|The Empire of MelCendia: The Imperial Senate
|The Imperial Senate, or the Senate for short is the principal governing body of the Empire of Mel'Cendia, answerable only to the Emperor or Empress. This thread will describe the Senate in more detail.
Tradition held that the Senate was first established by Thaecius, the mythical founder of the Thaecian Empire, as an advisory council consisting of the 100 heads of families, called Patres ("Fathers"). Later, when at the start of the Second Empire, Lucius Agrippinus Maximilus increased the number of Senators to three hundred (according to legend), they were also called Conscripti ("Conscripted Men"), because Maximilus had conscripted them. Thus, the members of the Senate were addressed as "Patres et Conscripti", which was gradually run together as "Patres Conscripti" ("Conscript Fathers").
The citizens of the Empire are divided into two classes, the Senate and the People. The People consist of all Mel'Cendian citizens who are not members of the Senate, such as the common people, or plebeians and nobility, or proletarians. Domestic power is vested in the People, through the Centuriate Assembly (Comitia Centuriata), the Tribal Assembly (Comitia Tributa), and the Plebeian Council (Concilium Plebis). The Senate is not a legislature; a senatus consultum is only a recommendation of legal practice, not a law in and of itself. Actual legislation is vested in the aforementioned Mel'Cendian assemblies, which acts on the Senate's recommendations and also elects Mel Nethra's magistrates.
Nevertheless, the Senate holds considerable clout (auctoritas) in Mel'Cendian politics. As the embodiment of the Empire, it is the official body that sends and receives ambassadors on behalf of the Empire, that appoints officials to manage public lands, that conducts wars, and appropriates public funds. The Senate also bears the prerogative of authorizing Mel Nethra's chief magistrates, the consuls, to nominate a dictator in a state of emergency, usually military.
Like the Comitia Centuriata and the Comitia Tributa, but unlike the Concilium Plebis, the Senate operates under certain religious restrictions. It can only meet in a consecrated temple, usually the Curia Odanica (the ceremonies of the first day of the year are held in the temple of Odion and war meetings were held in the temple of Dirgira), and its sessions can only proceed after an invocation prayer, a sacrificial offering, and the auspices are taken. The Senate meets between sunrise and sunset, and cannot meet while any of the assemblies are in session.
The Senate is composed of representatives from each of the ten provinces of the Empire, along with the heads of certain institutions such as the Tribunal Temple and the Cammona Tong. Each province is entitled to send a delegation of up to twenty individuals, each of whom serves for life. However, Senators can be removed at any time given sufficient cause by either the Emperor or a two-thirds majority of the Senate acting in concert.
Customarily, all magistrates -- quaestors, aediles (both curulis and plebis), praetors, and consuls -- are part of the Senate, but not all senators had been magistrates; those who were not are called senatores pedarii and are not permitted to speak. As a result, the Senate is dominated by established families of patricians and plebeians, as it is much easier for these groups to climb the cursus honorum and acquire speaking rights.
The cursus honorum (Latin: "succession of magistracies") is the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the First and Second Empires. It is designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum is comprised of a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office has a minimum age for election. There are minimum intervals between holding successive offices and laws forbid repeating an office. These rules were altered and flagrantly ignored in the course of the last few centuries of the First Empire. For example, Astirex Sullicinus held consulships for five years in a row between -107 and -102. Officially presented as opportunities for public service, the offices often became mere opportunities for self-aggrandizement. The reforms of Praxthis I required a 2-year period between holding offices or before another term in the same office.
The cursus honorum officially begins with ten years of military duty in the Imperial Legion or in the staff of a general who is a relative or a friend of the family. Nepotism is not condemned; it is an integral part of the system. A more prestigious position is that of a military tribune. 24 men at the age of around 20 are elected by the Tribal Assembly to serve as a legionary commander in one of the consular legions, with six to each. These ten years are supposed to be mandatory to qualify for political office, but, in practice, the rule is not rigidly applied.
The following steps of the cursus honorum are achieved by direct election every year.
The first official post is that of quaestor. Candidates have to be at least 30 years old. However, men of patrician rank can subtract two years from this and other minimum age requirements. Twenty quaestors serve in the financial administration at Mel Nethra or as a Knight-At-Arms to a King or Queen in the provinces. They can also serve as the pay master for a Legion branch. A young man who obtained this job was expected to become a very important official. Also, election to quaestor brought automatic membership in the Senate starting from the end of the First Empire. Quaestors are allowed to wear the toga praetexta, but are not escorted by bodyguards (lictors), nor did they possess much political power (imperium).
At 36 years of age, former quaestors can stand for election to one of the aedile positions. Of these aediles, two are plebeian and two are patrician, with the patrician aediles called Curule Aediles. The plebeian aediles are elected by the Plebeian Council and the curule aediles are either elected by the Tribal Assembly or appointed by the reigning consul. The aediles have administrative responsibilities in Mel Nethra. They are primarily responsible for the maintenance of the public buildings in the city. Moreover, they are in charge of the city's water and food supplies; in their capacity as market superintendents, they serve sometimes as judges in mercantile affairs.
An Aedile is the supervisor of public works. He or she oversees the public works and markets.
Each year only two are elected, and they alternate years; two plebeian aediles one year, two curule aediles the next, and so on.
While part of the cursus honorum, this step is optional and not required to hold future offices. Though the office is usually held after the quaestorship and before the praetorship, there are some cases with former praetors serving as aediles.
After holding either the office of Quaestor or Aedile, a man of 39 years could run for Praetor. The number of Praetors elected varied through history, generally increasing with time. During the First Empire, six or eight were generally elected each year to serve judicial functions and other governmental responsibilities.
In the absence of the Consuls, a Praetor would be given command of the Imperial Legion in Mel Nethra. Also, a Praetor could exercise the functions of the Consuls throughout Mel Nethra, but their main function was that of a judge. They would preside over trials involving criminal acts as well as grant court orders or validate "illegal" acts as acts of administering justice. As a Praetor, a magistrate was escorted by six lictors (bodyguards), own imperium (political power), and would wear the toga praetexta.
Of all the Praetors, two are more prestigious then the others. The first is the Praetor Peregrinus, who is the chief judge in trials involving one or more foreigners. The other is the Praetor Urbanus, the chief judicial office in Mel Nethra. He or she has the power to overturn any verdict by any other courts, as well as the judge in cases involving criminal charges against provincial governors. The Praetor Urbanus is not allowed to leave the city for more than ten days. If one of these two Praetors is absent, the other would perform the duties of both.
The office of consul is the most prestigious of all and represented the summit of a successful career. The minimum age is 42 for plebeians and 40 for patricians. The names of the two elected consuls identify the year. Consuls are responsible for Mel Nethra's political agenda and command the Imperial Legion in the name of the Emperor. The consuls served for only one year (to prevent corruption) and can only rule when they agree, because each consul can veto the other one's decision.
The consuls alternate monthly as the chairmen of the Senate. Consuls exercise the highest juridical power in the Empire, being the only office with the power to override the decisions of the Praetor Urbanus. Only laws and the decrees of the Senate or the Plebian Council limit their powers, and only the veto of a fellow consul or a tribune of the plebs could supersede their decisions.
A consul is escorted by twelve lictors, owns imperium and wears the toga praetexta. Because the consul is answerable only to the Emperor, they have the power to veto any action or proposal by any other magistrate, save that of the Tribune of the Plebs. After a consulship, a consul is assigned to one or more provinces and acts as an advisor to the King or Queen of that province. A second consulship could only be attempted after an interval of 10 years to prevent one man holding too much power.
Style of dress
All Senators are entitled to wear a senatorial ring (originally made of iron, but later gold; old patrician families continued to wear iron rings to the end of the First Empire) and a tunica clava, a white tunic with a broad purple stripe 13 cm wide (latus clavus) on the right shoulder. A Senator pedarius wears a white toga virilis (also called a toga pura) without decoration excluding those explained above, whereas a Senator who has held a curule magistracy is entitled to wear the toga praetexta, a white toga with a broad purple border. Similarly, all Senators wear closed maroon leather shoes, but Senators who have held curule magistracies added a crescent-shaped buckle. Senators are forbidden to engage in any business unrelated to the ownership of land, but this rule is frequently disregarded.
Mel'Cendian Noble Houses