In What Ways and With What Success Did the Senate Provide a Focus For Opposition to the Emperor?.
The senate was an institution in Ancient Rome which passed advice to magistrates in the form of 'senatus consulta' under the republic. Eventually, however, the senate became a legislative body and its 'senatus consulta' became law. Under the empire, the senate was not the only legislative body. The emperor could also legislate using his 'tribunician' power, as well as through unofficial methods such as through edicts. Hence, as the empire become more widely accepted in Roman society, the senate's legislative role became less, with many emperors choosing to legislate by themselves, often ignoring the advice of the senate, and other emperors, such as Tiberius, although seeking senatorial debate, failing to initiate such. Thus, it could be argued that over time the senate became a focus for opposition to the emperors, due to the ill treatment of senators and the senate's diminished role, as demonstrated through emperors such as Gaius who mocked the senate's legitimacy, attempting to make his horse, Incitatus, a senator, according to Dio. However, although the senate did provide a focus for opposition to the emperors, it was largely without success, and even when the senate did provide an arguably successful opposition, it was rarely through official checks and usually through murderous conspiracies, involving a minority of the senate, as demonstrated in the Piso Plot. Although some emperors, such as Augustus, tried to retain an image of the republican form of government, so as to not upset the upper class and keep the support of the senate, in reality the senate provided little successful opposition and simply acted as a reminder of the power which it once held, often referred to by scholars as the 'Republican Façade' . It would appear that emperors which adhered to the 'Republican Façade,' most notably at the beginning of the empire, such as Augustus and, for a period, Tiberius, may have had less opposition in the senate.