The Senate was also an extremely important part of Roman politics, having its name derived from the Latin word senex meaning old. Supposedly, the Senate was first established by Romulus, the founder of Rome, who chose 100 heads of families. When Lucius Junius Brutus took after the expulsion of Tarquin the Proud, he increased the number to 300. During the latter part of the Republic, two political parties emerged the Senate. One was the Optimates, an extremely conservative political group. The other, the Populares, consisted of such members as Caesar, Cinna, Sulla, and Marius.
The senators could debate for hours on various topics, and filibusters could occur. However, they could only meet while the sun was up. Some of the duties of the Senate included appointing officials, sending ambassadors, and letting the consuls nominate a dictator.
Senators did have certain forms of dress, including the toga praetexta. This was the toga marking a senator with a curule magistracy, having a purple border go around the usual white background. They also had senatorial rings, made of either iron or gold. With Caesar’s rule, the Senate grew to 900 senators, saturating the Senate. Soon, the position was not as important as it used to be, due to the vast number.
Consuls were the highest and most important position during the Roman Republic, having authority over Roman rule. By law, a Roman had to be 40 years old to serve as consul if he was a patrician, and 42 years of age if he was a plebeian. Two consuls served together (the term “consules” means “those who walk together” in Latin).
Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus were the first consuls of the Roman Republic, serving from 509 to 508 BC. Brutus was the leader of the rebellion that overthrew the last of the Etruscan kings, Tarquin the Proud, in 509 BC. Tarquin the Proud’s son, Sextus Tarquinius, had raped Lucretia, a relative of Brutus. Lucretia, ashamed by this, committed suicide. This caused the rebellion to happen.
In 367 BC, the first plebeian held the position of consul, Lucius Sextius. The Lex Liciniae Sextiae demanded that one of the two consuls should always be a plebeian. There was a position reserved especially for plebeians, and that was the Tribune of the Plebs. There were ten plebeians elected each year by the Comitia Plebis Tributa, or the Plebeian Assembly. These plebeians had tremendous power, including the ability veto anything that the Senate or Plebeian Assembly proposed. This office was created in 494 BC, after the first secession of the plebs. This guaranteed plebeian rights.
Another important position in the cursus honorum, the ascending of public offices, was aedile. Julius Caesar himself was an aedile, before going on his way to become dictator. Aediles held and organized gladiatorial games to brighten their image in the public’s eyes, monitored the grain supply, and also kept watch over commerce. Being an aedile and holding lavish games such as naumachiae, naval gladiatorial battles, were sure to boost your image.
Quaestors managed the finance of Rome, each assigned to different sections. Some had their duties overseeing military finances, while others went to different cities. After Lucius Cornelius Sulla reformed Rome in 81 BC, the minimum age for a patrician to be quaestor was 28, while for a plebeian it was 30. Compare this to the older consul age requirement.
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