A siege tower or breaching tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was rectangular with four wheels with its height equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on top of the tower and shoot arrows into the fortification; because the towers were wooden and thus flammable, they had to have some non-flammable covering of iron or fresh animal skins. Used since the 11th century BC by the Babylonians and Assyrians in the ancient Near East, the 4th century BC in Europe and in antiquity in the Far East, siege towers were of unwieldy dimensions and, like trebuchets, were therefore constructed on site of the siege. Taking considerable time to construct, siege towers were built if the defense of the opposing fortification could not be overcome by ladder assault, by mining or by breaking walls or gates; the siege tower sometimes housed spearmen, swordsmen, archers or crossbowmen who shot arrows and quarrels at the defenders.
Because of the size of the tower it would be the first target of large stone catapults but it had its own projectiles with which to retaliate. Siege towers were used to get troops over an enemy curtain wall; when a siege tower was near a wall, it would drop a gangplank between the wall. Troops could rush onto the walls and into the castle or city; the oldest known siege towers were used by the armies of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 9th century BC, under Ashurnasirpal II. Reliefs from his reign, subsequent reigns, depict siege towers in use with a number of other siege works, including ramps and battering rams. Centuries after they were employed in Assyria, the use of the siege tower spread throughout the Mediterranean; the biggest siege towers of antiquity, such as the Helepolis of the siege of Rhodes in 305 BC, could be as high as 135 feet and as wide as 67.5 feet. Such large engines would require a pinion to be moved effectively, it was divided into nine stories. Subsequent siege towers down through the centuries had similar engines.
But this huge tower was defeated by the defenders by flooding the ground in front of the wall, creating a moat that caused the tower to get bogged in the mud. The siege of Rhodes illustrates the important point that the larger siege towers needed level ground. Many castles and hill-top towns and forts were invulnerable to siege tower attack due to topography. Smaller siege towers might be used on top of siege-mounds, made of earth and timber mounds in order to overtop a defensive wall; the remains of such a siege-ramp at Masada, for example, has survived 2,000 years and can still be seen today. On the other hand all the largest cities were on large rivers, or the coast, so did have part of their circuit wall vulnerable to these towers. Furthermore, the tower for such a target might be prefabricated elsewhere and brought dismantled to the target city by water. In some rare circumstances, such towers were mounted on ships to assault the coastal wall of a city: at the siege of Cyzicus during the Third Mithridatic War, for example, towers were used in conjunction with more conventional siege weapons.
One of the oldest references to the mobile siege tower in Ancient China was a written dialogue discussing naval warfare. In the Chinese Yuejueshu written by the Han Dynasty author Yuan Kang in the year 52 AD, Wu Zixu purportedly discussed different ship types with King Helü of Wu while explaining military preparedness. Before labeling the types of warships used, Zixu said: Nowadays in training naval forces we use the tactics of land forces for the best effect, thus great wing ships correspond to the army's heavy chariots, little wing ships to light chariots, stomach strikers to battering rams, castle ships to mobile assault towers, bridge ships to light cavalry. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West into independent states, the Eastern Roman Empire on the defensive, the use of siege towers reached its height during the medieval period. Siege towers were used when the Avars laid siege unsuccessfully to Constantinople in 626, as the Chronicon Paschale recounts: And in the section from the Polyandrion Gate as far as the Gate of St Romanus he prepared to station twelve lofty siege towers, which were advanced as far as the outworks, he covered them with hides.
At this siege the attackers made use of "sows" – mobile armoured shelters which were used throughout the medieval period, allowed workers to fill in moats with protection from the defenders. However, the construction of a sloping talus at the base of a castle wall could have reduced the effectiveness of this tactic to an extent. Siege towers became more elaborate during the medieval period; the siege lasted a year, making it the longest siege in all of English history. They were not invulnerable either, as during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman siege towers were sprayed by the defenders with Greek fire. Siege towers became obsolete with the development of large cannon, they had only existed to get assaulting troops over high walls and towers and large cannon made high walls obsolete as fortification took a new direction. However co
A Roman legion was a large unit of the Roman army. In the early Roman Kingdom "legion" may have meant the entire Roman army but sources on this period are few and unreliable; the subsequent organization of legions varied over time but legions were composed of around five thousand soldiers. During much of the republican era, a legion was divided into three lines of ten maniples. In the late republic and much of the imperial period, a legion was divided into ten cohorts, each of six centuries. Legions included a small ala, or cavalry, unit. By the third century AD, the legion was a much smaller unit of about 1,000 to 1,500 men, there were more of them. In the fourth century AD, East Roman border guard legions may have become smaller. In terms of organisation and function, the republican era legion may have been influenced by the ancient Greek and Macedonian phalanx. For most of the Roman Imperial period, the legions formed the Roman army's elite heavy infantry, recruited from Roman citizens, while the remainder of the army consisted of auxiliaries, who provided additional infantry and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry.
The Roman army, for most of the Imperial period, consisted of auxiliaries rather than legions. Many of the legions founded before 40 BC were still active until at least the fifth century, notably Legio V Macedonica, founded by Augustus in 43 BC and was in Egypt in the seventh century during the Islamic conquest of Egypt; because legions were not permanent units until the Marian reforms, were instead created and disbanded again, several hundred legions were named and numbered throughout Roman history. To date, about 50 have been identified; the republican legions were composed of levied men that paid for their own equipment and thus the structure of the Roman army at this time reflected the society, at any time there would be four consular legions and in time of war extra legions could be levied. Toward the end of the 2nd century BC, Rome started to experience manpower shortages brought about by property and financial qualifications to join the army; this prompted consul Gaius Marius to remove property qualifications and decree that all citizens, regardless of their wealth or social class, were made eligible for service in the Roman army with equipment and rewards for fulfilling years of service provided by the state.
The Roman army became a volunteer and standing army which extended service beyond Roman citizens but to non-citizens that could sign on as auxillia and were rewarded Roman citizenship upon completion of service and all the rights and privileges that entailed. In the time of Augustus, there were nearly 50 upon his succession but this was reduced to about 25–35 permanent standing legions and this remained the figure for most of the empire's history; the legion evolved from 3,000 men in the Roman Republic to over 5,200 men in the Roman Empire, consisting of centuries as the basic units. Until the middle of the first century, ten cohorts made up a Roman legion; this was changed to nine cohorts of standard size with the first cohort being of double strength. By the fourth century AD, the legion was a much smaller unit of about 1,000 to 1,500 men, there were more of them; this had come about as the large formation legion and auxiliary unit, 10,000 men, was broken down into smaller units - temporary detachments - to cover more territory.
In the fourth century AD, East Roman border guard legions may have become smaller. In terms of organisation and function, the Republican era legion may have been influenced by the ancient Greek and Macedonian phalanx. A legion consisted of several cohorts of heavy infantry known as legionaries, it was always accompanied by one or more attached units of auxiliaries, who were not Roman citizens and provided cavalry, ranged troops and skirmishers to complement the legion's heavy infantry. The recruitment of non-citizens appears to have occurred in times of great need. A Legion consisted of a Contubernium, consisted of 8 Legionaries; these Legionaries Were accompanied by 2 slaves. The Legionaries would select a man amongst their ranks to become a Decanus this was more of an election than a decision by one person; the size of a typical legion varied throughout the history of ancient Rome, with complements of 4,200 legionaries and 300 equites in the republican period of Rome, to 5,200 men plus 120 auxiliaries in the imperial period.
In the period before the raising of the legio and the early years of the Roman Kingdom and the Republic, forces are described as being organized into centuries of one hundred men. These centuries were grouped together as required and answered to the leader who had hired or raised them; such independent organization persisted until the 2nd century BC amongst light infantry and cavalry, but was discarded in periods with the supporting role taken instead by allied troops. The roles of century leader, secon
The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome, it survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, 7th centuries. During the days of the kingdom, it was little more than an advisory council to the king; the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown following a coup d'état led by Lucius Junius Brutus, who founded the Roman Republic. During the early Republic, the Senate was politically weak, while the various executive magistrates were quite powerful. Since the transition from monarchy to constitutional rule was most gradual, it took several generations before the Senate was able to assert itself over the executive magistrates. By the middle Republic, the Senate had reached the apex of its republican power.
The late Republic saw a decline in the Senate's power, which began following the reforms of the tribunes Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. After the transition of the Republic into the Principate, the Senate lost much of its political power as well as its prestige. Following the constitutional reforms of the Emperor Diocletian, the Senate became politically irrelevant; when the seat of government was transferred out of Rome, the Senate was reduced to a purely municipal body. This decline in status was reinforced when the emperor Constantine the Great created an additional senate in Constantinople. After Romulus Augustulus was deposed in 476 the Senate in the West functioned under the rule of Odovacer, 476–489 and during Ostrogothic rule, 489–535, it was restored after the reconquest of Italy by Justinian I. However, the Senate in Rome disappeared at some point after AD 603. Despite this, the title "senator" was still used well into the Middle Ages as a meaningless honorific. However, the Eastern Senate survived in Constantinople, until the ancient institution vanished there, c. 14th century.
The senate was a political institution in the ancient Roman Kingdom. The word senate derives from the Latin word senex, which means "old man"; the prehistoric Indo-Europeans who settled Italy in the centuries before the legendary founding of Rome in 753 BC were structured into tribal communities, these communities included an aristocratic board of tribal elders. The early Roman family was called a gens or "clan", each clan was an aggregation of families under a common living male patriarch, called a pater; when the early Roman gentes were aggregating to form a common community, the patres from the leading clans were selected for the confederated board of elders that would become the Roman senate. Over time, the patres came to recognize the need for a single leader, so they elected a king, vested in him their sovereign power; when the king died, that sovereign power reverted to the patres. The senate is said to have been created by Rome's first king, Romulus consisting of 100 men; the descendants of those 100 men subsequently became the patrician class.
Rome's fifth king, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, chose a further 100 senators. They were chosen from the minor leading families, were accordingly called the patres minorum gentium. Rome's seventh and final king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, executed many of the leading men in the senate, did not replace them, thereby diminishing their number. However, in 509 BC Rome's first and third consuls, Lucius Junius Brutus and Publius Valerius Publicola chose from amongst the leading equites new men for the senate, these being called conscripti, thus increased the size of the senate to 300; the senate of the Roman Kingdom held three principal responsibilities: It functioned as the ultimate repository for the executive power, it served as the king's council, it functioned as a legislative body in concert with the people of Rome. During the years of the monarchy, the senate's most important function was to elect new kings. While the king was nominally elected by the people, it was the senate who chose each new king.
The period between the death of one king and the election of a new king was called the interregnum, during which time the Interrex nominated a candidate to replace the king. After the senate gave its initial approval to the nominee, he was formally elected by the people, received the senate's final approval. At least one king, Servius Tullius, was elected by the senate alone, not by the people; the senate's most significant task, outside regal elections, was to function as the king's council, while the king could ignore any advice it offered, its growing prestige helped make the advice that it offered difficult to ignore. Only the king could make new laws, although he involved both the senate and the curiate assembly in the process; when the Republic began, the Senate functioned as an advisory council. It consisted of 300–500 senators, who were patrician and served for life. Before long, plebeians were admitted, although they were denied the senior magistracies for a longer period. Senators were entitled to wear a toga with a broad purple stripe, maroon shoes, an iron ring.
The Senate of the Roman Republic passed decrees called senatus consulta, which in form constituted "advice" from the senate to a magistrate. While these decrees did not hold legal force, they were obeyed in practice. If a senatus consultum conflicted with a
Carthage was a Phoenician state that included, during the 7th–3rd centuries BC, its wider sphere of influence known as the Carthaginian Empire. The empire extended over much of the coast of Northwest Africa as well as encompassing substantial parts of coastal Iberia and the islands of the western Mediterranean Sea. Phoenicians founded Carthage in 814 BC. A dependency of the Phoenician state of Tyre, Carthage gained independence around 650 BC and established its political hegemony over other Phoenician settlements throughout the western Mediterranean, this lasting until the end of the 3rd century BC. At the height of the city's prominence, it served as a major hub of trade, with trading stations extending throughout the region. For much of its history, Carthage was on hostile terms with the Greeks in Sicily and with the Roman Republic; the city had to deal with hostile Berbers, the indigenous inhabitants of the area where Carthage was built. In 146 BC, after the third and final Punic War, Roman forces destroyed Carthage redesigned and occupied the site of the city.
Nearly all of the other Phoenician city-states and former Carthaginian dependencies subsequently fell into Roman hands. According to Roman sources, Phoenician colonists from modern-day Lebanon, led by Dido, founded Carthage circa 814 BC. Queen Elissa was an exiled princess of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. At its peak, the metropolis she founded, came to be called the "shining city", ruling 300 other cities around the western Mediterranean Sea and leading the Phoenician world. Elissa's brother, Pygmalion of Tyre, had murdered the high priest. Elissa escaped the tyranny of her own country, founding the "new city" of Carthage and subsequently its dominions. Details of her life are sketchy and confusing, but the following can be deduced from various sources. According to Justin, Princess Elissa was the daughter of King Belus II of Tyre; when he died, the throne was jointly bequeathed to her brother and her. She married her uncle Acerbas known as Sychaeus, the High Priest of Melqart, a man with both authority and wealth comparable to the king.
This led to increased rivalry between the monarchy. Pygmalion was a tyrant, lover of both gold and intrigue, who desired the authority and fortune enjoyed by Acerbas. Pygmalion assassinated Acerbas in the temple and kept the misdeed concealed from his sister for a long time, deceiving her with lies about her husband's death. At the same time, the people of Tyre called for a single sovereign. In the Roman epic of Virgil, the Aeneid, Queen Dido, the Greek name for Elissa, is first introduced as a esteemed character. In just seven years, since their exodus from Tyre, the Carthaginians have rebuilt a successful kingdom under her rule, her subjects present her with a festival of praise. Her character is perceived by Virgil as more noble when she offers asylum to Aeneas and his men, who had escaped from Troy. A spirit in the form of the messenger god, sent by Jupiter, reminds Aeneas that his mission is not to stay in Carthage with his new-found love, but to sail to Italy to found Rome. Virgil ends his legend of Dido with the story that, when Aeneas tells Dido, her heart broken, she orders a pyre to be built where she falls upon Aeneas' sword.
As she lay dying, she predicted eternal strife between Aeneas' people and her own: "rise up from my bones, avenging spirit" she says, an invocation of Hannibal. Aeneas goes on to found the Roman Kingdom; the details of Virgil's story do not, form part of the original legend and are significant as an indication of Rome's attitude towards the city she had founded, exemplified by Cato the Elder's much-repeated utterance, "Carthago delenda est", "Carthage must be destroyed". The Phoenicians established numerous colonial cities along the coasts of the Mediterranean to provide safe harbors for their merchant fleets, to maintain a Phoenician monopoly on an area's natural resources, to conduct trade free of outside interference, they were motivated to found these cities by a desire to satisfy the demand for trade goods or to escape the necessity of paying tribute to the succession of empires that ruled Tyre and Byblos, by fear of complete Greek colonization of that part of the Mediterranean suitable for commerce.
The Phoenicians lacked the population or necessity to establish large self-sustaining cities abroad, most of their colonial cities had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, but Carthage and a few others developed larger populations. Although Strabo's claim that the Tyrians founded three hundred colonies along the west African coast is exaggerated, colonies were established in Tunisia, Algeria, to a much lesser extent, on the arid coast of Libya; the Phoenicians were active in Cyprus, Corsica, the Balearic Islands and Sicily, as well as on the European mainland at present-day Genoa in Italy and Marseille in present-day France. The settlements at Crete and Sicily were in perpetual conflict with the Greeks, but the Phoenicians managed to control all of Sicily for a limited time; the entire area came under the leadership and protection of Carthage, which in turn dispatched its own colonists to found new cities or to reinforce those that declined with the loss of primacy of Tyre and Sidon. The first colonies were settled on the two paths to Iberia's mineral wealth — along the Northwest African coast and on Sicily and the Ba
Battle of the Bagradas River (255 BC)
The Battle of the Bagradas River known as the Battle of Tunis, was a Carthaginian victory over Rome in the spring of 255 BC during the First Punic War. The superior cavalry of the Carthaginians and their allies permitted a pincer attack on the Roman infantrymen, provoking a rout and slaughter; the mercenary Spartan general Xanthippus was hired by the city of Carthage following heavy-handed negotiations by Rome. He made the Romans fight on open ground, which allowed him to maximise the effect of the excellent Carthaginian cavalry and elephants; the Roman army under Marcus Atilius Regulus was based at Tunis. Faced by the resurgent Carthaginian army, Regulus was keen to gain another victory rather than risk the chance that someone else would get the glory of eventual victory. Xanthippus deployed the Carthaginian phalanx in the centre, mercenary infantry on the right, a line of elephants in front of the infantry, the elite Carthaginian cavalry split between the two flanks; the Carthaginians had 12,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, 100 war elephants.
The Romans had 500 cavalry. The Romans were formed in their normal formation, with the legionary infantry in the centre and the outnumbered cavalry on the flanks; the Carthaginians started the battle with an attack by the elephants. This tied up the main force of Roman infantry; the Roman cavalry, outnumbered eight to one, was defeated. Only on their left did the Romans have any success, when 2,000 troops allied troops, defeated the mercenaries facing them, chased them back past their camp. Meanwhile, in the centre the elephant attack had been withstood, but only a few isolated units of Roman infantry managed to get past them to attempt to attack the Carthaginian phalanx, those were defeated; the Carthaginian cavalry charged the shaken Romans from both sides, destroying what cohesion was left. Only the 2,000 troops successful earlier in the battle escaped to be rescued by the Roman fleet; the Romans lost 12,000 killed and 500 captured, while the Carthaginians lost only 800 mercenaries killed. Regulus was taken prisoner.
Some Roman writers claim that his eyelids were cut off and he was trampled to death by an enraged elephant. However Polybius does not mention it and Diodorus suggests he died from natural causes; the defeat, serious disasters in storms at sea, ended any chance that Rome would defeat Carthage in Africa, ensured that the rest of the war was fought in Sicily and at sea. Battle of the Bagradas River, other battles in antiquity Lazenby, John Francis; the First Punic War: A Military History. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2673-6. OCLC 34371250. Rankov, Boris. "A War of Phases: Strategies and Stalemates 264–241". In Hoyos, Dexter. A Companion to the Punic Wars. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-405-17600-2
A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. In use since ancient times, the catapult has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during warfare. In modern times the term can apply to devices ranging from a simple hand-held implement to a mechanism for launching aircraft from a ship; the word'catapult' comes from the Latin'catapulta', which in turn comes from the Greek Ancient Greek: καταπέλτης, itself from κατά, "downwards" and πάλλω, "to toss, to hurl". Catapults were invented by the ancient Greeks and in ancient India where they were used by the Magadhan Emperor Ajatshatru around the early to mid 5th century BCE; the catapult and crossbow in Greece are intertwined. Primitive catapults were "the product of straightforward attempts to increase the range and penetrating power of missiles by strengthening the bow which propelled them"; the historian Diodorus Siculus, described the invention of a mechanical arrow-firing catapult by a Greek task force in 399 BC.
The weapon was soon after employed against a key Carthaginian stronghold in Sicily. Diodorus is assumed to have drawn his description from the rated history of Philistus, a contemporary of the events then; the introduction of crossbows however, can be dated further back: according to the inventor Hero of Alexandria, who referred to the now lost works of the 3rd-century BC engineer Ctesibius, this weapon was inspired by an earlier foot-held crossbow, called the gastraphetes, which could store more energy than the Greek bows. A detailed description of the gastraphetes, or the "belly-bow", along with a watercolor drawing, is found in Heron's technical treatise Belopoeica. A third Greek author, whose reliability has been positively reevaluated by recent scholarship, described two advanced forms of the gastraphetes, which he credits to Zopyros, an engineer from southern Italy. Zopyrus has been plausibly equated with a Pythagorean of that name who seems to have flourished in the late 5th century BC.
He designed his bow-machines on the occasion of the sieges of Cumae and Milet between 421 BC and 401 BC. The bows of these machines featured a winched pull back system and could throw two missiles at once. Philo of Byzantium provides the most detailed account on the establishment of a theory of belopoietics circa 200 BC; the central principle to this theory was that "all parts of a catapult, including the weight or length of the projectile, were proportional to the size of the torsion springs". This kind of innovation is indicative of the increasing rate at which geometry and physics were being assimilated into military enterprises. From the mid-4th century BC onwards, evidence of the Greek use of arrow-shooting machines becomes more dense and varied: arrow firing machines are mentioned by Aeneas Tacticus in his treatise on siegecraft written around 350 BC. An extant inscription from the Athenian arsenal, dated between 338 and 326 BC, lists a number of stored catapults with shooting bolts of varying size and springs of sinews.
The entry is noteworthy as it constitutes the first clear evidence for the switch to torsion catapults which are more powerful than the flexible crossbows and came to dominate Greek and Roman artillery design thereafter. This move to torsion springs was spurred by the engineers of Philip II of Macedonia. Another Athenian inventory from 330 to 329 BC includes catapult bolts with flights; as the use of catapults became more commonplace, so did the training required to operate them. Many Greek children were instructed in catapult usage, as evidenced by "a 3rd Century B. C. inscription from the island of Ceos in the Cyclades catapult shooting competitions for the young". Arrow firing machines in action are reported from Philip II's siege of Perinth in 340 BC. At the same time, Greek fortifications began to feature high towers with shuttered windows in the top, which could have been used to house anti-personnel arrow shooters, as in Aigosthena. Projectiles included both stones that were sometimes lit on fire.
Onomarchus of Phocis first used catapults on the battlefield against Philip II of Macedon. Philip's son, Alexander the Great, was the next commander in recorded history to make such use of catapults on the battlefield as well as to use them during sieges; the Romans started to use catapults as arms for their wars against Syracuse, Macedon and Aetolia. The Roman machine known as an arcuballista was similar to a large crossbow; the Romans used ballista catapults on their warships. Ajatshatru is recorded in Jaina texts as having used catapults in his campaign against the Licchavis. King Uzziah, who reigned in Judah until 750 BC, is documented as having overseen the construction of machines to "shoot great stones" in 2 Chronicles 26:15. Castles and fortified walled cities were common during this period and catapults were used as siege weapons against them; as well as their use in attempts to breach walls, incendiary missiles, or diseased carcasses or garbage could be catapulted over the walls. Defensive techniques in the Middle Ages progressed to a point that rendered catapults ineffective.
The Viking siege of Paris "saw the employment by both sides of every instrument of siege craft known to the classical world, including a variety of catapults", to little effect, resulting in failure. The most used catapults throughout the Mi
A consul held the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic, ancient Romans considered the consulship the highest level of the cursus honorum. Each year, the citizens of Rome elected two consuls to serve jointly for a one-year term; the consuls alternated in holding imperium each month, a consul's imperium extended over Rome and the provinces. However, after the establishment of the Empire, the consuls became mere symbolic representatives of Rome's republican heritage and held little power and authority, with the Emperor acting as the supreme authority. After the legendary expulsion of the last Etruscan King, Tarquin the Proud, a harsh ruler at the end of the Roman Kingdom, most of the powers and authority of the king were ostensibly given to the newly instituted consulship; this change in leadership came about when the king's son, Sextus Tarquinius, raped the wife and daughter of powerful Roman nobles. A group of nobles led by Lucius Junius Brutus, with the support of the Roman Army, expelled Tarquinius and his family from Rome in 509 BC.
Consuls were called praetors, referring to their duties as the chief military commanders. By at least 300 BC the title of Consul became used. Ancient writers derive the title consul from the Latin verb consulere, "to take counsel", but this is most a gloss of the term, which derives—in view of the joint nature of the office—from con- and sal-, "get together" or from con- and sell-/sedl-, "sit down together with" or "next to". In Greek, the title was rendered as στρατηγὸς ὕπατος, strategos hypatos, simply as ὕπατος; the consul was believed by the Romans to date back to the traditional establishment of the Republic in 509 BC, but the succession of consuls was not continuous in the 5th century BC. During the 440s, the office was quite replaced with the establishment of the Consular Tribunes, who were elected whenever the military needs of the state were significant enough to warrant the election of more than the two usual consuls; these remained in place until the office was abolished in 367/366 BC and the consulship was reintroduced.
Consuls had extensive powers in peacetime, in wartime held the highest military command. Additional religious duties included certain rites which, as a sign of their formal importance, could only be carried out by the highest state officials. Consuls read auguries, an essential step before leading armies into the field. Two consuls were elected each year, serving together, each with veto power over the other's actions, a normal principle for magistracies, it is thought that only patricians were eligible for the consulship. Consuls were elected by the Comitia Centuriata, which had an aristocratic bias in its voting structure which only increased over the years from its foundation. However, they formally assumed powers only after the ratification of their election in the older Comitia Curiata, which granted the consuls their imperium by enacting a law, the "lex curiata de imperio". If a consul died during his term or was removed from office, another would be elected by the Comitia Centuriata to serve the remainder of the term as consul suffectus.
A consul elected to start the year - called a consul ordinarius - held more prestige than a suffect consul because the year would be named for ordinary consuls. According to tradition, the consulship was reserved for patricians and only in 367 BC did plebeians win the right to stand for this supreme office, when the Lex Licinia Sextia provided that at least one consul each year should be plebeian; the first plebeian consul, Lucius Sextius, was elected the following year. The office remained in the hands of a few families as, according to Gelzer, only fifteen novi homines - "new men" with no consular background - were elected to the consulship until the election of Cicero in 63 BC. Modern historians have questioned the traditional account of plebeian emancipation during the early Republic, noting for instance that about thirty percent of the consuls prior to Sextius had plebeian, not patrician, names, it is possible that only the chronology has been distorted, but it seems that one of the first consuls, Lucius Junius Brutus, came from a plebeian family.
Another possible explanation is that during the 5th century social struggles, the office of consul was monopolized by a patrician elite. During times of war, the primary qualification for consul was military skill and reputation, but at all times the selection was politically charged. With the passage of time, the consulship became the normal endpoint of the cursus honorum, the sequence of offices pursued by the ambitious Roman who chose to pursue political power and influence; when Lucius Cornelius Sulla regulated the cursus by law, the minimum age of election to consul became, in effect, 41 years of age. Beginning in the late Republic, after finishing a consular year, a former consul would serve a lucrative term as a proconsul, the Roman Governor of one of the provinces; the most chosen province for the proconsulship was Cisalpine Gaul. Although throughout the early years of the Principate, the consuls were still formally elected by the Comitia Centuriata, they were in fact nominated by the princeps.
As the years progressed, the distinction between the Comitia Centuriata and the Comitia Tributa appears to have disappeared, so for the purposes of the consular