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By two separate scrutinies he reduced to their former number and splendour the senate, which had been swamped by a disorderly crowd; for they were now more than a thousand, and some of them very mean persons, who, after Caesar's death, had been chosen by dint of interest and bribery, so that they had the nickname of Orcini among the people. 1 The first of these scrutinies was left to themselves, each senator naming another; but the last was conducted by himself and Agrippa. On this occasion he is believed to have taken his seat as he presided, with a coat of mail under his tunic, and a sword by his side, and with ten of the stoutest men of senatorial rank, who were his friends, standing round his chair. Cordus Cremutius2 relates that no senator was suffered to approach him, except singly, and after having his bosom searched [for secreted daggers]. Some he obliged to have the grace of declining the office; these he allowed to retain the privileges of wearing the distinguishing dress, occupying the seats at the solemn spectacles, and of feasting publicly, reserved to the senatorial order.3 That those who were chosen and approved of, might perform their functions under more solemn obligations, and with less inconvenience, he ordered that every senator, before he took his seat in the house, should pay his devotions, with an offering of frankincense and wine, at the altar of that God in whose temple the senate then assembled,4 and that their stated meetings should be only twice in the month, namely, on the calends and ides; and that in the months of September and October,5 a certain number only, chosen by lot, such as the law required to give validity to a decree, should be required to attend. For himself, he resolved to choose every six months a new council, with whom he might consult previously upon such affairs as he judged proper at any time to lay before the full senate. He also took the votes of the senators upon any subject of importance, not according to custom, nor in regular order, but as he pleased; that every one might hold himself ready to give his opinion, rather than a mere vote of assent.
1 Orcini. They were also called Charonites, the point of the sarcasm being, that they owed their elevation to a dead man, one who was gone to Orcus, namely Julius Caesar, after whose death Mark Antony introduced into the senate many persons of low rank who were designated for that honour in a document left by the deceased emperor.
2 Cordus Cremutius wrote a History of the Civil Wars, and the Times of Augustus, as we are informed by Dio, 6, 52.
3 In front of the orchestra.
4 The senate usually assembled in one of the temples, and there was an altar consecrated to some god in the curia, where they otherwise met, as that to Victory in the Julian Curia.
5 To allow of their absence during the vintage, always an important season in rural affairs in wine-growing countries. In the middle and south of Italy, it begins in September, and, in the worst aspects, the grapes are generally cleared before the end of October. In elevated districts they hung on the trees, as we have witnessed, till the month of November.
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