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date: 06 December 2022

senate, regal and republican periodlocked

senate, regal and republican periodlocked

  • Arnaldo Momigliano
  •  and Tim Cornell


In the time of the *Gracchi (c.133–121 bce) the senate was a body of around 300 wealthy men of aristocratic birth, most of them ex-magistrates. Although the sources tend to assume that this state of affairs had always existed, in fact it was the product of historical development and change. Since in the early republic there were very few magistrates, and iteration of office was common, it follows that there was a time when either the majority of senators had never held a magistracy, or their number was considerably less than 300. Probably both conclusions are true for the 5th cent. This must cast doubt on the notion that the number 300 is connected with the three tribes and thirty curiae (see curia(1)); in fact there is no basis for this theory in the ancient sources, and tradition itself implicitly denies it in maintaining that *Romulus, who founded the tribes (see tribus) and curiae, chose 100 men to form the first senate.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Roman History and Historiography
  • Roman Law

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