Assembly – there were several different types of assemblies at the point in the Republic’s history when Rome’s End is set. Assemblies elected officials such as consuls and praetors, voted proposals into law and even chose the Chief Priest, the Pontifex Maximus. By the time of The Emperor’s Servant, assemblies still met but were much less powerful. In effect, they voted as Augustus recommended.

fasces – a bundle made up of several rods and an axe tied together. This bundle was carried by the lictors, the bodyguards who accompanied magistrates. The phrase “holding the fasces” refers to the consul who was in charge for the month – consuls traditionally took charge during alternate months.


imperium – the power awarded to a magistrate by the Senate and People of Rome.

lictor – the official bodyguard awarded to magistrates of and above the rank of praetor. Dictators, military commanders and Vestal Virgins were also given an escort of lictors.

Offices of the state (Latin: cursus honorum) – there was a well-known path to the top in Roman politics during the Republic, but the offices were of increasingly less importance as Caesar became Dictator and Augustus gradually took over any power that has teeth. A young man would start by serving as quaestor, then aedile or tribune, then praetor, then consul. These offices were fought by election under the Republic, but we find Julius Caesar as Dictator nominating people for the positions, and under the Emperors, elections became fairly meaningless. I feel that once Augustus had made it clear that he wanted someone to become consul, then lo! that man became consul. I doubt if Augustus bothered too much about the junior offices, though no doubt he made sure to stymie the career of anyone he didn’t approve of. Progression through these offices was still of intrinsic value whenever one lived: a young man gained valuable administrative or military experience, and as praetor or consul could look forward to being sent to rule a province of the Empire.

paterfamilias (“father of the family”) – under Roman law, the head of the household had responsibility and almost complete power over the members of that household. In theory, this meant he had power life or death over his children (though this was abolished later): in practice, it was more about the responsibility. He was the priest of his family’s gods, and expected to lead and educate the familia appropriately, take major decisions such as marriage, support his clients and freedmen and ultimately be responsible for the household’s behaviour. Rarely did a paterfamilias choose to exercise the more extreme aspects of his control.

Senate – the senate was a body of upper-class men elected to sit on what was technically an advisory council. They debated issues and proposed laws and advised the officials. In reality of course, because they were rich and came from ancient and respected families, they were very influential. For example, the Senate could not pass laws: but if they recommended a measure, it was highly likely that the relevant Assembly would pass it into law. The senate suffered a decrease in influence and prestige as the Republic came to an end and the Emperors took over.

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