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Procedure in the Roman Republican Senate and its effect on the senators’ decisions

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posted on 2023-10-20, 02:21 authored by William Lechmere Gale

After indicating the vanous factors which appear to have affected senatorial decision-making, I limit myself to determining the effect of procedure (the way in which the Roman Republican Senate organised its business over its approximately 500 years of existence) on its decisions. It must be remembered that these decisions were not laws in the modem sense of the word, but advice from an experienced body of ex-magistrates to those currently in office and/or their successors. I briefly detail the make-up and functions of the Senate and I then deal with each of the fourteen aspects of procedure that I can discover, one by one. As the Republic, unlike most modem states, had no written constitution or written procedural rules, we are reliant on other literary evidence to indicate what happened in the Senate. The comments of active senators are particularly valuable, but, of course, account must be taken of possible bias. We have much less evidence for earlier than for later years (towards the end of which the system tended to break down).

After documenting each aspect of procedure and considering its possible effect on the Senate’s decisions, I conclude that some of the matters previously thought to have affected the Republican Senate’s decisions were not in fact very important, whereas other aspects of procedure previously little considered did in fact affect its decisions to a greater or lesser degree.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Meeting Places -- Chapter 2. The Timing of Senate Meetings -- Chapter 3. The Influence of Presiding Magistrates -- Chapter 4. The Speaking Order -- Chapter 5. The Influence of the Trihuni Plebis and the Veto in General -- Chapter 6. The Order of Business -- Chapter 7. The Alleged Quorum -- Chapter 8. The Duty of Senators -- Chapter 9. The Confidentiality of Proceedings -- Chapter 10. The Effect of Emotion -- Chapter 11. The Influence of the Older Senators and the Mos Minorum -- Chapter 12. The Voting -- Chapter 13. The Senatus Consulivm -- Chapter 14. The Religious Aspects of Senatorial Procedure -- Conclusion

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of History and Archaeology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor



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