Senatus consultum ultimum

The senatus consultum ultimum ("final decree of the senate", often abbreviated to SCU) is the modern term given to resolutions of the Roman senate lending its moral support for magistrates to use the full extent of their powers and ignore the laws to safeguard the state.

The decree has been interpreted to mean something akin to martial law, a suspension of the constitution, or a state of emergency. However, it is generally accepted that the senate did not have power to make or provide exceptions to laws. No laws were actually suspended; the senate merely lent its moral authority to defend a magistrate's extra-legal acts.

First used against Gaius Gracchus in 121 BC to suppress a violent protest against repeal of a colonisation law and accepted thereafter, recourse to the decree accelerated over the course of the last century of the republic. Its use was politically disputed, although usually in terms of whether a decree was justified by the challenges facing the state rather than in terms of its overarching legality.