Archive for the 'Consul' Category

Who was the last Roman Consul?

Listener John asked when exactly the office of the Consul died out.  The Consulship was the highest office in Republican Rome, dating back to the hazy days in the sixth century BC when the last Etruscan King was expelled from the city.  The two elected Consuls held most of the powers of a king, and dates were calculated from the start of their terms.  With the rise of the empire, however, it became a largely symbolic office, and was mostly awarded by emperors to themselves.  Its prestige was further diminished when later rulers started conferring it on imperial children (Caligula didn’t help matters when he announced that he was nominating his horse) and by the time of Justinian in the sixth century it was allowed to lapse from its yearly appointment.  The last politician to hold it was a man with the impressive name of Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius in 541 (that’s a picture of him at the top).  He had the misfortune to be in Rome when Totilla and the Goths stormed it, and was forced to flee with his Consular robe into obscurity.  That wasn’t quite the end of the office, however.  It continued to exist as part of the coronation ceremony for another century.  The last recorded emperor to receive the dignity was Justinian II who combined the Consulate with the office of Emperor.  From then on the title seems to have been forgotten until the tenth century when the emperor Leo the Wise officially abolished it.

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