"The first step is obvious: you must become a senator"
Cicero attacks Catilina in the senate
Public DomainCicero attacks Catilina in the senate - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The senate was a group of wealthy Romans in charge of the Republic; all official magistracies were held by senators. The property qualification to join the senate was a million sesterces, effectively closing off this important body to the poorer citizens. Though a large amount of senators tended to come from the traditional patrician families, plebeians who met the money requirement were also allowed in (such as Cicero himself). The senate advised the consuls and other public officials, and debated laws before putting them to public vote in the assemblies. During the Republic, the power of the senate was at its height, with the fate of Rome and her empire in its hands. The last century of the Republic, however, saw a rise in populares leaders who took their reforms and politics straight to the mob, and the power of the senate was severely threatened.