In this way the small initial movements made by the Servian constitution--such as, in particular, the handing over to the army the right of assenting to the declaration of an aggressive war(11)--attained such a development that the curies were completely and for ever cast into the shade by the assembly of the centuries, and people became accustomed to regard the latter as the sovereign people. In this assembly debate took place merely when the presiding magistrate chose himself to speak or bade others do so; of course in cases of appeal both parties had to be heard. A simple majority of the centuries was decisive.

As in the curiate assembly those who were entitled to vote at all were on a footing of entire equality, and therefore after the admission of all the plebeians into the curies the result would have been a complete democracy, it may be easily conceived that the decision of political questions continued to be withheld from the curies; the centuriate assembly placed the preponderating influence, not in the hands of the nobles certainly, but in those of the possessors of property, and the important privilege of priority in voting, which often practically decided the election, placed it in the hands of the -equites- or, in other words, of the rich.


The senate was not affected by the reform of the constitution in the same way as the community. The previously existing college of elders not only continued exclusively patrician, but retained also its essential prerogatives--the right of appointing the interrex, and of confirming or rejecting the resolutions adopted by the community as constitutional or unconstitutional. In fact these prerogatives were enhanced by the reform of the constitution, because the appointment of the magistrates also, which fell to be made by election of the community, was thenceforth subject to the confirmation or rejection of the patrician senate. In cases of appeal alone its confirmation, so far as we know, was never deemed requisite, because in these the matter at stake was the pardon of the guilty and, when this was granted by the sovereign assembly of the people, any cancelling of such an act was wholly out of the question.

But, although by the abolition of the monarchy the constitutional rights of the patrician senate were increased rather than diminished, there yet took place--and that, according to tradition, immediately on the abolition of the monarchy--so far as regards other affairs which fell to be discussed in the senate and admitted of a freer treatment, an enlargement of that body, which brought into it plebeians also, and which in its consequences led to a complete remodelling of the whole. From the earliest times the senate had acted also, although not solely or especially, as a state-council; and, while probably even in the time of the kings it was not regarded as unconstitutional for non- senators in this case to take part in the assembly,(12) it was now arranged that for such discussions there should be associated with the patrician senate (-patres-) a number of non-patricians "added to the roll" (-conscripti-). This did not at all put them on a footing of equality; the plebeians in the senate did not become senators, but remained members of the equestrian order, were not designated -patres- but were even now -conscripti-, and had no right to the badge of senatorial dignity, the red shoe.(13) Moreover, they not only remained absolutely excluded from the exercise of the magisterial prerogatives belonging to the senate (-auctoritas-), but were obliged, even where the question had reference merely to an advice (-consilium-), to rest content with the privilege of being present in silence while the question was put to the patricians in turn, and of only indicating their opinion by adding to the numbers when the division was taken--voting with the feet (-pedibus in sententiam ire-, -pedarii-) as the proud nobility expressed it. Nevertheless, the plebeians found their way through the new constitution not merely to the Forum, but also to the senate-house, and the first and most difficult step towards equality of rights was taken in this quarter also.

Otherwise there was no material change in the arrangements affecting the senate. Among the patrician members a distinction of rank soon came to be recognized, especially in putting the vote: those who were proximately designated for the supreme magistracy, or who had already administered it, were entered on the list and were called upon to vote before the rest; and the position of the first of them, the foreman of the senate (-princeps senatus-) soon became a highly coveted place of honour. The consul in office, on the other hand, no more ranked as a member of senate than did the king, and therefore in taking the votes did not include his own. The selection of the members--both of the narrower patrician senate and of those merely added to the roll--fell to be made by the consuls just as formerly by the kings; but the nature of the case implied that, while the king had still perhaps some measure of regard to the representation of the several clans in the senate, this consideration was of no account so far as concerned the plebeians, among whom the clan-organization was but imperfectly developed, and consequently the relation of the senate to that organization in general fell more and more into abeyance. We have no information that the electing consuls were restricted from admitting more than a definite number of plebeians to the senate; nor was there need for such a regulation, because the consuls themselves belonged to the nobility. On the other hand probably from the outset the consul was in virtue of his very position practically far less free, and far more bound by the opinions of his order and by custom, in the appointment of senators than the king. The rule in particular, that the holding of the consulship should necessarily be followed by admission to the senate for life, if, as was probably the case at this time, the consul was not yet a member of it at the time of his election, must have in all probability very early acquired consuetudinary force.

From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy Page 07

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