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The Roman emperors, following an ancient practice of Roman magistrates, consulted their friends and followers (amici, familiares, comites) before giving judicial decisions in cases of importance. The consilium principis, or judicial council thus instituted, became a standing body in the time of Hadrian (Spart. Hadr. 8, Spart. Hadr., 18).

The council was composed of persons of the greatest eminence; both senators of the highest rank and members of the order of equites sat in it.

The term auditorium principis is used as equivalent to consilium. It was not a general council for State affairs, and is not to be confused with the political council we find certain emperors convening. Its functions were generally confined to legal business. The emperor not only took its advice respecting his judgments, but also in all matters connected with legal administration. It was strictly consultative in character, the emperor not being bound in any way by its opinion. Changes were made in its constitution by Diocletian and his successors. The ordinary members of the reconstituted body, which is known as the consistorium principis, were called comites consistoriani; they were divided into the two classes of




spectabiles. The illustres consisted of four great officers of the palace: viz., the quaestor sacri palatii, the magister officiorum, the comes sacrarum largitionum, and the comes rei privatae. The class of spectabiles was a larger one; its members are generally named simply comites consistoriani. Besides these two classes of ordinary and active members of the consistorium, there was a class of extraordinary members, called vacantes. There was also a class of purely honorary members. The functions of the consistorium seem to have been wider than those of the earlier consilium, since it acted as a council for advising the emperor in general matters of State.

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