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In the Roman republic, either of two annually elected chief magistrates. The consuls had sacred rights and near-absolute authority. They were nominated by the Senate and elected by the popular assembly; each could veto the other's decisions. As heads of state, they commanded the army, presided over the Senate and assemblies and acted on their decrees, and handled foreign affairs. At the end of his one-year term, a consul was generally appointed to serve as governor of a province. The office continued in weaker form under the empire.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on consul, visit Britannica.com.