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The ultimate governing authority was the Roman Senate, made up primarily of members of the Patrician Class. The Senate's prestige and authority were represented by the initials SPQR often inscribed on important buildings. Its meaning: Senatus populusque Romanus, or "the Senate and the Roman People." Additional authority was held by two Consuls, each of whom had the power of sacrosanctitas, that is they were virtually sacred, could not be overruled or even touched. Finallly there was the Pontifex Maximus, who acted in the role of a chief priest. It was he who read omens, determined feast days, and days appropriate for business. The Roman Constitution provided for the appointment of a dictator in times of national emergency who could rule for six months without restriction. This last provision was intended to keep the republic stable in the event of some national emergency. It was under this provision that Julius Caesar became dictator, and later the first Emperor of Rome.
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