CONSUL, two supreme magistrates, with equal authority, elected annually in ancient Rome from the time of the ex pulsion of the Kings and the commence ment of the Republic (A. U. C. 244; 509 B. C.) They were called at first prietors (praetors), imperatores (commanders), and indices (judges) ; but ultimately the name consules (consuls) prevailed over these designations. The annual meeting or assembly of the Roman citizens for their election was called by the plural term comitia, from the comitium, a place in or near the forum, where the elections were held. They continued, with a few exceptional elections, during the whole period of the republic, and were so im portant in the State that the successive years were distinguished by the consuls who had held office during each of them. At first none but patricians could hold the dignity, but 366 B. C. a plebeian was elected one of the consuls, and in 172 B. C. two. The consulate nominally continued under the empire, but was little more than a titular dignity. Tiberius trans ferred the power of electing consuls from the people to the Senate. Afterward
their number was augmented. The last consul at Rome was Decimus Theodorus Paulinus in 536 A. D.; the last at Con stantinople, Basilius junior in 541 A. D.
In French history, a consul was one of three supreme magistrates designated first, second, and third consul, who held office between 1799 and 1804. Napoleon Bonaparte was the first consul, and his power soon absorbed that of the rest.
In commerce, a consul is an officer ap pointed by the government of his coun try to reside in a specified foreign land, with the view of promoting the mercan tile interests of the nation in whose service he is engaged. He annually or more frequently reports to his govern ment the state of commerce in the region where his opportunities of observation lie. The office of consul in this sense seems to have arisen in Italy about the middle of the 12th century, and by the 16th had spread over Europe.