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The historical evolution of the Senate

The Senate (Senatus) was an organ of power in ancient Rome. It first appeared in the Wangzheng era, as a national consulting agency, composed of the elders of the clan’s wealthy and nobles, namely the Council of Elders. During the republic period, it was composed of former state officials and representatives of other major slave owners. They held the power to approve and approve laws, approve the highest officials elected, manage finances, diplomacy, military affairs, and implement major religious measures and other real powers. During the imperial period, power was increasingly concentrated on the emperor, and the Senate lost its original political status, but it was still the political pillar of aristocratic rule.

Wang Zheng era

Traditionally, the Senate was originally established by Romulus, the founder of Rome in mythology, as an advisory council. The Senate initially included a hundred heads of families, called Patres (the elders), and later evolved the term aristocracy. The veterans serve for life.

As an advisory body, the Senate had little power at this time, but it was not a display: the law passed by the aristocracy must be approved by the Senate; if the king has important matters (such as peace), he must consult the Senate, and the king must also exercise the death penalty. Seek the opinion of the Senate. The legendary seventh king was tyrannical and tyrannical, ignoring national laws, and was sentenced to death without the consent of the Senate, so he was exiled abroad, and Rome then entered the era of the Republic.

Roman republic

When the Roman Republic was first established, Lucius Junius Brutus (according to legend) increased the number of elders to three hundred, because they were newly called by Brutus In the Senate, they are also known as Conscripti (newcomers). So the members of the Senate were originally called Patres et Conscripti “Dear Fathers and Newcomers”, and gradually became Patres Conscripti (Dear Senators).

The membership of the Senate has changed. Only the parents of the noble families (Patres Conscripti, “listed parents”) were allowed to enter the Senate in the imperial regime. According to the Lex Ovinia Law (enacted around 312 BC), the members of the Senate Elected from the most outstanding figures among the former senior officials (consultants, prosecutors, justices, etc.). As civilians have obtained various high-level positions, the number of people entering the Senate has increased rapidly, and the power of the nobility has shrunk. At the same time, these senior retired officials have rich political experience and high social prestige, thereby enhancing the status of the Senate; coupled with the small number of the Senate, it is more convenient to hold meetings than the aristocratic assembly and the military assembly, and the Senate is even more prominent.

Until 123 BC, all the elders belonged to knights (called the Knights in English writings, equite). That year, Gaius Sempronius Gracchus legislated to separate the two classes and designated the latter as the Ordo Equester. In Roman politics, the members of the knightly economy class all have powerful political power of the rich, and their commercial activities are not restricted. The sons of the senator and other non-senator members of the senator’s family are included in the knight economy class, and they have the right to wear short-sleeved tunic with purple stripes as a symbol of their original membership in the Senate.

Extreme conservative factions appeared in the late Republic, and they were taken turns by Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Quintus Lutatius Catulus (Quintus Lutatius Catulus). , Led by Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus and Catotheyounger, they called themselves “boni” (good guys) or nobles.

Society has become tense due to partisan struggles between the nobles and the emerging populists, and these struggles have become more and more obvious through domestic fury, violence and cruel civil struggles. The members of the nobility group include Lucius Cornelius Sula, Kneus Pompey, and Gaius Mallor, Lucius Cornelius Chin. Both Na and Julius Caesar are common people. However, the titles of the populists and the nobles are not as specific as imagined, and politicians can often switch factions.

Reform and imperialism

(First century BC-6th century AD) During his tenure as dictator, Julius Caesar introduced a different kind of membership to the Senate. He increased the number of parliamentarians to 900, and allowed many Roman citizens with a Latin or Italian background to occupy a seat in the courtyard. He also made his loyal supporters who were brave and capable during the Civil War become veterans. Although intending to take away the power of those stubborn conservatives, such as the aristocratic faction, in the courtyard, this reform made the Senate become illusory under the politics of the Führer. The survivors of the Senate before the reform still have their place in the Roman political system, but their importance is no longer as good as before.

After Octavian came to power, he increased the number of members of the Senate to 600 and absorbed his party members to expand his influence. Nominally “Augustus” and the Senate are in charge of the country, but in fact he has the power of veto that belonged to the guarantor of the resolutions of the Senate. The right to vote in the Senate was infringed. However, the Senate gradually gained formal legislative power.

In the later period of the imperial administration, Emperor Diocletian promoted the monarchy, and the Senate was no longer a national political institution, but was reduced to an organization similar to the Roman City Council. Nevertheless, the Roman Senate still existed at the end of the Western Roman Empire, and its last documented bill was to send two envoys to Tiberius II Constantine between 578 and 580. Constantine) in the Royal Palace of Constantinople.


At the same time, Constantine I had established an independent Senate (Byzantine Senate) in Constantinople. In the following centuries, it has only nominal power rather than real power.

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