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.
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
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