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 by mutual consensus, i.e. only when they agreed with each other could they exercise the authority of their office. 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.

Medieval city states

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)).

In England, the clerks of Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, made a practice of using the Latin word consul rather than the more common comes when translating his title of 'Earl'. Modern historians sometimes call him "Robert the Consul", for that reason, though he himself and his contemporaries did not use that name.

French Revolution

French Republic

After Napoleon Bonaparte in November 1799 staged a coup against the Directory government, the French Republic adopted a constitution, which conferred executive powers upon three Consuls, elected for a period of ten years. In reality, the First Consul, Bonaparte, dominated his two colleagues and held supreme power, soon making himself Consul for life and eventually, in 1804, Emperor.

The office was held by

Roman Republic

The French-sponsored Roman Republic (15 February 1798 – 23 June 1800) was headed by multiple consuls:

  • Francesco Riganti, Carlo Luigi Costantini, Duke Bonelli-Crescenzi, Antonio Bassi, Gioacchino Pessuti, Angelo Stampa, Domenico Maggi, Provisional Consuls (15 February – 20 March 1798)
  • Liborio Angelucci, Giacomo De Mattheis, Panazzi, Reppi, Ennio Quirino Visconti, Consuls (20 March – September 1798)
  • Brigi, Calisti, Francesco Pierelli, Giuseppe Rey, Federico Maria Domenico Michele, Zaccaleoni, Consuls (September – 24 July 1799)

Consular rule was interrupted by the Neapolitan occupation (27 November – 12 December 1798), which installed a Provisional Government:

  • Prince Giambattista Borghese, Prince Paolo-Maria Aldobrandini, Prince Gibrielli, Marchese Camillo Massimo, Giovanni Ricci (29 November 1798 - 12 December 1798)

Rome was occupied by France (11 July – 28 September 1799) and again by Naples (30 September 1799 – 23 June 1800), bringing an end to the Roman Republic.

Bolognese Republic

The short-lived Bolognese Republic, proclaimed in 1796 as a French client republic in the Central Italian city of Bologna, had a government consisting of nine consuls and its head of state was the Presidente del Magistrato, i.e., chief magistrate, a presiding office held for four months by one of the consuls. As noted above, Bologna already had Consuls at some parts of its Medieval history.

Later modern republics


In between series of juntas (and various other short-lived regimes), the young republic was governed by "consuls of the republic" in power (2 consuls alternating in power every 4 months):

  • 12 October 1813 – 12 February 1814 José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco (1st time)
  • 12 February 1814 – 12 June 1814 Fulgencio Yegros y Franco de Torres
  • 12 June 1814 – 3 October 1814 José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco (2nd time); he stayed on as "supreme dictator" 3 October 1814 – 20 September 1840 (from 6 June 1816 styled "perpetual supreme dictator")

After a few presidents of the Provisional Junta, there were again consuls of the republic, 14 March 1841 – 13 March 1844 (ruling jointly, but occasionally styled "first consul", "second consul"): Carlos Antonio López Ynsfrán (b. 1792 – d. 1862) + Mariano Roque Alonzo Romero (d. 1853) (the lasts of the aforementioned juntistas, Commandant-General of the Army) Thereafter all republican rulers were styled "president".

Revolutionary Greece

Among the many petty local republics that were formed during the first year of the Greek Revolution, prior to the creation of a unified Provisional Government at the First National Assembly at Epidaurus, were:

  • The Consulate of Argos (from 26 May 1821, under the Senate of the Peloponnese) had a single head of state, styled consul, 28 March 1821 – 26 May 1821: Stamatellos Antonopoulos
  • The Consulate of East Greece (Livadeia) (from 15 November 1821, under the Areopagus of East Greece) was headed 1 April 1821 – 15 November 1821 by three Consuls: Lambros Nakos, Ioannis Logothetis & Ioannis Filon

Note: in Greek, the term for "consul" is "ypatos", which translates as "supreme one", and hence does not necessarily imply a joint office.

See also

Sources and references

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • consul — [ kɔ̃syl ] n. m. • v. 1370; concile 1213; mot lat. 1 ♦ Antiq. rom. L un des deux magistrats qui exerçaient l autorité suprême, sous la République. 2 ♦ Hist. Au Moyen Âge, Magistrat municipal du midi de la France. Consuls de Toulouse. ⇒ capitoul.… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • consul — CÓNSUL, consuli, s.m. 1. (În republica romană) Titlul celor trei magistraţi, aleşi anual, care deţineau puterea supremă; persoană purtând acest titlu. 2. Persoană numită de un stat în funcţia de şef al unei reprezentanţe oficiale cu rang de… …   Dicționar Român

  • Consul — Con sul (k[o^]n s[u^]l), n. [L., prob. fr. consulere to deliberate. See {Consult}.] 1. (Rom. Antiq.) One of the two chief magistrates of the republic. [1913 Webster] Note: They were chosen annually, originally from the patricians only, but later… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • CONSUL — tutor annuus erat Romanae Rei publ. publici consilii princeps, et exercitus Dux. Summum vero apud Romanos dignitatis fastigium fiut post exactos Reges a Iunio Bruto prim um inttoductum, an. Urb. Cond. 244. Consulem perpetuum se Vitellius creavit …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • consul — CONSUL. s. m. L un des deux Magistrats qui avoient la principale autorité dans la République Romaine, et dont les fonctions ne duroient qu un an. Créer, faire, élire des Consuls. Continuer un Consul. Il a été trois fois Consul. Il étoit Consul… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • consul — con‧sul [ˈkɒnsl ǁ ˈkɑːn ] also Consul noun [countable] a representative of a government who lives in a foreign country in order to help and protect the citizens of their own country who go there, and to do work connected with trade between the… …   Financial and business terms

  • consul — Consul. s. m. L un des deux Magistrats souverains qui gouvernoient la Republique Romaine, & dont l authorité ne duroit qu un an. Créer, faire, eslire des Consuls. continuer un Consul. il a esté trois fois Consul. il estoit Consul pour la… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Consul — steht für: den Amtsinhaber des Consulats, des höchsten zivilen und militärischen Amtes der Ämterlaufbahn (cursus honorum) im Römischen Reich Der Consul, Roman von Christian von Ditfurth (2003) Organisation Consul, eine deutsche nationalistische… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cónsul — puede referirse a: Cónsul, un magistrado de la antigua República Romana. Cónsul, un cargo francés. Cónsul, un funcionario del servicio exterior de un país. es aquel destacado en el extranjero, es un funcionario de carácter político de información …   Wikipedia Español

  • cónsul — ‘Diplomático encargado de defender a los ciudadanos de su país en una ciudad extranjera’. Por su terminación, es común en cuanto al género (el/la cónsul; → género2, 1a y 3i): «El Gobierno designó a la cónsul hondureña en México [...] para… …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • cónsul — sustantivo masculino,f. 1. Diplomático al servicio de un país que protege a las personas y los intereses de los ciudadanos que viven en una población extranjera: la cónsul honoraria de España en Santa Fe. Hemos visitado al cónsul de Venezuela en… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

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