What would an average work day for a Roman Emperor be?

Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#1
So, assuming there is no major war going on that demands his presence with the army, and he's just hanging around in Rome, what would his average day look like, roughly speaking, from what we know from the sources? Were there any expectations from the people (be it lower or upper class) of what his daily responsibilities should be, like a medieval monarch? Did he attend any meetings of the Senate (even for a purely ceremonial purpose)? Did he hold daily councils where he and his advisers addressed problems? Or was this only done when there was a crisis or emergency of some sort?
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,471
Australia
#3
Wake up
Call over piss bucket slave
Call over grape-peeling slave
Call over wine-serving slave
Call over emperor-dressing slaves
Call over hair-dressing slaves
Call over wine-serving slave
Breakfast
Sign a pile of execution warrants
Head out to the theatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Lunch
Duck across to the amphitheatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Second Lunch
Watch some Christians getting eaten
Call over wine-serving slave
Watch some Gladiator fights
Call over wine-serving slave
Dinner
Orgy
 
#4
There's a book on this topic by Fergus Millar titled The Emperor in the Roman World, although it has undergone criticism because it attempts to make conclusions about what emperors did while taking insufficient account of the different ways each individual emperor may have operated. Generally speaking, emperors were expected to protect the empire (which, in the third and fourth centuries, tended to entail being actually present on the front), and they were expected to answer petitions with rescripts, although they did have palatine secretaries to do this for them. Answering petitions was important, because the empire tended to be ruled in a reactive manner. A problem would occur, and the emperor, his army and/or his administration was expected to react (However, some rulers like Augustus, Diocletian, Constantine and Justinian, emperors were proactive and interventionist in their approach to government). As for imperial councils, certainly war councils existed, but by the Later Roman Empire the emperor had a consistorium, which was a council of palatine secretaries, officials, the praetorian prefects and chief generals. I'm not sure how often this council was expected to meet, or on what occasions, but it probably varied with each emperor. The establishment of the consistorium is representative of the general trend towards centralization and bureaucratization. The early empire was a much more hands-off empire when it came to administration. By the time of Diocletian and Constantine, when the consistorium at the latest came into being, the reach of the imperial administration(s) had increased.
 
Jul 2014
650
Messinia
#5
Wake up
Call over piss bucket slave
Call over grape-peeling slave
Call over wine-serving slave
Call over emperor-dressing slaves
Call over hair-dressing slaves
Call over wine-serving slave
Breakfast
Sign a pile of execution warrants
Head out to the theatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Lunch
Duck across to the amphitheatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Second Lunch
Watch some Christians getting eaten
Call over wine-serving slave
Watch some Gladiator fights
Call over wine-serving slave
Dinner
Orgy
Are you joking or being serious? Very interesting if true...
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#6
There's a book on this topic by Fergus Millar titled The Emperor in the Roman World, although it has undergone criticism because it attempts to make conclusions about what emperors did while taking insufficient account of the different ways each individual emperor may have operated. Generally speaking, emperors were expected to protect the empire (which, in the third and fourth centuries, tended to entail being actually present on the front), and they were expected to answer petitions with rescripts, although they did have palatine secretaries to do this for them. Answering petitions was important, because the empire tended to be ruled in a reactive manner. A problem would occur, and the emperor, his army and/or his administration was expected to react (However, some rulers like Augustus, Diocletian, Constantine and Justinian, emperors were proactive and interventionist in their approach to government). As for imperial councils, certainly war councils existed, but by the Later Roman Empire the emperor had a consistorium, which was a council of palatine secretaries, officials, the praetorian prefects and chief generals. I'm not sure how often this council was expected to meet, or on what occasions, but it probably varied with each emperor. The establishment of the consistorium is representative of the general trend towards centralization and bureaucratization. The early empire was a much more hands-off empire when it came to administration. By the time of Diocletian and Constantine, when the consistorium at the latest came into being, the reach of the imperial administration(s) had increased.
Very interesting, thanks. Do you have any books you'd recommend that discuss Roman governance and administration?
 
Aug 2012
1,554
#7
Even without a war, wouldn't there be a lot of reports from the frontier of the Empire which needed reading? As well as that, wasn't the office of Emperor also that of a priest? Perhaps an average day would have involved some manner of religious offerings or sacrifices? Then of course, there would be the works of art or architecture the Emperor commissioned, which they would perhaps like to be kept updated on.
I imagine there were far more mundane bureaucratic details of the job than fiction may have led us to believe! They weren't exactly scared to kill an Emperor and put in a new one, so a certain level of competence would have been expected, which you can't really live up to if you spend most of the day eating fine banquets or watching men kill each other for your amusement.
 
Mar 2019
1,215
Kansas
#9
Wake up
Call over piss bucket slave
Call over grape-peeling slave
Call over wine-serving slave
Call over emperor-dressing slaves
Call over hair-dressing slaves
Call over wine-serving slave
Breakfast
Sign a pile of execution warrants
Head out to the theatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Lunch
Duck across to the amphitheatre
Call over wine-serving slave
Second Lunch
Watch some Christians getting eaten
Call over wine-serving slave
Watch some Gladiator fights
Call over wine-serving slave
Dinner
Orgy
Please dont make things us. Everyone knows the Christians got fed to the lions AFTER the gladiatorial battles, and usually after dinner ;)
 

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