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Powers of the Senate

In like manner the people on its part is far from being independent of the Senate, and is bound to take its wishes into account both collectively and individually. For contracts, too numerous to count, are given out by the censors in all parts of Italy for the repairs or construction of public buildings; there is also the collection of revenue from many rivers, harbours, gardens, mines, and land—everything, in a word, that comes under the control of the Roman government: and in all these the people at large are engaged; so that there is scarcely a man, so to speak, who is not interested either as a contractor or as being employed in the works.
The people dependent on the Senate
For some. purchase the contracts from the censors for themselves; and others go partners with them; while others again go security for these contractors, or actually pledge their property to the treasury for them. Now over all these transactions the Senate has absolute control. It can grant an extension of time; and in case of unforeseen accident can relieve the contractors from a portion of their obligation, or release them from it altogether, if they are absolutely unable to fulfil it. And there are many details in which the Senate can inflict great hardships, or, on the other hand, grant great indulgences to the contractors: for in every case the appeal is to it. But the most important point of all is that the judges are taken from its members in the majority of trials, whether public or private, in which the charges are heavy.1 Consequently, all citizens are much at its mercy; and being alarmed at the uncertainty as to when they may need its aid, are cautious about resisting or actively opposing its will.
and Consul.
And for a similar reason men do not rashly resist the wishes of the Consuls, because one and all may become subject to their absolute authority on a campaign.

1 This refers primarily to the consilium of the quaesitor in any special quaestio, which up to the time of the lex judiciaria of Gracchus, B. C. 122, was invariably composed of Senators. The same would apply to the Quaestiones perpetuae, only one of which existed in the time of Polybius, i.e., de repetundis, established in 149 B.C. by the lex Calpurnia. Other single judices in civil suits, though nominated by the Praetor, were, Polybius intimates, almost necessarily Senators in cases of importance.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NAVIS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PUBLICA´NI
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), VECTIGA´LIA
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