The Senate furnished an admirable school for debate. Any
senator could speak as long and as often as he chose. The opportunities for
discussion were numerous, for all weighty matters came before this august
assemblage. It managed finances and public works. It looked after the state
religion. It declared and conducted war, received ambassadors from foreign
countries, made alliances, and administered conquered territories. The Senate
formed the real governing body of the republic.
"AN ASSEMBLY OF KINGS"
The Senate proved not unworthy of its high position. For
two centuries, while Rome was winning dominion over Italy and the
Mediterranean, that body held the wisest and noblest Romans of the time. To
these men office meant a public trust—an opportunity to serve their country
with distinction and honor. The Senate, in its best days, was a splendid
example of the foresight, energy, and wisdom of republican Rome. An admiring
foreigner called it "an assembly of kings." 
 The four letters inscribed on Roman military
standards indicate the important place held by the Senate. They are S. P. Q.
R., standing for Senatus Populusque Romanus, "The Senate and
the People of Rome."