What Was The Name Of Supreme Authority In Ancient Rome

The Monarchical Reign and Senate Authority

In ancient Rome, the supreme authority was shared between two forms of government. For centuries, Rome operated with a monarchical system led by a single individual, sometimes referred to as a king. This system was later replaced with a republican form of government. Ultimately, it was the Senate that held the ultimate political power in the Republic, though the people had the final say in decisions that affected the city by casting their votes in the popular assemblies.

Rome’s first king was officially appointed in 753 B.C. and reigned for nearly 400 years after that. During this period, Rome’s kings were responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the city, as well as overseeing the military and foreign policy. Though the kings carried out these duties, their supreme authority was limited due to the Senate’s influence over the people.

When the republican period began in 509 B.C., the powers of the Senate were officially recognized. It was their ultimate authority during this period, as they had the power to appoint members of the magistrates, create legislation, and appoint military officials. It was also their responsibility to ensure the stability of the Republic. Though this authority was shared with the popular assemblies, the Senate’s power was ultimately supreme.

The Senate enjoyed complete control over the Republic until the end of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. During this period, the Senate was seen as a continuation of the early kings, keeping the same responsibilities and much of their power. The Senate maintained their authority through the appointment of praetors and magistrates, by having final say over the enactment of legislation, and by actively engaging in foreign affairs.

The Senate was a powerful body that effectively formed the basis of the Roman Republic. Its members were influential in government, law and foreign policy. Though the ultimate power rested in the hands of the Senate, the Senate had to answer to the people of Rome, who had the power to overrule any Senate decision through the popular assemblies.

The Roman Emperor

At the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire, ultimate authority rested in the hands of the emperor. This emperor was something of a cross between an autocrat, a dictator, and a monarch, in that he held total authority and was not accountable to any other power. The emperor was seen as a living symbol of the greatness of Rome.

The former Senate then became the Senate of the Roman Empire, and operated more as an advisory body to the emperor. It was the emperor who had the power and authority to enact legislation, appoint officials, declare war, and carry out domestic and foreign policy. The Senate, however, still played an active role in the selection of imperial officials, and in providing advice and counsel to the emperor.

The Roman Empire, with its strong centralized government, lasted for centuries. Though the various emperors held the absolute power, they still had to answer to the Senate. Any reforms or initiatives could be blocked by the Senate, which ultimately kept the Roman Empire in check. In addition, the emperor was expected to consult with the Senate on important decisions and follow the advice of its members. This system kept the authority of the emperor in check and enforced a delicate balance between individuals – the emperor and the Senate.

The Roman Dictator

During times of emergency, the Roman government elected a dictator who was given absolute power. This was a temporary measure that was meant to help Rome in times of dire need. The dictator had the power to make decisions that would otherwise be blocked by Senate approval and could even override legislation. The dictator was usually elected when Rome was threatened by an external enemy or facing internal unrest.

The dictatorship was, however, a temporary position, and the dictator was not allowed to stay in power indefinitely. When their term was up, the dictator would be required to relinquish power and return to their regular position without seeking to attain the same role again. In addition, the dictator was not allowed to take part in any political transactions during their term in office.

The Roman dictatorship was therefore a unique form of government, which could be seen as a combination of monarchy and senate authority. On one hand, the dictator held absolute power in the face of calamity and was not bound by the same restrictions as other forms of government. On the other hand, the Roman Senate maintained its influence over the dictator and ultimately had the power to end the office if necessary.

The Military in Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, the military also played an important role in the overall authority of the city. The power of the army was immense, and it was the ultimate arbiter of civil disputes and foreign policy. The military played an important role in maintaining law and order, as the Roman military was the only organized force in the ancient world that could effectively mobilize its forces quickly.

The military also played an influential role in politics and foreign policy. The military could effectively back up the decisions of the Senate or the emperor in the face of any external threat. This meant that the military was always present when matters of politics and foreign affairs were being discussed. In addition, the commanders of the military could themselves serve in important positions of authority.

The military was also a respected force in Rome, and the soldiers were often highly decorated for their service. This was a sign of the Roman commitment to honoring those who risked their lives for the security of the city. Even today, the memory of the Roman military is honored, as the soldiers of the Republic are remembered for their courage and loyalty.

The Role of Religion

The Roman gods and goddesses were a major part of the Roman belief system, and the people would often appeal to them in time of need. The gods and goddesses were seen as having the ultimate power, and the Senate was seen to have been appointed by the gods to lead the people. This meant that the Senate’s decisions were seen as the decisions of the gods.

Religion was also used as a form of social control, as the gods were used to encourage obedience to the Senate. People would be encouraged to act in accordance with the wishes of the gods, and thus follow the will of the Senate. So while the Senate was seen as the ultimate authority, the gods were believed to be the source of their power and authority. This meant that worshipping the gods was inextricably linked to following the Senate.

Religion was also a major part of Roman life and provided a level of comfort and security to the people. The gods were believed to be watching over the people and to have ultimate authority over both the Senate and the military. This meant that the gods could be appealed to when matters of ultimate authority needed to be resolved.

The Impact of Law

The Roman Senate was responsible for creating the laws by which all citizens of the Republic had to abide by, and it was these laws that provided order to a Roman society. The Senate had the power to make laws and resolve civil disputes, and the Roman population followed these laws with a high degree of respect.

The laws also served to protect the citizens of Rome in regards to their rights and privileges. The Twelve Tables were a set of laws that were put in place to ensure that all citizens were treated fairly and that their rights were not violated. These laws were updated and revised throughout Rome’s history, but they all served the same purpose – to protect the citizens and maintain order within the city.

The Roman laws were taken seriously and any violations of them were punished with severe penalties. The Senate was ultimately responsible for ensuring that the laws were obeyed, and it was their ultimate authority when it came to law and order. This meant that while other forms of authority were present in Rome, the Senate’s ultimate power rested in their hands when it came to matters of law.

The Power of the People

The people of Rome were also an integral part of the ultimate authority in the ancient city. Through the popular assemblies, citizens had the ultimate say in deciding matters of politics and foreign policy. These assemblies gave the people of Rome a voice in deciding the city’s future, and they were often consulted on matters of law and order. The people had the power to overrule any decision of the Senate, and to impeach any member of the office.

In addition, the people had the power to choose their own officials through the popular assemblies. This meant that the people of Rome chose who represented them in government, and had a say in who held the ultimate power in the city. This ensured that the people had a direct say in the decisions that were made in their city.

While other forms of authority-such as the Senate or the emperor-held the ultimate power in Rome, the people also had an important role to play. The popular assemblies gave the people the power to make their voices heard, and to play an active role in the running of their city. This ensured that Rome had an active, engaged citizen base that could make their will known.

The Role of Wealth

Wealth was also an important determinant of authority in Ancient Rome. The wealthy citizens were often able to rise to positions of power and influence within the government and society of Rome, giving them an advantage over their poorer counterparts. The wealthy were also able to wield political power through their financial resources, and could use their influence to sway political decisions or enrich themselves.

The wealthy could also use their influence to sway or even bought government appointments for themselves. This meant that the most influential positions in Roman society often rested with the wealthy elite, leaving the poorer citizens with little power or influence. This was a reality of Roman life, and highlights the importance of wealth in attaining and maintaining power.

Wealth also provided the wealthy citizens with access to the Senate. The Senate was an elite club, and only certain citizens were allowed to participate in it. This gave the wealthy citizens an edge in political negotiations and debates, and allowed them to influence decisions in a way that the poorer citizens could not.


In ancient Rome, the ultimate authority was complex and shared between several entities. The Senate was the ultimate political power in Rome, though it had to answer to the people, the emperor, and even the gods at times. The military also had a great deal of influence, and the wealthy elite could use their influence to buy political power or sway decisions. Ultimately, it was the citizens of Rome who had the ultimate say in matters that affected the city, as they had the power to overrule any other decision through their popular assemblies.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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