate danger, a Dictator was appointed by the Consuls[citation needed] for a period of no more than six months, after the proposition of the Senate. While the Dictator held office, the imperium of the Consuls was suspended.

After Augustus became the first Roman Emperor in 27 BC with the establishment of the principate, the Consuls lost most of their powers and responsibilities under the Roman Empire. Though still officially the highest office of the state and powers, with the Emperor’s superior imperium, they were merely a symbol of Rome’s republican heritage. The imperial Consuls still maintained the right to preside at meetings of the Senate, however they could only exercise this right at the pleasure of the Emperor. They partially administered justice in extraordinary cases. They presented games in the Circus Maximus and all public solemnities in honor of the Emperor at their own expense. After the expiration of their offices, the ex Consuls (Proconsuls) went on to govern one of the provinces that were administered by the Senate. They usually served terms of three to five years.

Consular dating The highest magistrates were eponymous, i.e. each year was officially identified (like a regnal year in a monarchy) by the two Consuls' names, though there was a more practical numerical dating ab urbe condita (i.e. by the era starting with the mythical foundation year of Rome). For instance, the year 59 BC in the modern calendar was called by the Romans "the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus," since the two colleagues in the consulship were (Gaius) Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus — although Caesar dominated the consulship so thoroughly that year that it was jokingly referred to as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar" [6].

In Latin, the ablative absolute construction is frequently used to express the date, such as "M. Messalla et M. Pupio Pisone consulibus," translated literally as "Marcus Messalla and Marcus Pupius Piso being Consuls," which appears in Caesar's De Bello Gallico.

Roman Magistrates

The elected magistrates in the Roman Republic were held in check by the equal distribution of power through multiple officials of the same rank. The one noted exception to this rule was that of the dictatorship which granted supreme imperium to a single authority. All members of each particular office grouping were of equal rank and could veto acts of other members and higher magistrates (ie Consuls) could veto acts of lower magistrates (ie Quaestors).

As another check on abuse of power, each office was generally a 1 year term with the exception of the Dictatorship which was technically reserved to a 6 month emergency (though this could be extended) and the Censorship (18 months), whose powers were of a managerial nature rather than executive government. The annual term (and varying limits on eligibility for subsequent service) was often a matter of dispute and led to numerous civil disruptions, including the civil war led by Julius Caesar that eventually spelled the end of the Republican system (though it's institutional offices remained throughout the imperial period as well).

Consuls (2) (Latin: those who walk together)

The chief civil and military magistrates, elected through the assemblies by popular vote. They convened the senate and curiate and centuriate assemblies. Initially the office was only open to Patricians until the Lex Licinia opened it to Plebeian candidates in 367 BC. According to the Lex Villia annalis passed in 180 BC which established minimum age requirements for all magistrate positions within the Cursus Honorum, Consuls had to be 42 years of age. Under normal circumstances, a Roman could only serve in such a capacity only once every ten years. At the end of their annual term of service, Consuls would take the title Proconsul and generally serve as provincial governors. In the case of the death of a serving Consul, a Suffect Consul would be elected as a replacement for the remainder of his term. They were entitled to 12 Lictors as a symbol of their authority (or imperium).

Praetors (2-8)

This magistracy was originally designed as a sort of 3rd Consul and was established in 356 BC for Patricians only after they were forced to share the Consulship with Plebes. This however changed by 337 BC when the first Plebeian Praetor was elected. Romans were eligible to be a Praetor at the age of 39. They had imperium with the main functions being administration of civil law in Rome (Praetor Urbanus), military command, judges in courts of law (Praetor Peregrinus created in 246 BC), and finally the governing of provinces. They also assumed administrative duties of consuls when these were absent from Rome. When there were more than 2 Praetors (beyond 197 BC), the additional Praetors were generally assigned as governors of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Spanish provinces (and others as province acquisition continued through the late Republic and early Principate). Like Proconsuls, Praetors could hold the title of Propraetor after their annual term of service and be appointed as provincial governors. They were entitled to 6 lictors.

Aediles (4) (from the old responsibility of caretaking of the aedes, or the Temple of Ceres)

2 as Plebeian Aediles and 2 Curule Aediles. The Plebeian Aediles were established in 494 BC along with the office of the Plebeian Tribune. Curule Aediles were originally Patrician (and a higher ranking position) and the office was established in 365 BC. Eventually the Curule Aedileship became interchangeable with Patricians and Plebes. Aediles were in charge of of such things religious festivals, public games, temples, upkeep of the city, regulation of marketplaces, the grain supply in the city of Rome while Plebeian Aediles also assisted the Plebeian Tribunes. According to the Lex Villia annalis Aediles had to be 36 years of age. Curule Aediles only were entitled to 2 lictors.

Quaestors (2-40)

Quaestors typically had to be 31 years old (requirement lowered by Sulla as were all magistracies and raised back after his death) and could be Patrician or Plebeian (though in the later period this was a matter of major contention because ex-Quaestors were immediately eligible for a Senate seat). The Quaestor magistracy was developed in the time of the kings and the position in the later Republic was an evolution of various earlier positions and responsibilities. There were 2 Quaestores Parricidii, who were responsible for prosecution of criminals, and Quaestores Classici, who were financial officers and administrative assistants (civil and military). They were in charge of the state treasury at Rome and also served as quartermasters and Legionary officers under direct command of Proconsular or Praetorian Legates/Governors.

Tribunes (10) (from the Latin Tribus for Tribes)

The position of the Tribune (or Tribuni Plebis) was established after the final Plebeian withdrawal from Rome in 494 BC. Naturally they were a Plebeian only position developed as a counter measure to Patrician domination in law and policy making. They were responsible for protection of lives and property of plebians they were considered (sacrosanct) meaning their bodies were to be free of physical harm. In addition they had the power of veto over elections, laws, decrees of the senate, and the acts of all other magistrates (except a dictator) in order to protect the interest of the people (though this in itself became a powerful and manipulated political tool). They convened tribal assembly and elicited plebiscites which after 287 BC (lex Hortensia) had force of law (essentially meaning that the Tribunes could go directly to the people rather than the Senate and magistracy to propose and adopt policy).

Censors (2) (from the Latin for census)

Originally established under the kings, they were elected every 5 years to conduct census, enroll new citizens, review the rolls of senate and equestrians (essentially determing eligiblilty and be sure that all criteria for inclusion were met). They were responsible for the policies governing public morals and supervised leasing of public contracts. They ranked below Praetors and above Aediles in theory and they did not have imperium or entitlement to Lictors, but in practice, this was the pinnacle of a senatorial career. It was limited to ex-consuls carried incredible prestige and dignity and was essentially the "feather in the cap" for elder statesman (at least prior to the development of various prestigious provincial governorships such as Asia Minor). Either Patricians or Plebeians (established in 351 BC) could hold the position. The office was an oddity in that the elections were every 5 years, but that they served terms of 18 months. It was the only office that had notable lengths of time without any serving magistrates and Rome often went for very long periods without a censor. It was done away with as an official magistracy in 22 BC and replaced by the title Praefectura Morum in the Imperial system.

Dictator (1)

Created in 501 BC, just 9 years after the expulsion of the kings. In perilous times, typically of military emergency, public unrest or political upheaval a dictator could be appointed by originally the acting Consuls, and later by the overall senate body to have supreme authority. Typically the position was intended for Patricians, but the first Plebeian was appointed in 356 BC (C. Marcius Rutilius). The dictator appointed a Master of the Horse (Magister Equitum) originally as the name implies to lead the cavalry while the dictator commanded the legions (though the position also evolved into an administrative/executive position designed to assist the dictator). The Dictator's tenure was limited to 6 months or the duration of crisis, whichever was shorter. Generally, aside from those of Sulla and Caesar Roman dictatorships rarely lasted the entire 6 month term. Edicts of the dictator were not subject to veto and he was entitled to 24 lictors.


Though technically not a magistrate office, the Lictors were a representation of the power of the elected magistrates over the people. Originally selected form among the plebes, they were eventually limited to freedmen, but were definitely citizens as a toga was a required uniform. The lictor's main task was to attend their assigned magistrates who held imperium: 12 lictors for consuls, 6 for Praetors abroad and 2 within Rome, dictators (24 lictors, (12 before Sulla) and curule aediles (2 lictors) the dictator's magister equitum ("Master of the Horse") was also escorted by six lictors. Men of Proconsular or Propraetorian governer rank were also entitled to lictors (the number of lictors being equal to their degree of imperium). The lictors carried rods decorated with fasces and with axes that symbolized the power to execute. They accompanied the magistrates wherever they went. If there was a crowd, the lictors opened the way and kept the magistrate safe. They also had to stand beside the magistrate whenever he addresses the crowd. Magistrates could only dispense their lictors if they were visiting a free city or addressing a higher status magistrate. Lictors also had ancient police duties: they could, at their master's command, arrest Roman citizens and punish them.

Early Reforms:

The army was made up of 1000 infantry and 100 horsemen from each of the 3 tribes. Tarquinius Priscus doubled this, then Servius Tullius reorganized the tribes into property-based groupings and increased the size of the army. Servius divided the city into 4 tribal districts, the Palatine, Esquiline, Suburan, and Colline. Servius Tullius may have created some of the rural tribes, as well. This is the redistribution of the people that led to the change in the comitia.

This is the redistribution of the people that led to the change in the comitia.

Watch the video: Consuls (January 2022).