The senator whose name was entered first on the senate list compiled by the censors. Once selected, he held his position for life (subject to confirmation by each new pair of censors), and longevity conferred increased influence. The princeps senatus had to be a patrician. Apart from great dignity, the rank conferred the privilege of speaking first on any motion in the senate. Since there was usually not much debate, the princeps senatus moved all routine senatus consulta, and he influenced many debated ones. Aemilius Lepidus (1), appointed six times, was the most powerful man of his generation. Aemilius Scaurus was appointed five or six times, and ‘his nod all but ruled the world’: it was he who moved the senatus consultum ultimum against Appuleius Saturnnus and ceremonially handed Marius a sword, and he pressed the legislation of Livius Drusus. Sulla abolished the office, since he did not want any one senator to have such power. Augustus revived it, appointing himself when he revised the senate list in 28 bc, even though Iulii were probably not eligible under the republic, and he held the office until his death. His successors took it as a matter of course.
Subjects: Classical studies