The Ancient Library

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On this page: Senate (continued)



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 scnatus 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 laticldvia, an ander-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 (vdcatlO) was in early times held by the king; at the beginning of the Republic, only by the consuls and the extraordinary magis­trates, such as intcrrex, dictator, and mdgister 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 Vulcdnal, a place consecrated to Vulcan, above the comltium in the Forum; later, after the time of Tullus Hostillus, it was the Cuna (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 praetors 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 lulia [16 in plan under forum] 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

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