Roman Government

Assemblies (Comitia)

comitia centuriata patricians + plebeians

(5 economic classes divided into centuries)

elected consuls, praetors, censors
comitia populi tributa patricians + plebeians

(voted in 35 tribes)

elected quaestors, curule aediles, tribunes of soldiers
comitia plebis tributa plebeians only

(voted in 35 tribes)

made laws (plebiscites) conducted trials, elected pleb aediles, tribunes of plebs

The Senate (Senatus)

This was traditionally believed to have been founded by Romulus but was probably set up as an advisory body by the kings of Rome. It originally consisted of 100 patrician men but by the time of the Republic, there were 300 members and plebeians were allowed to become senators. They were divided into 30 decuries led by a patrician 'interrex' (this ensured that there were always at least 30 patrician senators) and the leader, or 'Princeps Senatus' also had to be a patrician. Once a man became a senator, he remained one for life but could be expelled by the censors who elected new senators. Not all of them were allowed to speak (those who weren't, the 'senatores pedarii', sat behind those who were) but everyone could vote. The Senate controlled the treasury, foreign affairs, war and the running of the provinces, including the appointment of provincial governors. Although it was legally only an advisory rather than a legislating body, decrees were often accepted as law by the Comitia. Towards the end of the Republic era, the Senate was allowed to pass the Senatus consultum republica defenda, an ultimate decree which proclaimed its own sovereignty and meant that no one man was able to become a dictator. Only men over 30 could enter the senate, and it was customary for a senator to have an income of at least 1 million sesterces a year although this does not seem to have been a formal law during the Republic.

Magistrates and Officials

Position Number Requirements Duties

(2nd in command master of horse)

1 in military emergency only only 6 month term

could be indicted for offences afterwards

defending Rome

(senior magistrate)

2 every 5 years could not stand if had been consul regulated senate + eques membership, conducted census, applied means test, public works, state contracts

(senior magistrates)

2 a year (senr + junr)

pat or pleb by C1st BC (not 2 pats)

age 42 or 12 years after entering senate command armies, held 'fasces'
consul suffectus

(sustitute consul)

if consul died or was incapable of continuing appointed by Senate, with remaining consul present those of consul
proconsul yearly term but could be elected more than one year running usually year after being consul imperium outside Rome

consular powers, governed provinces,

army commanders


2nd level magistrate

one until 242 BC

then 2 (urbinus and peregrinus)

  227 BC 4 a year

197 BC 6-8

governed provinces

Sicily, Corsica-Sardinia

two Spanish provs

praetor urbinus 242 BC one a year could only leave Rome for 10 days law courts
praetor peregrinus 242 BC one a year travelled constantly justice outside Rome and for non-citizens
propraetor invented in 242 BC    
aediles 2 plebeian 493 BC

2 curule 367 BC

  assist tribunes of plebs,

guard rights of plebs streets, drains, water supply, buildings, markets, public grain supply, games

gave patricians share in control of archives and public buildings

quaestor c 12-16 every year Dec 5th had to be 30 yrs old fiscal duties customs, port dues, rents, provincial finances
tribune of the plebs 10 by 450 BC 149 BC became senators automatically less power because not elected by full assembly but could veto acts of any magistrates defended life and property of plebs
tribuni militum tribunes of the soldiers 24 every year, originally 6 per legion c 25-29 yrs old elected by full assembly therefore magistrates
tribuni aerarii -   army pay before quaestors, civil servants, treasury?
College of lictors

(public servants )

about 200 or 300

groups of 10 under prefect

  escorted holders of 'imperium'

wore crimson tunic outside Rome

custodes minor officials   electoral procedures (tallies, ballots)

Cursus Honorum

This was the 'way of honour' or series of steps a man had to go through in order to become a consul and have himself and his family enobled.

Quaestor either before or after entering senate
senator at age of 30
praetor 9 years after entering senate
consul could stand 2 years being after praetor

Economic Classes

Class Members Qualifications
Senators - separated from knights 123 BC patrician and plebeian nobility 1 million sesterces income a year
Ordo Equester


originally 1800 keepers of Public horse

sons + families of senators

400 000 sesterces income a year
Third Class    
Fourth Class    
Fifth Class    
Capite Censi/head count


too poor to vote in comitia  

Priests (pontifex, pontifices)

Title Members Duties Electors

flamen, flamines 3 major

f. Dialis Jup.Opt.Max.

f. Martialis - Mars

f.Quirinalis Quirinus

12 minor

f Dialis

head of state religion, supervised priestly colleges

College of Augurs 6 patricians

6 plebeians

priests of divination, carried lituus or curved staff self appointing until 104 BC, then elected by 17 tribes drawn by lot
College of Epulones originally 3, 8 or 10 by later Republic organised feasts on religious holidays  
fetials minor priests    

The Toga

Only full Roman citizens were entitled to wear the toga. It was made of wool and varied in length over time. It was probably not a perfect rectangle but was about 15 feet by 7 feet six (4.6 by 2.25 metres) for a man. There were several different togae.

Name When worn

toga alba/pura/virilis manhood (16 years) plain white or cream
toga pulla mourning black
toga candida those wanting to be elected magistrate pure white
toga picta triumphing general, kings of Rome purple
toga praetexta curule magistrate, boys and girls purple edged
toga trabea augur, probably pontifex red and purple stripes, purple border



Events were dated from the founding of the city of Rome - ab urbe condita or a.u.c. - which took place in 753 BC or Year One to the Romans.

There were originally only ten months with New Year on the Kalends of Martius, until King Tarquinius Priscus added two more, Ianuarius and Februarius, at the beginning. After his successor, Tarquinius Superbus, was deposed, Martius became the first month again but eventually the new system was adopted permanently. The year was only 355 days long so the calendar was not often synchronized with the seasons unless the College of Pontifices carried out its duties properly and added 20 days to the month of February every two years. July and August took their names from the first Empeors, Julius Caesar and Augustus.

Days of the month were counted backwards from one of the nodal points, i.e. three days before the Kalends of May (27th April), five days after the Nones of January (10th January). The year was divided into holidays (fasti) and non holidays (nefasti) and a list was put up on public buildings to tell people when meetings could be held, when the feasts would be and which days were ill-omened.


English Name Latin Name Number of Days Date of Kalends

Date of Nones Date of Ides
January Ianuarius 29 1 5 13
February Februarius 28 1 5 13
March Martius 31 1 7 15
April Aprilis 29 1 5 13
May Maius 31 1 7 15
June Iunius 30 1 5 13
July Quintilis (Iulius) 31 1 7 15
August Sextilis (Augustus) 29 1 5 13
September   29 1 5 13
October   31 1 7 15
November   29 1 5 13
December   29 1 5 13


English Latin

Sunday Dies Solis
Monday Dies Lunae
Tuesday Dies Martis
Wednesday Dies Mercuri
Thursday Dies Iovis
Friday Dies Veneris
Saturday Dies Saturni


There were no separate characters for numbers in Latin. Those used in Europe today are based on Arabic numerals. The Romans used letters instead.

I 1
II 2
IV or IIII 4
V 5
VI 6
IX 9
X 10
L 50
C 100
D 500
M 1000


as, ases 10 = 1denarius bronze
sestercius, sesterces (HS) semis tercius or 2.5 ases

4 = 1 denarius

denarius, denarii 6250 = 1 silver talent silver (about 3.5 grams)
talent load a man could carry c 50-55lb

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This collection of names compiled by Kate Monk. Copyright January 1997, Kate Monk. Last updated April, 97. Copies may be made for personal use only.