Changing Role And Responsibilities Of The Roman Senate Under Augustus

1042 words - 4 pages

The Senate began to see Augustus as one of their own after he had won their trust, and later only after hesitations because he far outranked them in power and prestige. From this, we can see that the Senate considered Augustus a powerful ally of sorts, and Augustus needed the Senate to uphold, on the surface, the fundamental premise of Roman political thinking, since anyone of importance in the political world was a part of the Roman Senate.Under Augustus, many of the old senatorial families died, and the rest relied on him for survival, both financially and politically. Augustus also replaced much of the Senate with his chief supporters, or men in parts of Italy originally not represented in Rome. Those men tended to give their loyalty to Augustus, who made their full participation in politics possible. The Senate was ultimately transformed into a body that represented all parts of the empire.The census was one way to reduce the size of the Senate, though it wasn't the main way. Obviously unworthy men were forced to leave (men whose backgrounds deviated too markedly from the norm). Augustus attempted a policy of encouragement, and then tried to make the senatorial class kick out those members. When neither worked, he had to force them out himself. The main purpose of these cuts were to wipe out the opposition from the Senatorial families with distinguished records.Augustus measured "worthiness" by each man's net worth and corresponding income; the amount of wealth was 400,000 sesterces before Augustus - now it was 1 million sesterces. From the reform on-wards, only men already entitled to wear the tunic with the purple stripe could present himself as a candidate, wiping out the tradition of all Romans having a chance. The lower participation in elections mainly resulted from the tiny percentage of Romans eligible to vote. Others lived too far away from Rome, and some didn't bother at all because they realized that the electorate had very little actual choice in any case.There was a decline in competition amongst candidates after 19BC. This decline likely reflects the growing power of the princeps. He could influence elections through his power to accept or reject applications, or announce backing for candidates, for whom citizens would then be obliged to vote. Particularly quaestors and tribunes realized that there is little point, since Augustus held the tribunus plebis every year. For this reason, some knights were nominated as tribunes so that they could leave the Senate after their term expires if they wish to.Augustus created new electoral commissions consisting of senators and knights only, to sift the candidates and choose a list whose election was then a foregone conclusion. From this, he demonstrates clearly that the identities of the senators are dictated by the dominant figure of the princeps.Augustus attempted to bind as many of the old republican families to his cause as possible, usually by arranging marriages with his own...

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