Skip to main content
Select Source:

senate, Roman

Roman senate, governing council of the Roman republic. It was the outgrowth of the council of the kings. By the 3d cent. BC the senate was a group of 300 men with a high degree of political, legislative, and administrative power at Rome. There were serious checks on its power, especially in the hands of the tribunes. The members were chosen by the censors and included theoretically the best citizens; but as it worked out, the senate consisted of ex-magistrates, almost entirely members of a small number of old families from either the patrician or plebeian classes. Membership was usually for life. In the expansion of Rome in the 3d and 2d cent. BC the senate sent out the armies, made the treaties, organized the new domain, and controlled finance. The senatorial conduct of Roman affairs was fairly successful until c.130 BC After that the senate's provincial administration of the huge empire was increasingly inefficient and graft-ridden. However, the authority of the senate was not called into question until the growth of party-class division that developed with the agitation of the Gracchi. The leaders of the senate became also the leaders of the most reactionary group and would yield on no point, economic or political. The fatal development in the republic of two parties, optimates (the senatorial conservatives) and populares, grew out of this resistance to change. The optimates tried to foster the idea that they represented constitutionalism versus subversion, but after Sulla, who combined the bloodiest illegality with the strictest defense of the senate (which he raised to 600 members), such a claim by optimates was hypocritical and cynical. Caesar enlarged the number of the senate to 900. The ruin of the optimates and the senate was accomplished in the proscription of 43 BC after Caesar's assassination. After the proscription what was left of the senate was docile and ineffectual. Augustus lowered the number to 600. As an administrator he found he had to reduce senatorial control in the provinces. Under the principate the senate became a somewhat less hereditary body and gradually came to include provincials from most regions of the empire. It continued to include many of the empire's leading soldiers and administrators, until it lost much influence in the troubles of the 3d cent. AD In the later Roman Empire, it retained some prestige, but very little power. Under Byzantine rule in the 6th cent., the senate disappeared.

See M. Gelzer, The Roman Nobility (1969); R. J. A. Talbert, The Senate of Imperial Rome (1984).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"senate, Roman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"senate, Roman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/senate-roman

"senate, Roman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/senate-roman

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Senate, Roman

Senate, Roman Chief governing body of the Roman republic. It originated as a royal council under the early kings. By the 2nd century bc, it controlled all matters of policy. Senators were chosen for life by the censors and at first were mainly former consuls. They numbered 300, raised to 600 under Sulla, to 900 by Caesar, and reduced to 600 under Augustus. Plebeians gained entry in the 4th century bc. Under the Empire, the Emperor's control of military and civil officials gradually restricted the Senate to judicial matters and to the city government in Rome. Under the late Empire, senatorial status was extended on a massive scale to the landowning élite.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Senate, Roman." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Apr. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Senate, Roman." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/senate-roman

"Senate, Roman." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/senate-roman

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.