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Consul (abbrev. cos.; Latin plural consules) was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic. The relating adjective is consular, from the Latin consularis (which has been used, substantiated, as a title in its own right).


Ancient Rome

During the Roman Republic, the consuls were the highest civil and military magistrates, serving as the heads of government for the Republic. New consuls were elected every year. There were two consuls and they ruled together. However, after the establishment of the Empire, the consuls were merely a figurative representative of Rome’s republican heritage and held very little power and authority, with the emperor acting as the supreme leader.

Other uses in antiquity

Other city states

While many cities (as in Gaul) had a double-headed chief magistracy, often another title was used, such as Duumvir or native styles such as Meddix, but Consul was used in some.

Private sphere

It was not uncommon for an organisation under Roman private law to copy the terminology of state and city institutions for its own statutory agents. The founding statute, or contract, of such an organisation was called lex, 'law'. The people elected each year were patricians, members of the upper class.

In feudal times

In republican cities in Italy, the chief magistrates had the title of Consul; thus there have been governments lead by consuls in Bologna, Novara (with one Maggiore as head of state), Trani, Treviso.

The same happened in some cities in France, especially in the Mediterranean south, e.g., Avignon, Limoges.

The city-state of Genoa, unlike ancient Rome, bestowed the title of Consul on various state officials, not necessarily restricted to the highest. Among these were Genoese officials stationed in various Mediterranean ports, whose role included helping Genoese merchants and sailors in difficulties with the local authorities. This institution, with its name, was later emulated by other powers and is reflected in the modern usage of the word (see Consul (representative)).

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