This is the fourth part of our planned five part series (I, II, IIIa, IIIb, IIIc) on the structure of the Roman Republic during the third and second centuries, the ‘Middle’ Republic.’ Over the last few posts we looked at the role of Roman magistrates who carried out a range of executive functions for the republic. This week, we’re looking at the Roman Senate, an institution so important that it is included alongside the people of Rome in the SPQR formulation that the Romans used to represent the republic, and yet also paradoxically it is an institution that lacks any kind of formal legal powers.
Despite that lack of formal powers, the Senate of the Roman Republic largely directed the overall actions of the republic, coordinating its strategic policy (both military and diplomatic), setting priorities for legislation, handling Rome’s finances and assigning and directing the actions of the various magistrates. The Senate – not the Pontifex Maximus1 – was also the final authority for questions of religion. The paradox exists because the Senate’s power is almost entirely based in its auctoritas and the strong set of political norms and cultural assumptions which push Romans to defer to that auctoritas.
And if you want to wield the auctoritas of the ACOUP Senate, you can support this project on Patreon at the patres et matres conscripti tier, to be able to submit questions and weigh in on what topics we should cover next (I promise the long-awaited Greek-and-Phoenician colonization treatment is coming!). As always, if you like this, please share it! If you want updates whenever a new post appears, you can click below for email updates or follow me on twitter (@BretDevereaux) for updates as to new posts as well as my occasional ancient history, foreign policy or military history musings, assuming there is still a Twitter by the time this post goes live. I am also on Bluesky (@bretdevereaux.bsky.social) and (less frequently) Mastodon (@email@example.com).
We should start with who is in the Senate. Now what you will generally hear in survey courses is this neat summary: the Senate had 300 members (600 after Sulla) and included all Romans who had obtained the office of the quaestorship or higher and its members were selected by the censors. And for a basic summary, that actually serves pretty well, but thinking about it for a few minutes one quickly realizes that there must be quite a bit of uncertainty and complexity underneath those neat easy rules. And indeed, there is!
First we can start with eligibility by holding office. We know that in the Sullan constitution, holding the quaestorship entitled one into entrance into the Senate. Lintott notes that the lex repetundarum of 123/4 lumped every office aedile-and-above together in a phrasing ‘anyone who has or shall have been in the Senate’ when setting eligibility for the juries for the repetundae courts (the aim being to exclude the magistrate class from judging itself on corruption charges), and so assumes that prior to Sulla, it was aediles and up (but not quaestors) who were entitled to be in the Senate.2 The problem immediately occurs: these higher offices don’t provide enough members to reach the frequently attested 300-Senator size of the Senate with any reasonable set of life expectancies.
By contrast, if we assume that the quaestors were enrolled in the Senate, as we know them to have been post-Sulla (Cicero is a senator for sure in 73, having been quaestor in 75), we have 8 quaestors a year elected around age 30 each with roughly 30 years of life expectancy3 we get a much more reasonable 240, to which we might add some holders of senior priesthoods who didn’t go into politics and the ten sitting tribunes and perhaps a few reputable scions of important families selected by the censors to reach 300 without too much difficulty. The alternative is to assume the core membership of the Senate was aediles and up, which would provide only around 150 members, in which case the censors would have to supplement that number with important, reputable Romans.
To which we may then ask: who might they choose? The obvious candidates would be…current and former quaestors and plebeian tribunes. And so we end up with a six-of-one, half-dozen of the other situation, where it is possible that quaestors were not automatically enrolled before Sulla, but were customarily chosen by the censors to ‘fill out’ the Senate. Notably, when Sulla wants to expand the Senate, he radically expands (to twenty) the number of quaestors, which in turn provides roughly enough Senators for his reported 600-person Senate.
That leads us to the roll of the censors: if holding a sufficiently high office (be it the quaestorship or aedileship) entitles one to membership for life in the Senate, what on earth is the role of the censors in selecting the Senate’s membership? Here the answer is in the sources for us: we repeatedly see the formula that the meetings of the Senate were attended by two groups: the Senators themselves and “those who are permitted to state their opinion in the Senate.” Presumably the distinction here is between men designated as senators by the censors and men not yet so designated who nevertheless, by virtue of office-holding, have a right to speak in the Senate. It’s also plausible that men who were still iuniores might not yet be Senators (whose very name, after all, implies old age; Senator has at its root senex, “old man”) or perhaps men still under the potestas of a living father (who thus could hardly be one of the patres conscripti, a standard term for Senators) might be included in the latter group.
In any case, the censors seem to have three rolls here. First, they confirm the membership in the Senate of individuals entitled to it by having held high office. Second, they can fill out an incomplete Senate with additional Roman aristocrats so that it reaches the appropriate size. Finally, they can remove a Senator for moral turpitude, though this is rare and it is clear that the conduct generally needed to be egregious.
In this way, we get a Senate that is as our sources describe: roughly 300 members at any given time (brought to the right number every five years by the censors), consisting mostly of former office holders (with some add-ons) who have held offices at or above the quaestorship and whose membership has been approved by the censors, though office holders might enter the Senate – provisionally, as it were – immediately pending censorial confirmation at a later date. If it seems like I am giving short shrift to the ‘filling the rank’ add-ons the censors might provide, it is because – as we’ll see in a moment – Senate procedure combined with Roman cultural norms was likely to render them quite unimportant. The role of senior ex-magistrates in the Senate was to speak, the role of junior ex-magistrates (and certainly of any senator who had not held high office!) was to listen and indicate concurrence with a previously expressed opinion, as we’re going to see when we get to procedure.
Meetings of the Senate were formal affairs, but unlike modern legislatures the Senate did not stay in session over long periods. Instead, it met in specific venues – they had to be inaugurated – when called by a magistrate with the power to do so.
We may begin with place: the Senate had no single fixed meeting spot, though the curia in the Forum was the most common location, however the place the Senate met had to be religiously prepared via inauguration (the taking of the auspices by the augurs) and by sacrifices in order to make sure the gods approved of the proceedings and its results. Consequently, the Senate always met in a templum in the sense of a consecrated space, but also it tended to meet literally in temples, with meetings in the temples of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the temple of Fides, the temple of Concord, and so on. Notably, two locations, the temple of Bellona and the temple of Apollo were also used and these sat outside the pomerium, enabling the Senate to meet with magistrates who, because of their active command of an army, could not cross the pomerium; they were also sometimes used to meet with foreign dignitaries the Senate did not wish to let into the city. Later added to this number of sites outside the pomerium was Pompey’s theater, which included a temple of Venus Victrix and a curia as part of the overall complex.
In order to meet, the Senate had to be called or more correctly ‘driven together’ (cogere, often translated adequately as ‘summoned,’ but as Lintott notes, it has an element of compulsion to it) by a magistrate. There were a few standard dates on which this would effectively always happen, particularly the first day of the consular year, but beyond that it was expected that magistrates in Rome could call the Senate at any time to discuss any issue on relatively short notice. There was initially no requirement that Senators live in the city of Rome, but it was clearly assumed. Early on in the second century, we get regulations requiring Senators to stay close to Rome unless they had an official reason to be elsewhere, though Senators might be permitted to leave if they needed to fulfill a vow. In the Late Republic it seems to have been common also for Senators to leave the city during the spring res prolatae, a sort of recess from public business (literally “the deferring of business”), but these informal breaks did not mean the Senate was truly ‘out of session’ and it could still be summoned by a magistrate.
Generally, meetings of the Senate began at dawn, though they could begin later, and they proceeded either until the business was concluded or to dusk. Because of the ritual preparations required, no meeting of the Senate could last more than a day, much like the assemblies, so if the business was not finished, a new meeting would need to be called and the process begun from scratch. While it seems that magistrates generally tried to avoid calling the Senate during festival days, dies nefandi (days unsuited for public business) and meetings of the popular assemblies, there was no requirement to do so and the Senate might be called for any day for most of the Republic, with laws restricting the Senate’s meeting days only coming midway through the first century.
Beyond this, Senators were expected to show up and we hear of threats of fines or other censure for failure to show up, but it also seems like no meeting of the senate was ever very close to the full body and quorums for the Senate were fairly low, 100 or 150. For the Sullan Senate, notionally of 600 members, the highest attendances we know of, as noted by Lintott, are 415, 417 and 392. Of course some significant number of Senators will, at any time, have been active magistrates overseas, or serving as military tribunes, or as senatorial legati, but it seems clear that even beyond this attendance was not universal even if it was in theory supposed to be.
Once the Senate met, it had a standard procedure which was followed. The Senate was fundamentally a deliberative body, unlike the assemblies which merely voted, and so most of the procedure focused on that deliberation and debate. And this makes sense, as the notional purpose of the Senate was as a large advisory council to the magistrates, in the same way that it had once been the advisory council to the kings.
Generally, each meeting of the Senate had a set agenda item, presented by the convening magistrate, although for that traditional meeting at the start of the consular year it was common to convene the Senate de re publica infinite, “on the whole Republic.” By far the most common convening magistrate was the consul, but other magistrates could convene the Senate (notably the tribunes). The convening magistrate spoke first with an introductory speech, a relatio, with introduced the topic and often presented a proposed course of action on that topic. In some cases, that introduction might be a short one, but it could also be a long and involved speech or the introduction of an ambassador or the reading of dispatches. The Senate seems also at sometimes to have formed subcommittees and a magistrate might use an introduction to put the recommendations of a subcommittee, such as pre-drafted legislation, before the body. But it was just as common to open a debate on a broad topic.
Once the convening magistrate was done introducing the issue, the opinions of each senator, in turn, were sought. The order was set by the censors, but it was based on offices held and seniority, so while the censors could shift (‘movere’) a senator down in the order, they were expected to have a good reason (typically conspicuous moral turpitude). The order began with the princeps senatus, traditionally the most senior ex-consul, though ‘most senior’ here often meant both in age and in influence, so while the princeps senatus was never young, it might not strictly be the oldest senator. After that, the former consuls (in Latin consulares, which enters English as ‘consulars’ to mean ‘men who have held the consulship’) spoke, with the most former (and thus likely oldest) going first. And then the Senate proceeded down in rank order to ex-praetors and so on all the way down. As you may well imagine, the figures who spoke first tended to set the terms of the debate and indeed the whole reason they spoke first is because they were understood to be preeminent in auctoritas.
Each senator, as the order came to them was expected to present their opinion (sententia). The expression of their view could be as long or as short as they wished (filibusters were possible), but they had to answer. Senators were given broad latitude in their response, able to interrogate the magistrate or visiting ambassadors, respond to their fellows or wander entirely off of the origional relatio to another topic entirely They could also launch into long speeches which, again, might or might not actually pertain primarily to the topic at hand. Cato the Elder was famous for ending speeches on topics entirely unrelated to the matter with an exhortation that “Carthage must be destroyed,” while Cicero took the opportunity of a debate on some relatively minor matters of roads and mints to launch into his Seventh Philippic, a speech exhorting the Senate to move against Marcus Antonius. Still it was expected that at some point the response ought to speak to the matter at hand and so Cicero ends the Seventh Philippic with quibus de rebus refers, P. Servilio adsentior, “on the matters you refer [to the Senate], I agree with Publius Servilius.”
On the other hand, the minimum possible response a senator could give, and this must have been a very frequent response, was to agree with what some other senator earlier in the speaking order had said and we certainly get the sense that this was the most common thing for more junior senators to do. Indeed, we’re told that, while the more senior senators were speaking, more junior senators, termed pedarii (lit: ‘footmen’ but really ‘walkers’) by Cicero for reasons that will soon be obvious, would move in the hall to sit by the speaker with whom they agreed to show their support. Given the elimination-contest nature of the Roman office holding, the Senate must always have had far more of these junior senators than of senior consulars whose opinion would carry real weight, but their movement en masse to agree with one or another position would have carried its own auctoritas.
Now, junior senators absolutely could hold forth on their own basis and we are told of occasions where they did so. Sallust presents the debate on the fate of Catiline’s conspirators in 63 as turning on the opinions of Marcus Porcius Cato (the younger) and Gaius Julius Caesar; Cato was almost certainly one of the most junior members of the Senate, being the quaestor urbanus that very year, while Caesar was more senior as a praetor-elect and Pontifex Maximus, but still hardly the most senior fellow in the room. But in practice, moments like these were probably relatively rare (Caesar and Cato both may have felt emboldened because of their current positions, though Cato especially, a powerful speaker, maintained outsized influence in the Senate despite never rising to the consulship). Roman culture strongly encouraged deference both to elders and social superiors and the senior consulars were both, while in turn the mechanics of Roman politics will have meant that junior senators would have been wise to attach themselves to powerful consulars in any event.
At the end of this process of speaking, the presiding magistrate could put the issue to a vote. The magistrate in question set the terms of the vote, laying out a proposed senatus consultum (opinion of the Senate) and asking all senators who agreed to go to one side while everyone who disagreed go to the other. Multiple such motions could be voted in succession and the Senate might approve or disapprove of any set of them, but the order was up to the magistrate who might thus frame proposals tactically to achieve a given outcome. If the vote passed then the proposal – drafted into written form by the presiding magistrate, usually with the assistance of a few more junior senators – and issued as a formal decree of the Senate, called a senatus consultum.
A few things could interrupt this stately order. The simplest was that senators could change their mind, based presumably on the arguments of others later in the speaking order; they seem to have been able to interrupt the order to announce that change, that they now agreed with so-and-so. Alternately, there might be calls for various kinds of floor motions, akin to points of order. The most common was consule! (‘consult!’), a call to signal that the magistrate needed to consult the senators (run through the speaking order) before proceeding to a vote on a given measure; you couldn’t just propose a vote and ram it through without debate. Alternately, senators might call out divide! (‘divide!’) to signal that certain motions being presented together needed to be split up, discussed and voted on separately. Also numera! (‘numbers!’ meaning ‘count!’) was the call to demand a quorum check. The Senate might even call for discussion to be opened on an issue, demanding a new relatio to discuss issues that had been raised – most often in the reading of dispatches or the reports of ambassadors, but sometimes from debates that broke out between senators.
Consequently, while the presiding magistrate convened the Senate and in theory set the agenda, in practice the Senate was much less under their control than the voting assembly. The presiding magistrate, it must be noted, could not cut off debate, though he could simply refuse to put a motion to a vote at the end of it. In addition, just to gum up the process further, a senatus consultum could be veto’d by the consuls or the tribunes, though the opinion of the Senate was still registered, just merely as the senatus auctoritas rather than consultum, though this carried a lot less weight. A veto’d proposal could simply be brought another day, in the hope that it might escape veto subsequently and at least until the 130s, it seems to have been an accepted part of the mos maiorum that one did not maintain a veto indefinitely against either the popular will or the will of the Senate (much less both), so in the third and most of the second century, a veto was a delaying tactic rather than a decisive killing of a motion.
As an aside before we move on to the Senate’s (lack of) formal powers and (abundant) traditional prerogatives, it seems worth noting how much emphasis this sort of system placed both on the speaking ability of senators and their personal auctoritas. Unlike as in many modern legislatures, the speeches here were not cosmetic and senators were not bound to a ‘party line’ in their votes. Consequently, powerful speakers or senators with formidable reputations, if they were present (and not, say, deployed in the provinces) could exert a lot of sway among the junior members of the senate who would make up the majority of votes when it came time to approve a senatus consultum.
Powers and Prerogatives
Now we have a senatus consultum, so we may ask what power it has and the answer is ‘none.’ But it is also ‘very much.’ And that brings us to the central paradox of the Senate. On the one hand, as I have my students chant in class, the Senate has no formal powers (in the Republic, before Sulla). It cannot legislate, it cannot adjudicate court cases, it cannot create or appoint magistrates, it cannot order armies or convene assemblies. All the Senate can do is issue opinions, which are not technically binding on anyone. This is particularly true when a senatus consultum comes into conflict with a decision of a popular assembly (a lex); at all points, the lex wins.
But the advice of the Senate is almost always followed, especially in certain key areas of the Republic.
Consequently while the Senate’s de iure powers basically don’t exist, its de facto powers under the mos maiorum are vast to the point that outside observers like Polybius conclude that the Senate is the most powerful part of the Roman state.4 As a result, in the period we can see most clearly from the fourth to the second century, the Senate almost always gets its way and exercises a customary control over key aspects of Roman governance, especially foreign policy, that is nearly complete. And while the Senate might not have any clearly defined legal authority to do any of this, governments are how they function and this is how the res publica functioned during the third and second centuries.
Domestically, the auctoritas of the Senate was such that it was clearly hard to pass laws without obtaining the consilium (consultation, counsel) of the Senate and receiving a favorable senatus consultum. You can easily see the mix of pressures here: on the one hand, a politician pushing a law would be profoundly unwise to trample the Senate to do so, because at the end of his short one-year term he would go back to being just a senator and in any case reliant on the influence of other senators to win future high office or other honors. At the same time, Roman voters seem to have taken the consultum of the Senate pretty seriously, so if the Senate was strongly against a motion, they were likely to vote it down anyway. And that makes sense: the Senate is a body of the most successful, most prestigious, most respected Romans in a society where you are expected to the defer to the judgements of such men. The People were not always supine before the Senate by any means, but the auctoritas senatus meant a lot.
That said, the Senate’s authority was unevenly spread. It seems fairly clear, especially by the fourth century, that the Senate felt it necessary to yield – if only slowly – on proposals where it faced widespread popular opposition. One may, of course, immediately contrast the Senate of the late-second and early-first century, which squanders its auctoritas trying to stop proposals of this sort. So when it came to domestic affairs, the power of the Senate was perhaps at a low ebb; it could offer its approval to laws or its disapproval, but carrying out the laws was up to the magistrates and the assemblies of the people had the final say in passing or not passing proposals.
In foreign policy, the Senate was far more influential, to the point of dominance. One crucial task that is clearly regularized well before 218, when the survival of more of Livy lets us see it clearly, is the assignment of magistrates to specific jobs or provinciae. It is frankly unclear how strong the legal basis for these assignments was and in any event it doesn’t matter: what matters is that the Senate advised the magistrates and the magistrates always acted accordingly. Consequently, the Senate was the senior strategic directing organ of the Republic, coordinating strategy and indeed grand strategy over the whole of the Mediterranean through a system of provincial assignments, directives to the magistrates assigned and transfers of resources between Italy and those provinces (including province-to-province transfers) accomplished by assigned senatorial commissioners (called legati).5 What we see in Livy is a regular cycle where these assignments are decided on at the start of each consular year, along with the Senate ‘advising’ the magistrates and pro-magistrates on how many soldiers they should levy and where those troops ought to go (along with supplies, as mentioned); the Senates prerogative in this regard becomes so ironclad that it is by the career of Scipio Aemilianus treated as effectively a legal restriction, which can only be finessed by taking volunteers, but not by simply passing a law or ignoring the Senate.
Connected to this was the Senate’s oversight over state finance. The finances of the res publica, you will recall, were overseen by quite junior officials, the quaestors. In practice what that seems to have really meant was that the larger financial picture was handled by the Senate, which ,set the annual tributum (Rome’s direct tax on citizens) and approved major expenditures from the treasury, the largest of which will have been to the armies, thus neatly tying up with the above paragraph. It is not hard to see why the Senate ends up running this aspect, both because it was one which required long-term vision, but also because the quaestors, as junior magistrates looking to move further up the cursus honorum, wouldn’t have have had any incentive or sufficient personal influence to defy the Senate’s auctoritas in any event. The Senate thus ‘advised’ the quaestors on what to do with Rome’s finances, and they did it. Once again, the question of if the Senate had the legal power to do this was rather beside the point: in any event the quaestors complied.
Likewise, the Senate had a powerful role in foreign policy, though in the end only the comitia centuriata could make peace or declare wars. Foreign ambassadors had to report to the consuls, but the consuls role, in addition to hosting them, was primarily to introduce the ambassadors to speak to the Senate, and then it was the Senate which considered their positions. That makes a lot of sense, as the Senate is a continuing body: an agreement with a consul would only hold potentially for a year, but an agreement with the Senate has some permanence to it and it certainly seems like if the Senate suggested treaty ratification to the assembly, it passed. As noted previously, assemblies bucking the Senate on questions of war and peace was extremely rare; when it happened, concessions were made and eventually the People followed the advice of the Senate.
Finally, the Senate was also the effective final authority on Roman religion. Quite a few students tend to assume this authority must rest with Rome’s most senior priest, the Pontifex Maximus, but it does not. Instead, Rome’s senior priests, like the College of Pontiffs advised the Senate on religious matters, but it was the Senate which decided. Thus it was the Senate which instituted the Ludi Apollinares (Livy 25.12), it was the Senate that directed that the worship of Cybele be brought to Italy as the Magna Mater (Livy 29.10), the Senate which ordered the suppression and later regulations (Livy 39.14 and we have the text of the senatus consultum) of the Bacchanalia.
All of these prerogatives are based on the Senate’s informal authority, its auctoritas, rather than any formal powers of compulsion (which it lacks). The extent of that auctoritas and the degree to which it was clearly felt by most Romans to be necessary to respect, can come as a bit of a surprise. But it is worth remembering the sort of society the Romans have and also the kind of organization the Senate is.
On the one hand, Roman culture is one where deference to age and authority is expected and normalized, with the Romans being quite comfortable with open hierarchies among citizens. These sorts of cultural values were mot than just a dry sense that one needed to be polite to the elderly; the Romans felt the demands of honor and deference quite keenly.6 The Senate was in turn a collection of the 300 very highest status individuals, the men with the most auctoritas in a society that did not have many alternative structures of power or influence. Modern politicians have to compete with journalists, pundits, business moguls and media stars for influence; but to a substantial degree the nature of Roman society meant that nearly all of the most influential men in this period were in the Senate. These were the wealthiest men in Rome and also the most politically accomplished men in Rome and also the most visible and notable men in Rome. When they spoke collectively through a senatus consultum, the auctoritas of the thing was immense.
At the same time, the Senate’s auctoritas also came from the accomplishments and in a sense the expertise of its members. Because it was a body of ex-magistrates, pretty much every Roman with senior leadership experience in either civil or military affairs was a member. It was at once a council of Rome’s most experienced political leaders and its most experienced generals, which also included its most experienced priests. And as the only deliberative part of the Roman political process, it provided those figures the opportunity to debate and discuss; it is thus perhaps unsurprising that it usually took quite a lot for the Roman People to come to the decision that the Senate was making a poor choice.
Finally, the auctoritas of the Senate clearly rested substantially on its history, something that it seems to me the senators themselves did not fully understand. In the early third century, the Senate – in as much as we can see with our often less-than-ideal sources – both managed the closing stages of the Struggle of the Orders and the successful completion of the last two wars to dominate Italy (the Third Samnite War, 298-290 and the Pyrrhic War, 280-275) against formidable opponents. Then under the leadership of the Senate, Rome emerged victorious from a long and grueling first war against Carthage (264-241). It seems little surprise then that, when deciding how to manage the governance of their new overseas provinces (Sicily, then Corsica et Sardinia) the Romans leaned on the Senate. When the Second Punic War (218-201) came around, the Senate assumed a decisive role in strategic direction, especially after the initial setbacks.
In short, the Senate’s auctoritas was also substantially rooted in the perception that its advice was generally wise, that it had been generally successful, particularly through the third century. That in turn explains substantially just how dominant the Senate is through much of the second century – its auctoritas, when we come to see it clearly – was at a high ebb.
But of course that auctoritas was to a substantial degree dependent on future performance. We see pretty clearly that faith in the Senate wanes over the back half of the second century and its auctoritas with it. Setbacks in the Third Punic War (149-146) and the Numantine War (143-133) lead the assemblies to demand unconventional generals – in both cases, electing the legally-ineligable-at-the-time Scipio Aemilianus to the task, over the objections of the Senate. And the Senate’s stubborn failure to address perceived economic problems and the boiling crisis over the status of the socii also seems to have degraded its auctoritas.
The great advantage of government by auctoritas rather than laws was that the Senate’s authority could flow wherever it was needed, enabling the Roman system to adapt to the shift from being one city in Italy to an Italian empire to a Mediterranean Empire smoothly. But such a government was also necessarily fragile in ways I am not sure the Romans ever quite realized, because if that auctoritas were squandered, there was no legal, compulsive authority for the Senate, which had become the central organ of Roman governance, to fall back on. Sulla’s effort to restore the power of the Senate by radically expanding it seems, here, particularly misguided, as if adding 300 more mediocrities could restore the respect of an institution after Marius and Sulla himself had gotten done killing nearly all of the men of experience, capability and consequence in the body.
But all of this is getting rather too close to a narrative of the collapse of the Republic, which is a formidable topic in its own right. Next time, we’ll close out the main trunk of this series with a look at Rome’s courts (but expect addenda also covering provincial government and Rome’s Italian alliance system).
- I stress this point because this is a common mistake: assuming that the Pontifex Maximus as Rome’s highest priest was in some way the ‘boss’ of all of Rome’s other priests. He was not; he was the presiding officer of the college of Pontiffs and the manager of the calendar (this was a very significant role), but the Pontifex Maximus was not the head of some priestly heirarchy and his power over the other pontifices was limited. Moreover his power over other religious officials (the augures, haruspices, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis and so on) was very limited. Instead, these figures report to the Senate, though the Senate will generally defer to the judgement of the pontifices.
- With sitting tribunes able to attend meetings of the Senate, but not being granted lifelong membership.
- A touch higher than the 24 years a L3 Model West life table (what we generally use to simulate Roman populations) leads us to expect, but then these are elites who are likely to be well nourished and not in hazardous occupations, so they might live a bit longer.
- Though it must be noted that Polybius is mostly looking at Roman foreign policy, where the Senate is strongest.
- I should note much of this picture is owed to Michael Taylor, with whom I am collaborating on work on this very topic; I’ll be sure to hollar if/when that work appears in print, of course.
- For a sense of how keenly, see C. Barton, Roman Honor: the fire in the bones (2001).