In the Roman Republic, in the case of the death of both consuls or a situation which made it impossible to proceed with the election of their successors, the Senate would decide to establish an interregnum. For that the senators chose several persons of patrician dignity from among their midst, and awarded them the auspices and the signs of magisterial power. The interreges had the task of preparing for the elections of new consuls and hold the electoral assembly. Although the interreges had been chosen by the Senate, rather than elected by the People, and were in power for a short period, they resembled extraordinary magistrates. The interrex was appointed by the senator with auspices; likewise, the magistrate was elected in accordance with the will of the gods (auspicato). As well as the auspices and the attributes of magisterial power (lictores, fasci, sella curulis), the interreges were provided with an ius agendi cum patribus et cum populo and could summon the People to the centuriate assembly. In an epistle to C. Trebatius Testa (Fam. 7.11.1), written in January 53 (all dates are b.c.), Cicero ironically said that, with such a large number of interreges, an experienced lawyer could use them to prepare a defence in civil suits by asking each interrex for two adjournments to obtain legal assistance. Interreges, albeit as part of a jest, were seen here as holders of some civil jurisdiction. Referring to Asconius' clarification that a certain M. Lepidus was appointed interrex because he had been elected as a curule magistrate, Theodor Mommsen concluded that every interrex was regarded as magistrate. In fact, Asconius means here that Lepidus held a curule magistracy in addition to his being interrex (or, more precisely, the magistracy entitled him to this role). Nevertheless, the notion of extraordinary magistrate has been frequently applied to the interrex by modern scholars. When interreges periodically appeared at the head of the Republic as holders of auspices and of the signs of the highest power for five days, the Romans became accustomed to thinking that the interreges received supremacy for that period.
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