Senate of the Roman Empire

Bronze doors of the ancient Roman senate taken from the Roman forum, restored and placed in 1660 in the Lateran Basilica.

The Senate of the Roman Empire was a political institution in the ancient Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Republic, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the Roman Senate to the Roman Emperor. Beginning with the first emperor, Augustus, the Emperor and the Senate were technically two co-equal branches of government. In practice, however, the actual authority of the imperial Senate was negligible, as the Emperor held the true power of the state. As such, membership in the senate became sought after by individuals seeking prestige and social standing, rather than actual authority. During the reigns of the first Emperors, legislative, judicial, and electoral powers were all transferred from the "Roman assemblies" to the Senate. However, since the control that the Emperor held over the senate was absolute, the Senate acted as a vehicle through which the Emperor exercised his autocratic powers.