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The Roman Senate

August 5, 2011 Carlino's Restaurant one comment
"Area Sacra, Site of the Roman Senate Where Julius Caesar was assassinated"

“Area Sacra, Site of the Roman Senate Where Julius Caesar was assassinated”

The Curia Hostilia, 85′ long (N/S) by 75′ wide (E/W), was oriented facing south. Because it was a templum, it was oriented north/south, as were the major temples of Rome. On the same axis as the church but southeast of it, was the Curia Julia. The old Curia Hostilia was dismantled. It was also the entrance to Caesar’s forum.

The Curia Cornelia was a place where the Roman Senate assembled during ca. 80-50 BC. It was the largest of all the Curia (Senate Houses) built in Rome.

Its construction took over a great deal of the traditional comitium space and brought the senate building into a commanding location within the Roman Forum as a whole.

This was the Senate House at the time of Caesar. Its location was moved by Caesar in order to diminish the Senate’s dominance within the City and Republic.

In 80 BC Lucius Cornelius Sulla decided to enlarge the existing Curia to accommodate the doubling of senators in the Republic. To do this he had to demolish the old Curia Hostilia and the Comitium. It kept the name Hostilia.

After the Curia Hostilia was again destroyed during riots at the funeral of Publius Clodius Pulcher in 52 BC, It was rebuilt by Faustus Sulla, a descendant of L. Cornelius Sulla, and took the name Curia Cornelia.

The Curia was converted into a temple by Julius Caesar during his redesign of the Forum in 44 BC . During or after the construction of the first Imperial Forum, the building was finally torn down and replaced with the Curia Julia (which still stands).

The Roman Senate founded in 753 BC was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in history. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. The Roman Senate (Senatus) from the latin Senex (for elder or council of elders) was a deliberative governing body. The Senate didn’t propose legislation, magistrates with the Senate, such as Consuls, did.

The body of the senate considered the proposals, and approved or vetoed the various laws. The Senate and the Roman People (SPQR, or Senatus Populusque Romanus), described the distinction in class between the Senate and common people. The Roman People consisted of all citizens who were not members of the Senate.

Domestic power was vested in the Roman People, through the Committee of the Hundreds (Comitia Centuriata), the Committee of the Tribal People (Comitia Populi Tributa), and the Council of the People (Concilium Plebis). Actual legislation was secured in the various assemblies.

Despite its lack of actual law making power, the Senate held considerable authority in Roman politics. It was also the Senate who held the authority to nominate a dictator (a single leader who acted with ultimate authority and without fear of reprisal) in a state of emergency, usually a military one. In the late Republic, attempts to stop the spiraling pattern of dictatorships, the Senate attempted to avoid the dictatorate by resorting to a senatus consultum de republica defendenda, or the senatus consultum ultimum. This was the declaration of martial law, and empowered the 2 Consuls, essentially, with dictatorial power in defense of the Republic.

The number of senators in Rome was initially a direct correlation to the number of tribes represented. In the earliest days of Rome traditionally under Romulus, when Rome consisted only of one tribe, the Ramnes, the senate consisted of one hundred members. Further incorporation of various tribes, such as the Tities and Luceres, increased accordingly the number of Senators to 300. Proposals throughout the Republic increased the senate roles to 900. With the accession of Augustus, the permanent foundation for senate numbers appears to have been fixed at 600, but this number also fluctuated throughout the empire at the whims of the emperors.

Members of the Senate were chosen from among eligible equites, and selected by Consuls, Tribunes and later by Censors. Those selected by censors or other magistrates to fill seats from among the equites had no right to vote or to speak on the Senate floor. Senators earned the proper dignity and nobility to vote and speak on the floor by virtue of holding various offices such as Consul, Praetor, Aedile, etc

Among the senators with speaking rights, a strict order defining who could speak and when was established, with a patrician always preceding a plebeian of equal rank. The speaking order was similar to that of the seating arrangement, in which the princeps senatus held the first chair, followed by the consuls, censors, praetors, aediles, tribunes and finally, the quaestors.

Voting in the Senate could be taken by voice or show of hands in unimportant matters, but important or formal motions were decided by a quorum, or an actual physical division of the house to either side of the floor. In these cases even non-voting members were allowed to take places on either side of the issue, lending their support to a particular cause or motion, or to fulfill their client obligations.

Senators also carried certain privileges and were subject to accompanying restrictions. All senators were entitled to wear a senatorial ring (originally made of iron, but later gold)) and a tunica clava, a white tunic with a broad purple stripe five inches wide (latus clavus) on the right shoulder. A senator pedarius (or a nonvoting senator) wore a white toga virilis (also called a toga pura) without decoration.


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