The Role Of the Senate in the Augustan Constitution

Augustus ( 62 BC –14 AD ) , besides known as Octavian, assumed control of the Roman Empire following the decease of Julius Caesar and the power vacuity that ensued. Like Caesar before him, Octavian was a totalitarian leader. Unlike his predecessor, nevertheless, Octavian set case in points for his replacements, including the organisation of the Senate, the extenuation of his ain power, and the development of a fundamental democracy. Though Octavian advocated the promotion of the Senate, its being served largely to pacify his critics and stress the spurious image of an across-the-board authorities. In the Augustan fundamental law, the Senate handled affairs of province such as people, land development and societal order.

Roman leading grew wary of the Senate following the blackwash of Julius Caesar. In order to continue governmental integrity and to avoid seceding the turning imperium, subsequent Roman emperors downplayed the function of the Senate, presuming power merely somewhat less dictatorial than the first Caesar. Upon presuming leading, Octavian was faced with pacifying the Senate while at the same time consolidating undisputed power. The solution was simple, and “thus in January 27 BC Octavian went through the dumb show of giving up power to the senate, and having most of it back again” ( Scarre 1997, p. 18 ) . What appeared to be grants in power was really a series of manoeuvres in which Octavian engaged in order to compose the Senate’s power out of the new fundamental law. Such schemes were subsequently found to be disused, as the Senate about played into Octavian’s custodies, yielding power in order to squelch turning concerns sing the coherence of the province. Whether to besiege the Roman bureaucratism or to merely make a whipping boy if events took a bend for the worst, the Senate played a important portion in its dilution in the Octavian fundamental law. The Senate would frequently go through Torahs that would consolidate Octavian’s power as if to prove his resoluteness to set up a democracy ; Octavian would in bend veto them instantly, gaining him the trust of the common common mans and fostering his image as a “man of the people” ( Suetonius 1979, p. 85 ) . With instability endangering the integrity of the imperium, such drastic yet voluntary moves were frequently made on portion of the Senate to foster empower Octavian. For illustration, the Senate “voted him the undertaking of oversing public ethical motives and size uping the laws— [ a ] life-time appointment” ( Suetonius 1979, p. 69 ) . The new fundamental law did non forbid the Senate from the legislation procedure, but laws’ beings were at the caprice of the emperor.

There were two cases in which Octavian “ [ earnestly ] idea of reconstructing the Republican system, ” one time “immediately after the autumn of Antony, ” who “had frequently accused him of being the one obstruction to such a change” and “again when he could non agitate off an wash uping illness” that threatened to raise the post-Caesar power vacuity ( Suetonius 1979, p. 69 ) . Rather than authorise the Senate in judiciary affairs, nevertheless, the chiefly legislative Senate in the Augustan fundamental law was truncated ; Octavian farther limited the Senate by amending its rank Numberss to a upper limit of 600. The Senate was restricted for two grounds: 1 ) Octavian’s perceived desire to consolidate unmitigated power, and 2 ) the corruptness that had plagued the Senate’s rank since the decease of Julius Caesar. By his Ascension to power, the Senate “numbered more than 1,000 individuals, ” many of whom “secured admittance after Caesar’s decease or through bribery” ( Suetonius 1979, p. 74 ) . Extra standard for senator choice was instated, with land ownership a necessity for publicity. The Senate’s deficiency of executive and judiciary powers was a restriction levied by Octavian due to his concern “for his ain life” every bit good as “national security” , claims which were justified by an expansionist war in Western Europe and a series of brushs in the Pyrenees ( Suetonius 1979, p. 69 ) . Following Octavian’s premise of power, the Senate had no power to form itself, relegated in the Augustan fundamental law to a dependance on the emperor in order to find its destiny. Octavian orchestrated the fundamental law to let the formation of “a Council of the Senate” at his behest, which would in bend choose Senatorial members “by batch every six months, ” restricting their responsibility to “study the bill of exchanges of measures which would subsequently be laid before the House as a whole” ( Suetonius 1979, p. 74 ) .

Octavian’s alterations were sweeping, and the legislative province in which he left the Senate was singular. “The powers he held were exceeding [ but ] none of them was wholly without republican precedent” ; unlike other Caesars, Octavian’s trespass of power came under the pretense of civility and the public assistance of the province ( Scarre 1997, p. 19 ) . Though the Senate could non maintain Octavian’s power in cheque, it was given free reign to model the manners of the day-to-day lives of Rome’s citizens as it saw fit. Octavian’s greatest accomplishment “lay in carrying the senators to accept his place as caput of province, and to happen equal range for their aspirations without straight endangering his ain political aims” ( Scarre 1997, p. 19 ) . In short, Octavian limited the Senate in such a manner that he could prosecute his expansionist claims in Europe and Eurasia while continuing the false belief of Senatorial domestic statute law. While Octavian conquered Gaul and contemporary Spain, the Augustan Senate assisted domestically in the restructuring of Rome’s societal categories. With Octavian, the Senate re-invented Roman societal order, “ [ cross-examining ] every knight on his personal affairs” with “the aid of 10 senators, ” a step the Senate deemed necessary for the continuation of Roman racial and class-based high quality ( Suetonius 1979, p. 76 ) . In add-on, Octavian sculpted the Senate to supervise the saving of “Roman stock” ; Octavian charged the Senate with the duty of restricting the figure of “new Roman citizens, or to allow the manumission of more than a limited figure of slaves” ( Suetonius 1979, p. 77 ) . The State had “been revolutionized, and at that place was non a trace left of the old ‘sound’ morality, ” and the Augustan fundamental law had efficaciously transformed the Senate from a political to a mostly societal organic structure ( Tacitus 1952, p. 2 ) .

Despite the fact that Octavian’s alterations “promoted justice” , they mostly “ruined freedom” ( Tacitus 1952, p. 22 ) . The lone alterations made from the leftovers of Julius Caesar’s Rome were nominal ; the corporate fright of civil war and the at hand dissipation of Roman international hegemony allowed Octavian the autonomy of paring Senatorial influence. Reduced to a societal proctor, the Senate would non be restored to its former power for several centuries.


Scarre, Chris. ( 1997 )History of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record ofthe Rulers of Imperial Rome. London, Thames and Hudson.

Suetonius, Gaius and Robert Graves ( trans ) ( 1979 )The Twelve Caesars. New York, Penguin Classics.

Tacitus, P. Cornelius. ( 1952 )The Annals and The Histories. Chicago, EncyclopediaBritannica.

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