Roman Senate was an important office during the time of the Roman Republic, which decided on Roman laws. As the plebeians gradually won more democratic governments (moving away from the oligarchy), a typical legislative process in the Roman state emerged.
A law in the senate could be proposed by an incumbent consul, praetor, tribune of the people, or princeps senatus. For this purpose, one of the above-mentioned officials convened a session of the Senate. Let’s assume that the initiative came from the consul. At that time, the consul read or preached the content of the bill in front of the assembled senators, and then there was a discussion on the proposed law. The most important representatives of the Chamber took the floor in turn:
- Princeps senatus – “first in the senate”; it was usually the oldest and most respected representative, who was an ex-consul, ex-praetor or censor. Such a citizen was placed by the censors as the first on the list of members of the Senate. Princeps senatus was given the title for five years and it guaranteed him great respect among the other members of the body. It was not uncommon for him to decide on the passage or rejection of a bill and adjudicate any disputes.
- Consuls in office
- Ex-consuls – spoke in order: a year ago, two years ago, etc.
- Incumbent praetors
- Ex-praetors – spoke in the following order: one year ago, two years ago, etc.
The remaining group of senators who did not speak had the term pedaria1 (from the word pedes meaning “feet “). The name reflected their role in the legislative process and the way of voting, i.e. dispersing and gathering for given options: the party that was in favour of passing the bill or rejecting it. Voting took place after the official end of the debate by the initiator of the meeting.
If the bill was passed by the senate, the consul would go to one of the assemblies, where a three-day break was observed so that the voting citizens could make a decision. During the assembly, the consul delivered the content of the act; it should be noted that there was no debate at that time and voters simply made a decision. If the law was passed at the assembly, then it officially took the form of a legal act and it was the praetors’ or consuls’ tasks to implement the law.