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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 08, 2010 03:39AM) (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
In advance of the discussion on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon, we have set up in advance some supplemental threads for discussion purposes and to help the group prepare and feel comfortable when we begin.

This thread is for the purpose of discussing the Roman government and the various political structures of the Roman Empire including the following titles and honours:

Cursus honorum
Magister militum
Princeps senatus
Pontifex Maximus

This thread will also discuss the various Precedents and Law:
Roman Law
Mos maiorum
Roman citizenship
Cursus honorum

Please discuss the terminology above and the various meanings. Also, include books, articles, reference materials related to the discussion of the Roman government and its political institutions.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1 by Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
This book may be of interest to some who would like to find out more information about this topic area:

A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions by Frank Frost Abbott Frank Frost Abbott

message 3: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) I think this book may fit in this thread being its a biography of Rome's 'greatest politician'; "Cicero" by Anthony Everitt.

Cicero The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt by Anthony Everitt
"Everitt's first book is a good read that anyone interested in ancient Rome will enjoy. It is also the first one-volume life of the Roman leader in 25 years. To create a work that flowed and was therefore more colorful for the lay reader, Everitt, the former secretary-general of the Arts Council for Great Britain, has taken liberties when describing a person or a place that may annoy scholars. Yet reading this book is an excellent way to understand the players of the period and the culture that produced them. Bloody, articulate, erudite, sexist, slave-owning-Cicero and his circle were all that, but Everitt is careful to recognize that the orator was a product of his age. This is not strictly a political history; Everitt scrutinizes Roman society in discussing events of the orator's life and, when describing Cicero's marriage, acquaints the reader with various aspects of that institution and the home of the era. Throughout, he is willing to admit when the evidence for a theory is weak and when he is extrapolating from the assumptions of scholars." - Library Journal

message 4: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) For those who want to read more about some of the great leaders and Caesar's of the Roman Empire here a few decent books covering specific Emperors:

Septimius Severus by Anthony Richard Birley by Anthony Richard Birley
Publishers blurb:
Septimius Severus, the African Emperor, was descended from Phoenician settlers in Tripolitania, and his reign, from AD 193-211, represents a turning point in Roman history. In his illuminating biography, Anthony R. Birley explores how "Roman" this man was and examines his remarkable background and career.
Given that Septimius came from Lepcis Magna, an African city that prospered under Roman rule, Birley first explores what was African and what was Roman in his background. Birley then considers Septimius' career as a Roman Senator in the age of the Antonines, including his second marriage to Julia Domna which led to a conspiracy to overthrow the deranged emperor Commodus and the dramatic civil wars of 193-197. Finally, the reign of the victorious Septimius is well detailed.
Well-illustrated and engaging, this biography reveals the multifaceted and sometimes conflicting character of an enigmatic and complex emperor.

Marcus Aurelius (Roman Imperial Biographies) by Anthony Richard Birley by Anthony Richard Birley
Publishers blurb:
An accessible and scholarly study of an emperor who was human and just throughout his long reign which was frequently punctuated by wars with the northern tribes.
"Anthony Birleys biography is learned, sympathetic, and comprehensive, and its illustrations are well chosen and very well reproduced. It is a worthy monument to the man." - The Spectator

"Birley everywhere has an eye for lively detail - the most important achievement of this excellent book is the graphic portrayal of how hard it was to govern the huge Roman Empire." - The Independent

"Marcus Aurelius was a singular and notable individual; it is a tribute to Professor Birleys skill that Marcus is, after all these centuries, human, accessible, and strangely endearing. Highly recommended." - Lancashire Life

Hadrian The Restless Emperor (Roman Imperial Biographies) by Anthony Richard Birley by Anthony Richard Birley
"In the first scholarly biography of Hadrian (76138 a.d.) since Bernard Henderson's 1923 work, German historian Birley examines the personal life and cultural and state achievements of the emperor who Hellenized and consolidated the Roman Empire. Drawing on the Historia Agusta and other Latin sources, Birley traces the life of Hadrian, a Roman of senatorial rank and Spanish origin whose career rose with that of his uncle Trajan. Trajan spent much of his time with his legions at the frontier, and Hadrian himself headed several legions. After Trajan became emperor, Hadrian assisted his uncle in the conquest of the Dacians, after which the Roman Empire expanded to its greatest breadth, and married Trajan's granddaughter, Vibia Sabina. Significantly for his future role as a promoter of Greek culture, Hadrian served as archon of Athens and was put in command of the army of Syria and adopted as Trajan's heir shortly before the emperor's death. Birley shows that Hadrian himself was both peripatetic and vigorous as ruler in consolidating his position around the empire, developing his eponymous wall in Britain, negotiating a peace with the Parthians, and putting down rebellions in Judaea (occasioned by his own unsuccessful attempt to Hellenize the Jews). Deeply interested in Greek architecture and culture, he became personally involved in massive building projects and wrote poetry, some of which has survived. Birley also traces Hadrian's celebrated homosexual relationship with the youth Antinous: When the boy died after falling into the Nile in 130 a.d., Hadrian became disconsolate. A person of mercurial character, he died after a long illness, hated by many but having left a remarkable stamp on the culture and character of the empire. An excellent, and long overdue, biography of one of the greatest and most accomplished of the Roman emperors." - Kirkus Reviews

Trajan Optimus Princeps A Life and Times (Routledge Imperial Biographies) by Julian Bennett by Julian Bennett
Publishers blurb:
Did Trajan really deserve his reputation as the embodiment of all imperial virtues? Why did Dante, writing in the Middle Ages, place him in the sixth sphere of Heaven among the Just and Temperate rulers?
In this, the only biography of Trajan available in English, Julian Bennett rigorously tests the substance of this glorious reputation. Surprisingly, for a Roman emperor, Trajan comes through the test with his reputation relatively intact.

Vespasian by Barbara Levick by Barbara Levick
Publishers blurb:
From a pre-eminent biographer in the field, this well-documented and illustrated biography examines the life and time of the emperor Vespasian and challenges the validity of his perennial good reputation and universally acknowledged achievements.
Examining received opinions on Vespasian, Barbara Levick examines how this plebeian and uncharismatic Emperor restored peace and confidence to Rome and ensured a smooth succession.
Outlining how he gained military experience and political skills, Levick goes on to explore how Vespasian coped with the military, political and economic problems of his reign, and his evaluation of the solutions to these problems, before she finally examines his posthumous reputation.
Part of the bestselling Roman Imperial Biographies series, Vespasian will engage, enthral and inform both students of classical studies and history, and the general classical enthusiast alike.

Pompey the Great by Robin Seager by Robin Seager
Publishers blurb:
Pompey the Great gives readers a look inside the political and military world of ancient Rome and at one of the characters that shaped its destiny.

"The new edition makes this volume one of the most ready references on this subject in English, and the chronological table and the glossary are exemplary for a biography on a Roman topic. Seager's work has stood the test of time and will continue to do so." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Thank you very much Aussie Rick for some of these fantastic adds.

message 6: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) I found a nice second hand copy of this book today that may interest those who wish to read further into Roman history; "Diocletian and the Roman Recovery" by Stephen Williams.

Diocletian and the Roman Recovery by Stephe Williams by Stephen Williams
Publishers blurb:
Stephen Williams's book is the first biography of Diocletian to appear in English. It combines the historical narrative of his remarkable reign and those of his fellow-emperors, with a chapter-by-chapter study of each of the great problems he faced, the interlocking solutions he evolved to meet them, and the longer term results. It is both a portrait of one of Rome's greatest and most original rulers, and a political study in the emergence of Absolutism.

message 7: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod

Imperium, (Latin: “command,” “empire”), the supreme executive power in the Roman state, involved both military and judicial authority. It was exercised first by the kings of Rome; under the republic (c. 509 BC–27 BC) it was held by the chief magistrates (consuls, dictators, praetors, military tribunes with consular power, and masters of the cavalry) and private citizens entrusted with a special command. In the later republic, proconsuls, propraetors, second members of certain commissions also possessed the imperium. Restrictions on its use were instituted from the inception of the republic. The principle of collegiality provided that each of the magistrates of the same level (e.g., the two consuls) who held it should hold it to the same degree. Down to the 2nd century BC, a series of laws was passed requiring trials for Roman citizens in capital cases, and also the right of appeal to the people (jus provocandi ad populum). The same rights were conventionally extended to Roman citizens in the military or other official service outside Rome. Magistrates were required to exercise imperium within the limits of their office (provincia). Imperium was officially conferred by the Comitia Curiata (a popular assembly) for one year or until the official completed his commission. Only in the last years of the republic was the imperium granted for specific terms beyond one year.

Caesar’s opponent Pompey was the first to receive such a commission, specifically for three years by the Lex Gabinia (67 BC). Octavian obtained the imperium as holder of various offices under the republic before he became the first emperor, under the name of Augustus, in 27 BC. From then on he was granted imperium for 10- or 5-year periods by the Senate throughout his tenure of office. The Senate thereafter voted the imperium to each succeeding emperor upon his accession. Some emperors, such as Augustus, had it voted to their chosen successor. Under the empire the title imperator (emperor), which had been used by victorious Roman generals under the republic, was reserved as an exclusive title for the head of state. The emperors received their first acclamation as emperor at their accession and thereafter each time a Roman general won a victory. Imperium was sometimes given to others in cases of special military commands, such as that of Germanicus in AD 17. When it was granted with no special duties, as in the case of Tiberius in AD 13, it implied that the recipient was an appropriate successor to the princeps, the unofficial title used by Augustus and subsequent emperors. With the expansion of Roman power during and after the reign of Augustus, imperium took on the meaning of “empire.” (Source:

message 8: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (last edited Jan 26, 2015 01:39PM) (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Cursus honorum

Cursus honorum: the "sequence of offices" in the career of a Roman politician.

In the late sixth century BCE, Rome became a republic and was, by definition, ruled by magistrates. The most important of these were the consuls and the praetors; the aediles and the quaestors occupied occupied positions of lesser importance. After their period in office, the magistrates became members of the Senate. During the centuries, new magistracies were added, but the tasks of the four main magistracies remained more or less the same. This changed in the first century BCE, when the Roman state was first ruled by military commanders (e.g., Sulla, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar), and later by an emperor. Then, the old functions became prestigious but meaningless sinecures.

The senatorial magistracies of the Roman republic and empire can be divided into four main groups:

Ordinary senatorial magistracies (quaestor, aedile, praetor, consul)
Extraordinary senatorial magistracies (dictator, censor, pontifex maximus)
Promagistracies (proconsul, propraetor)
Other magistracies (tribune, prefect)

From the third century BCE on, senatorial careers followed more or less the same track. After military service, one became quaestor, aedile, praetor and finally reached the consulship. Minimum ages were laid down in the Lex Vibia annalis (180). This typical career was called the cursus honorum, the 'sequence of offices'. When one was elected consul, he had already shown what kind of man he was in several branches of government activity (the army, accounting, care for the temples and Games, justice); in other words, the Roman magistrates were not specialists but generalists.

During the empire, new functions were created. One of the prerogatives of the emperor was to reward talented men with a dispensation for the minimum age. This was a sign of imperial favor. (Source:

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Good adds Vicki

message 10: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic

Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic by Henrik Mouritsen by Henrik Mouritsen (no photo)


This book deals with popular political participation in republican Rome. It contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of the people in the running of the Roman state, asking whether they had any real say or had been marginalized by the elite. It approaches the issue from a practical perspective, looking at the way political meetings and assemblies functioned and at the crowds that took part. The book thus puts the current discussion about Roman "democracy" on a new footing, and places it in a social context.

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Thank you Vicki for your adds today on the Roman History threads.

message 12: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Pontifex Maximus

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus

The Pontifex Maximus was the head of the College of Pontiffs and was the highest priest in Rome.

His main duties were -
1.The regulation of all expiatory ceremonials needed as a result of pestilence, lightning, etc.
2.The consecration of all temples and other sacred places and objects dedicated to the gods.
3.The regulation of the calendar; both astronomically and in detailed application to the public life of the state.
4.The administration of the law relating to burials and burying-places, and the worship of the Manes or dead ancestors.
5.The superintendence of all marriages by conferratio, i.e. originally of all legal patrician marriages.
6.The administration of the law of adoption and of testamentary succession.
7.The regulation of the public morals, and fining and punishing offending parties.


message 13: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Roman Triumvirates

Originally, triumviri were special commissions of three men appointed for specific administrative tasks apart from the regular duties of Roman magistrates. The triumviri capitales, for instance, oversaw prisons and executions, along with other functions that, as Andrew Lintott notes, show them to have been "a mixture of police superintendents and justices of the peace." The capitales were first established around 290–287 BC. They were supervised by the praetor urbanus. These triumviri, or the tresviri nocturni, may also have taken some responsibility for fire control.

Three-man commissions were also appointed for purposes such as establishing colonies (triumviri coloniae deducendae) or distributing land. Triumviri mensarii served as public bankers; the full range of their financial functions in 216 BC, when the commission included two men of consular rank, has been the subject of debate. Another form of three-man commission was the tresviri epulones, who were in charge of organizing public feasts on holidays. This commission was created in 196 BC by a tribunician law on behalf of the people, and their number was later increased to seven (septemviri epulones).

In the late Republic, two three-man political alliances are called triumvirates by modern scholars, though only for the second was the term triumviri used at the time to evoke constitutional precedents:

The so-called First Triumvirate was an informal political alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great") and Marcus Crassus. The arrangement had no legal status, and its purpose was to consolidate the political power of the three and their supporters against the senatorial elite. After the death of Crassus in 53 BC, the two survivors fought a civil war, during which Pompey was killed and Caesar established his sole rule as perpetual dictator.

The Second Triumvirate was recognized as a triumvirate at the time. A Lex Titia formalized the rule of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The legal language makes reference to the traditional triumviri. This "three-man commission for restoring the constitution of the republic" (triumviri rei publicae constituendae) in fact was given the power to make or annul law without approval from either the Senate or the people; their judicial decisions were not subject to appeal, and they named magistrates at will. Although the constitutional machinery of the Republic was not irrevocably dismantled by the Lex Titia, in the event it never recovered. Lepidus was sidelined early in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in civil war, leaving Octavian the sole leader.


message 14: by José Luís (new)

José Luís  Fernandes | 1016 comments The Senate of Imperial Rome

The Senate of Imperial Rome by Richard J.A. Talbert by Richard J.A. Talbert (no photo)


Richard J. A. Talbert examines the composition, procedure, and functions of the Roman senate during the Principate (30 B.C.-A.D. 238). Although it is of central importance to the period, this great council has not previously received such scholarly treatment. Offering a fresh approach to major ancient authors (Pliny and Tacitus in particular), the book also draws on inscriptions and legal writers never before fully exploited for the study of the senate.

message 15: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) Ancient Roman Government

Ancient Roman Government by Amelie von Zumbusch by Amelie von Zumbusch (no photo)


Our own system of government was deeply influenced by that of the Romans. This invaluable guide traces the development of Roman government from Romes legendary kings through its renowned emperors. Particular attention is paid to the evolution of the Roman Republic and roles played by patricians and plebeians during that period. A useful addition to both history and government collections.

message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Great job on all of these Teri

message 17: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Rank And Participation In The Republican Senate

(no image) Rank And Participation In The Republican Senate by Francis X. Ryan (no photo)


This study focuses on one aspect of the republican senate the relationship between rank and participation in debate. The senate is usually pictured as a place in which a relatively small number of high-ranking senators who spoke exercised influence over a relatively large number of low-ranking senators who voted. The author argues that these silent senators are a figment of the imagination of nineteenth-century historians, that the most humble senator regularly received a chance to speak. Once the old view of the nature of debate in the senate is discarded as mistaken, it becomes possible to discuss privileged positions in debate and the question of influence. The evidence demonstrates that high rank was neither necessary for participation nor sufficient for influence.

message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Thank you so much Vicki for the update and add.

message 19: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
The Praetorship in the Roman Republic: Volume 1: Origins to 122 BC
The Praetorship in the Roman Republic: Volume 2: 122 to 49 BC

The Praetorship in the Roman Republic Volume 1 Origins to 122 BC by T. Corey Brennan by T. Corey Brennan (no photo)
The Praetorship in the Roman Republic Volume 2 122 to 49 BC by T. Corey Brennan by T. Corey Brennan (no photo)


Brennan's books survey the history of the Roman praetorship, which was one of the most enduring Roman political institutions, occupying the practical center of Roman Republican administrative life for over three centuries. The study addresses political, social, military and legal history, as well as Roman religion. Volume I begins with a survey of Roman (and modern) views on the development of legitimate power--from the kings, through the early chief magistrates, and down through the creation and early years of the praetorship. Volume II discusses how the introduction in 122 of C. Gracchus' provincia repetundarum pushed the old city-state system to its functional limits.

message 20: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Thank you Vicki - that looks really good.

message 21: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Ancient Roman History (new)

Vicki Cline | 3833 comments Mod
Elections and Electioneering in Rome: A Study in the Political System of the Late Republic

Elections and Electioneering in Rome A Study in the Political System of the Late Republic by Alexander Yakobson by Alexander Yakobson (no photo)


The books analyses the Roman electoral system under the late Republic and its impact on the Republican political system as a whole. The political system of the Republic is often described as narrowly oligarchic; all forms of popular participation had little real impact on how the Republic was run. Though this view has been challenged in recent years, the Republican electoral system is still widely regarded as controlled and manipulated by the narrow circle of Roman nobility (among other things, through patronage). This book offers a very different picture: a wide popular electorate, free to choose between upper-class candidates who fiercely competed for the votes of the populace and had to make great efforts in order to win popularity with the common people. Competitive popular elections influenced the whole balance of power between the common people and the elite. The books refers, by way of comparison, to modern electoral systems and their impact on the relations between the people and the social and political elite.

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