The Venetian Senate (Venetian: Senato), formally the Consiglio dei Pregadi ("Council of the Invited", Latin: Consilium Rogatorum), was the main deliberative and legislative body of the Republic of Venice.
The Senate originated as a select committee of sixty men, chosen by the Great Council, to deliberate on decrees concerning taxation, commerce, foreign policy, and military operations, instead of the far larger, and more unwieldy, Great Council. Initially it was junior to another similar committee, the Council of Forty, but in later centuries it grew in importance.
By the 15th century, the Forty could join in an enlarged Senate, which was further expanded through an extraordinary commission (a zonta) of sixty men, nominated by the sitting Senators. Furthermore, ambassadors and senior military commanders held an ex officio position in the Senate from the day of their election to the end of the year after their return from their post. In total, about 300 men (out of an estimated nobility of 2,500 in 1500) had a seat in the Senate, but only about 230 of them had a right to vote. The minimum number for a quorum was set at 70, but more usually there were about 180 nobles in attendance. Election to the Senate was for terms of one year, but frequently the same men were continuously re-elected, ensuring both experience and continuity in political decision-making. The meetings of the Senate were presided over by the Full College, the effective executive arm of the Venetian government, which was in charge of preparing matters for discussion in the Senate through the Savii del Consiglio.