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The princeps senatus (plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the cursus honorum and owning no imperium, this office brought enormous prestige to the senator holding it.


The princeps senatus was not a lifetime appointment. He was chosen by every new pair of censors (that is, every 5 years). Censors could, however, confirm a princeps senatus for a period of another 5 years. He was selected from patrician senators with consular rank, usually former censors. The successful candidate had to be a patrician with an impeccable political record, respected by his fellow senators.

The office was established around the year 275 BC.[1] Originally, the position of the princeps was one of honor: he had the privilege of speaking first on the topic presented by the presiding magistrate. This gave the position great dignitas as it allowed the princeps to set the tone of the debate in the Senate. In the late Republic and in the Principate, the office gained the prerogatives of the presiding magistrates and additional powers, namely:

  • Summoning and adjourning the Senate
  • Deciding its agenda
  • Deciding where the session should take place
  • Imposing order and other rules of the session
  • Meeting, in the name of the Senate, with embassies of foreign countries
  • Writing, in the name of the Senate, letters and dispatches

By 80 BC, it is believed that the status and function of the office was changed by the Constitutional reforms of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Although the term remained, reflecting the senator who was named first in the roll of the Senate issued by the Censors, the prerogatives of the office were restricted. In particular, the honor of speaking first on any topic debated in the Senate, a measure of their political clout, was removed from them and transported to the consul designate.[2]

After the fall of the Roman Republic, the princeps senatus was the Roman Emperor (see also: princeps). However, during the Crisis of the Third Century, some others held the office; the future emperor Valerian held the office in 238, during the reigns of Maximinus Thrax and Gordian I.

List of principes senatus[edit]


  1. ^ Ryan, Francis X. Rank and Participation in the Republican Senate (1998), pg. 170
  2. ^ Broughton, T. Robert S., The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952), pg. 127
  3. ^ Mommsen, Romische Forschungen vol.I (1864) and Ueber den princeps senatus, RhM 19: 455-457 (1864). Willems, Senat de la Republique Romaine vol.I (1878). Suolahti, Princeps senatus, Arctos 7: 207-218 (1972). Rejected by Ryan, Rank and Participation in the Republican Senate p.223 (1998).
  4. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti. Rejected by Ryan.
  5. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  6. ^ Ryan.
  7. ^ Said also to have succeeded his father as Princeps Senatus in 265 BC.
  8. ^ Ryan.
  9. ^ Ryan.
  10. ^ Ryan.
  11. ^ Ryan.
  12. ^ Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  13. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  14. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  15. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  16. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  17. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  18. ^ Willems. Rejected by Suolahti and Ryan.
  19. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  20. ^ Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  21. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  22. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  23. ^ Mommsen, Willems, Suolahti, Ryan.
  24. ^ Mommsen. Rejected by Willems, Suolahti, and Ryan.
  25. ^ Willems. Rejected by Suolahti and Ryan.
  26. ^ Willems. Rejected by Suolahti and Ryan.
  27. ^ Willems, Ryan. Rejected by Suolahti.

External links[edit]

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3 news items

Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:03:25 -0700

Da trägt Octavius bereits zahlreiche Ehrentitel, er ist "Augustus", der Erhabene, und "Princeps senatus", er inszeniert sich als "leuchtender Friedensfürst" und regiert de facto als Alleinherrscher. Zu seinem 2000. Todestag liegt nun eine Neubewertung ...
El Comercio Digital (Asturias)
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:58:01 -0700

Al título de cónsul fue añadiendo los de princeps senatus (primero de los senadores), augustus (título religioso), imperator proconsulare de Galia, Hispania y Siria (título militar), tribuno vitalicio (con poder de veto sobre los magistrados), gran ...


Sun, 03 Aug 2014 02:57:07 -0700

In questo modo, come un cerchio che inesorabilmente è costretto a chiudersi, il videogioco incontra la realtà dalla quale, inizialmente, ha fatto completa astrazione: nell'anno 28 Ottaviano diveniva princeps senatus, la res publica era ormai al suo ...

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