The cursus honorum (Latin: "course of offices") was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum age for election. There were minimum intervals between holding successive offices and laws forbade repeating an office.
These rules were altered and flagrantly ignored in the course of the last century of the Republic. For example, Gaius Marius held consulships for five years in a row between 104 BC and 100 BC. He was consul seven times in all, also serving in 107 and 86. Officially presented as opportunities for public service, the offices often became mere opportunities for self-aggrandizement. The reforms of Sulla required a ten-year interval before holding the same office again for another term.
To have held each office at the youngest possible age (suo anno, "in his own year") was considered a great political success. For instance to miss out on a praetorship at 39 meant that one could not become consul at 42. Cicero expressed extreme pride not only in being a novus homo ("new man"; comparable to a "self-made man") who became consul even though none of his ancestors had ever served as a consul, but also in having become consul "in his year".
The cursus honorum began with ten years of military duty in the Roman cavalry (the equites) or in the staff of a general who was a relative or a friend of the family. The ten years of service were intended to be mandatory in order to qualify for political office, but in practice, the rule was not always rigidly applied.
A more prestigious position was that of a military tribune. In the early Roman Republic, 24 men at the age of around 20 were elected by the Tribal Assembly to serve as a commander in the legions, with six tribunes to each and command rotating among them. Tribunes could also be appointed by the consuls or by military commanders in the field as necessary. After the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC, the six tribunes acted as staff officers for the legionary legatus and were appointed tasks and command of units of troops whenever the need arose.
The subsequent steps of the cursus honorum were achieved by direct election every year.
The first official post was that of quaestor. Candidates had to be at least 30 years old. However, men of patrician rank could subtract two years from this and other minimum age requirements.
Twenty quaestors served in the financial administration at Rome or as second-in-command to a governor in the provinces. They could also serve as the paymaster for a legion. A young man who obtained this job was expected to become a very important official. An additional task of all quaestors was the supervision of public games. As a quaestor, an official was allowed to wear the toga praetexta, but was not escorted by lictors, nor did he possess imperium.
At 36 years of age, proquaestor could stand for election to one of the aedile positions. Of these aediles, two were plebeian and two were patrician, with the patrician aediles called Curule Aediles. The plebeian aediles were elected by the Plebeian Council and the curule aediles were either elected by the Tribal Assembly or appointed by the reigning consul. The aediles had administrative responsibilities in Rome. They had to take care of the temples (whence their title, from the Latin aedes, "temple"), organize games, and be responsible for the maintenance of the public buildings in Rome. Moreover, they took charge of Rome's water and food supplies; in their capacity as market superintendents, they served sometimes as judges in mercantile affairs.
The Aedile was the supervisor of public works; the words "edifice" and "edification" stem from the same root. He oversaw the public works, temples and markets. Therefore, the Aediles would have been in some cooperation with the current Censors, who had similar or related duties. Also they oversaw the organization of festivals and games (ludi), which made this a very sought-after office for a career minded politician of the late republic, as it was a good means of gaining popularity by staging spectacles.
Curule Aediles were added at a later date in the 4th century BC, and their duties do not differ substantially from plebeian aediles. However, unlike plebeian aediles, curule aediles were allowed certain symbols of rank—the sella curulis or 'curule chair,' for example—and only patricians could stand for election to curule aedile. This later changed, and both Plebeians and Patricians could stand for Curule Aedileship.
The elections for Curule Aedile were at first alternated between Patricians and Plebeians, until late in the 2nd century BC, when the practice was abandoned and both classes became free to run during all years.
While part of the cursus honorum, this step was optional and not required to hold future offices. Though the office was usually held after the quaestorship and before the praetorship, there are some cases with former praetors serving as aediles.
After serving either as quaestor or as aedile, a man of 39 years could run for praetor. The number of praetors elected varied through history, generally increasing with time. During the republic, six or eight were generally elected each year to serve judicial functions throughout Rome and other governmental responsibilities. In the absence of the consuls, a praetor would be given command of the garrison in Rome or in Italy. Also, a praetor could exercise the functions of the consuls throughout Rome, but their main function was that of a judge. They would preside over trials involving criminal acts, grant court orders and validate "illegal" acts as acts of administering justice. A praetor was escorted by six lictors, and wielded imperium. After a term as praetor, the magistrate would serve as a provincial governor with the title of propraetor, wielding propraetor imperium, commanding the province's legions, and possessing ultimate authority within his province(s).
Two of the praetors were more prestigious than the others. The first was the Praetor Peregrinus, who was the chief judge in trials involving one or more foreigners. The other was the Praetor Urbanus, the chief judicial office in Rome. He had the power to overturn any verdict by any other courts, and served as judge in cases involving criminal charges against provincial governors. The Praetor Urbanus was not allowed to leave the city for more than ten days. If one of these two Praetors was absent from Rome, the other would perform the duties of both.
The office of consul was the most prestigious of all, and represented the summit of a successful career. The minimum age was 42 for plebeians and 40 for patricians. Years were identified by the names of the two consuls elected for a particular year; for instance, M. Messalla et M. Pisone consulibus, "in the consulship of Messalla and Piso," dates an event to 61 BC. Consuls were responsible for the city's political agenda, commanded large-scale armies and controlled important provinces. The consuls served for only a year (a restriction intended to limit the amassing of power by individuals) and could only rule when they agreed, because each consul could veto the other's decision.
The consuls would alternate monthly as the chairman of the Senate. They also were the supreme commanders in the Roman army, with each being granted two legions during their consular year. Consuls also exercised the highest juridical power in the Republic, being the only office with the power to override the decisions of the Praetor Urbanus. Only laws and the decrees of the Senate or the People's assembly limited their powers, and only the veto of a fellow consul or a tribune of the plebs could supersede their decisions.
A consul was escorted by twelve lictors, held imperium and wore the toga praetexta. Because the consul was the highest executive office within the Republic, they had the power to veto any action or proposal by any other magistrate, save that of the Tribune of the Plebs. After a consulship, a consul was assigned one of the more important provinces and acted as the governor in the same way that a Propraetor did, only owning Proconsular imperium. A second consulship could only be attempted after an interval of 10 years to prevent one man holding too much power.
Although not part of the Cursus Honorum, upon completing a term as either Praetor or Consul, an officer was required to serve a term as Propraetor and Proconsul, respectively, in one of Rome's many provinces. These Propraetors and Proconsuls held near autocratic authority within their selected province or provinces. Because each governor held equal imperium to the equivalent magistrate, they were escorted by the same number of lictors (12) and could only be vetoed by a reigning Consul or Praetor. Their abilities to govern were only limited by the decrees of the Senate or the people's assemblies, and the Tribune of the Plebs was unable to veto their acts as long as the governor remained at least a mile outside of Rome.
After a term as consul, the final step in the Cursus Honorum was the office of censor. This was the only office in the Roman Republic whose term was a period of eighteen months instead of the usual twelve. Censors were elected every five years and although the office held no military imperium, it was considered a great honour. The censors took a regular census of the people and then apportioned the citizens into voting classes on the basis of income and tribal affiliation. The censors enrolled new citizens in tribes and voting classes as well. The censors were also in charge of the membership roll of the Senate, every five years adding new senators who had been elected to the requisite offices. Censors could also remove unworthy members from the Senate. This ability was lost during the dictatorship of Sulla. Censors were also responsible for construction of public buildings and the moral status of the city.
Censors also had financial duties, in that they had to put out to tender projects that were to be financed by the state. Also, the censors were in charge of the leasing out of conquered land for public use and auction. Though this office owned no imperium, meaning no lictors for protection, they were allowed to wear the toga praetexta.
The office of Tribune of the Plebs was an important step in the political career of plebeians. Patricians could not hold the office. The Tribune was an office first created to protect the right of the common man in Roman politics and served as the head of the Plebeian Council. In the mid-to-late Republic, however, plebeians were often just as, and sometimes more, wealthy and powerful than patricians. Those who held the office were granted sacrosanctity (the right to be legally protected from any physical harm), the power to rescue any plebeian from the hands of a patrician magistrate, and the right to veto any act or proposal of any magistrate, including another tribune of the people and the consuls. The tribune also had the power to exercise capital punishment against any person who interfered in the performance of his duties. The tribunes could even convene a Senate meeting and lay legislation before it and arrest magistrates. Their houses had to remain open for visitors even during the night, and they were not allowed to be more than a day's journey from Rome. Due to their unique power of sacrosanctity, the Tribune had no need for lictors for protection and owned no imperium, nor could they wear the toga praetexta. For a period after Sulla's reforms, a person who had held the office of Tribune of the Plebs could no longer qualify for any other office, and the powers of the tribunes were more limited, but these restrictions were subsequently lifted.
Another office not officially a step in the cursus honorum was the princeps senatus, an extremely prestigious office for a patrician. The princeps senatus served as the leader of the Senate and was chosen to serve a five-year term by each pair of Censors every five years. Censors could, however, confirm a princeps senatus for a period of another five years. The princeps senatus was chosen from all Patricians who had served as a Consul, with former Censors usually holding the office. The office originally granted the holder the ability to speak first at session on the topic presented by the presiding magistrate, but eventually gained the power to open and close the senate sessions, decide the agenda, decide where the session should take place, impose order and other rules of the session, meet in the name of the senate with embassies of foreign countries, and write in the name of the senate letters and dispatches. This office, like the Tribune, did not own imperium, was not escorted by lictors, and could not wear the toga praetexta.
Of all the offices within the Roman Republic, none granted as much power and authority as the position of dictator, known as the Master of the People. In times of emergency, the Senate would declare that a dictator was required, and the current consuls would appoint a dictator. This was the only decision that could not be vetoed by the Tribune of the Plebs. The dictator was the sole exception to the Roman legal principles of having multiple magistrates in the same office and being legally able to be held to answer for actions in office. Essentially by definition, only one dictator could serve at a time, and no dictator could ever be held legally responsible for any action during his time in office for any reason.
The dictator was the highest magistrate in degree of imperium and was attended by twenty-four lictors (as were the former Kings of Rome). Although his term lasted only six months instead of twelve (except for the Dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar), all other magistrates reported to the dictator (except for the tribunes of the plebs - although they could not veto any of the dictator's acts), granting the dictator absolute authority in both civil and military matters throughout the Republic. The Dictator was free from the control of the Senate in all that he did, could execute anyone without a trial for any reason, and could ignore any law in the performance of his duties. The Dictator was the sole magistrate under the Republic that was truly independent in discharging his duties. All of the other offices were extensions of the Senate's executive authority and thus answerable to the Senate. Since the Dictator exercised his own authority, he did not suffer this limitation, which was the cornerstone of the office's power.
When a Dictator entered office, he appointed to serve as his second-in-command a magister equitum, the Master of the Horse, whose office ceased to exist once the Dictator left office. The magister equitum held Praetorian imperium, was attended by six lictors, and was charged with assisting the Dictator in managing the State. When the Dictator was away from Rome, the magister equitum usually remained behind to administer the city. The magister equitum, like the Dictator, had unchallengeable authority in all civil and military affairs, with his decisions only being overturned by the Dictator himself.
The Dictatorship was definitively abolished in 44 BC after the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar (Lex Antonia).
Aedile (Latin: aedīlis Latin pronunciation: [ae̯ˈdiː.lɪs], from aedes, "temple edifice") was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings (aedēs) and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order.
There were two pairs of aediles: the first were the "plebeian aediles" (Latin aediles plebis) and possession of this office was limited to plebeians; the other two were "curule aediles" (Latin aediles curules), open to both plebeians and patricians, in alternating years. An aedilis curulis was classified as a magister curulis.
The office of the aedilis was generally held by young men intending to follow the cursus honorum to high political office, traditionally after their quaestorship but before their praetorship. It was not a compulsory part of the cursus, and hence a former quaestor could be elected to the praetorship without having held the position of aedile. However, it was an advantageous position to hold because it demonstrated the aspiring politician's commitment to public service, as well as giving him the opportunity to hold public festivals and games, an excellent way to increase his name recognition and popularity.Consul
Consul (abbrev. cos.; Latin plural consules) was the title of one of the chief magistrates of the Roman Republic, and subsequently a somewhat significant title under the Roman Empire. The title was used in other European city states through antiquity and the Middle Ages, then revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic. The relating adjective is consular, from the consularis.
This usage contrasts with modern terminology, where a consul is a type of diplomat.Decius Metellus
Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is a fictional character created by author John Maddox Roberts, the protagonist of Roberts's SPQR series of historical mystery novels. A Roman Senator during the waning days of the Roman Republic, Decius solves mysteries, while at the same time working his way steadily up the cursus honorum.
The SPQR series takes the form of Decius's memoirs, written during the reign of Augustus Caesar, when he has outlived all his friends and enemies, and no longer cares whom he offends or what anyone might do to him.Executive magistrates of the Roman Empire
The executive magistrates of the Roman Empire were elected individuals of the ancient Roman Empire. During the transition from monarchy to republic, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the executive (the Roman King) to the Roman Senate. During the transition from republic to empire, the constitutional balance of power shifted back to the executive (the Roman Emperor). Theoretically, the senate elected each new emperor, although in practice, it was the army which made the choice. The powers of an emperor, (his imperium) existed, in theory at least, by virtue of his legal standing. The two most significant components to an emperor's imperium were the "tribunician powers" (potestas tribunicia) and the "proconsular powers" (imperium proconsulare). In theory at least, the tribunician powers (which were similar to those of the Plebeian Tribunes under the old republic) gave the emperor authority over Rome's civil government, while the proconsular powers (similar to those of military governors, or Proconsuls, under the old republic) gave him authority over the Roman army. While these distinctions were clearly defined during the early empire, eventually they were lost, and the emperor's powers became less constitutional and more monarchical.Under the empire, the citizens were divided into three classes, and for members of each class, a distinct career path was available (known as the cursus honorum). The traditional magistracies were only available to citizens of the senatorial class. The magistracies that survived the fall of the republic were (by their order of rank per the cursus honorum) the Consulship, Praetorship, Plebeian Tribunate, Aedileship, Quaestorship, and Military Tribunate. If an individual was not of the senatorial class, he could run for one of these offices if he was allowed to run by the emperor, or otherwise, he could be appointed to one of these offices by the emperor. Mark Antony abolished the offices of Roman Dictator and Magister equitum ("Master of the Horse") during his Consulship in 44 BC, shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar. The office of Interrex was also abolished during the transition from republic to empire. In 22 BC the emperor Augustus appointed P. Aemilius Lepidus and L. Munatius Plancus to the Censorship, and while they began a census that year, they never completed it, and shortly thereafter the office was abolished. The emperor Claudius attempted to revive the office by appointing himself and L. Vitellius Censor in 47 AD, but after Claudius, no further attempts were made to revive the office.Gaius Calpetanus Rantius Sedatus
Gaius Calpetanus Rantius Sedatus was a Roman senator, who held a number of offices in the imperial service. He was suffect consul in the nundinium of March-April 47 with Hordeonius Flaccus as his colleague. He is known primarily from inscriptions.
His cursus honorum is known only piecemeal. The first known office Sedatus held was curator tabullarium publicorum in 45, a post reserved for senators of praetorian status. After he was suffect consul, the emperor Claudius appointed him governor of the province of Dalmatia.
Gaius Calpetanus Rantius Quirinalis Valerius Festus, suffect consul in 71, was his adopted son.Lex Villia Annalis
In Ancient Rome, the Lex Villia Annalis was a law passed in 180 BC that regulated the minimum age requirements of candidacy for different public offices within the cursus honorum.The law was proposed by Lucius Villius Annalis, a Tribune of the Plebs, after previous debate within the senate pertaining to the age requirements for magistracies. These debates had arisen due to an increase in competition from a rise in new families attempting to gain success and social change within Roman society, which placed pressure on the political sphere. Where previous laws had failed to be passed or were too ambiguous to result in change, the Lex Villia Annalis has been described as having created a standard for a career in the cursus honorum.Significant debate has arisen over the context and content of the law, given the minimal number of references provided within antiquity. It is questionable as to the level of detail within the law and whether or not it arose out of a formalisation of past customs.Lictor
A lictor (possibly from Latin: ligare, "to bind") was a Roman civil servant who was a bodyguard to magistrates who held imperium. Lictors were used since the Roman Kingdom, and according to Roman historian Livy, the custom may have originated earlier, in the Etruscan civilization.Lucius Titius Epidius Aquilinus
Lucius Titius Epidius Aquilinus was a Roman senator of the second century. He was ordinary consul in the year 125 as the colleague of Marcus Lollius Paulinus Decimus Valerius Asiaticus Saturninus. He is primarily known from inscriptions.
It is likely that Aquilinus was the father of Plautius Quintillus, ordinary consul of 159, and Lucius Titius Plautius Aquilinus, ordinary consul of 162. If so, then Aquilinus was most probably married to an Avidia Plautia. Details of Aquilinus' cursus honorum have not yet been recovered.Master of the Horse
The Master of the Horse was (and in some cases, still is) a position of varying importance in several European nations.Military tribune
A military tribune (Latin tribunus militum, "tribune of the soldiers", Greek chiliarchos, χιλίαρχος) was an officer of the Roman army who ranked below the legate and above the centurion. Young men of Equestrian rank often served as military tribune as a stepping stone to the Senate. The tribunus militum should not be confused with the elected political office of tribune of the people (tribunus plebis) nor with that of tribunus militum consulari potestate.Praetor
Praetor (Classical Latin: [ˈprajtoːr], also spelled prætor) was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often, before the army had been mustered); or, an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties (which varied at different periods in Rome's history). The functions of the magistracy, the praetura (praetorship), are described by the adjective: the praetoria potestas (praetorian power), the praetorium imperium (praetorian authority), and the praetorium ius (praetorian law), the legal precedents established by the praetores (praetors). Praetorium, as a substantive, denoted the location from which the praetor exercised his authority, either the headquarters of his castra, the courthouse (tribunal) of his judiciary, or the city hall of his provincial governorship.Princeps senatus
The princeps senatus (plural principes senatus) was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the cursus honorum and owning no imperium, this office brought conferred prestige on the senator holding it.Quaestor
A quaestor (UK: , US: , Latin for investigator) was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, quaestores parricidii (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. In the Roman Republic, quaestors (Lat. quaestores) were elected officials who supervised the state treasury and conducted audits. It was the lowest ranking position in the cursus honorum (course of offices). However, this means that in the political environment of Rome, it was quite common for many aspiring politicians to take the position of quaestor as an early rung on the political ladder. In the Roman Empire, the position, which was initially replaced by the praefectus (prefect), reemerged during the late empire as quaestor intra Palatium, a position appointed by the emperor to lead the imperial council and respond to petitioners.Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus (ca 160 BC – 91 BC) was the leader of the conservative faction of the Roman Senate and a bitter enemy of Gaius Marius. He served as consul for 109 BC, and was the chief commander in the Jugurthine War in Numidia until Marius displaced him. He later became a censor, entering into exile in opposition to Marius. Metellus Numidicus enjoyed a reputation for integrity in an era when Roman politics was increasingly corrupt.Roman dictator
A dictator was a magistrate of the Roman Republic, entrusted with the full authority of the state to deal with a military emergency or to undertake a specific duty. All other magistrates were subordinate to his imperium, and the right of the plebeian tribunes to veto his actions or of the people to appeal from them was extremely limited. However, in order to prevent the dictatorship from threatening the state itself, severe limitations were placed upon its powers: a dictator could only act within his intended sphere of authority; and he was obliged to resign his office once his appointed task had been accomplished, or at the expiration of six months. Dictators were frequently appointed from the earliest period of the Republic down to the Second Punic War, but the magistracy then went into abeyance for over a century, until it was revived in a significantly modified form, first by Sulla, and then by Julius Caesar. The office was formally abolished after the death of Caesar, and not revived under the Empire.Roman governor
A Roman governor was an official either elected or appointed to be the chief administrator of Roman law throughout one or more of the many provinces constituting the Roman Empire. A Roman governor is also known as a propraetor or proconsul.
The generic term in Roman legal language was Rector provinciae, regardless of the specific titles, which also reflect the province's intrinsic and strategic status, and corresponding differences in authority.
By the time of the early empire, there were two types of provinces — senatorial and imperial — and several types of governor would emerge. Only proconsuls and propraetors fell under the classification of promagistrate.Tribune of the Plebs
Tribunus plebis, rendered in English as tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune, was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeians, and throughout the history of the Republic, the most important check on the power of the Roman Senate and magistrates. These tribunes had the power to convene and preside over the Concilium Plebis (people's assembly); to summon the senate; to propose legislation; and to intervene on behalf of plebeians in legal matters; but the most significant power was to veto the actions of the consuls and other magistrates, thus protecting the interests of the plebeians as a class. The tribunes of the plebs were sacrosanct, meaning that any assault on their person was prohibited by law. In imperial times, the powers of the tribunate were granted to the emperor as a matter of course, and the office itself lost its independence and most of its functions. During the day the tribunes used to sit on the tribune benches on the Forum Romanum.Tribunus laticlavius
In the Roman army of the late Republic and the Principate, the tribunus laticlavius ("broad-striped tribune") was one of the six military tribunes in a legion.
The post was created by the Marian reforms. Its holder stood just below the legatus legionis, the legion's commander, and above the other five tribuni angusticlavii (and later the praefectus castrorum). The position was the first step of the traditional cursus honorum, the sequence of public offices held by Roman nobles of the senatorial class (conversely, the tribuni angusticlavii were knights). The tribunus laticlavius would usually be a young man who might belong to one of the richest families in Rome or be a close friend to the legionary commander. After two or three years in the army he would go back to Rome and run for a political office, usually a quaestorship.
By the middle of 250s AD, at the earliest, the post of the tribunus laticlavius had disappeared from the Roman army, following the general trend of removal of the senatorial class from military commands.
The Tribunus Laticlavius has a chance of being a future senator, and commander of an entire legion.Vigintisexviri
The Vigintisexviri (sing. vigintisexvir) was a college (collegium) of minor magistrates (magistratus minores) in the Roman Republic; the name literally means "Twenty-Six Men". The college consisted of six boards:
decemviri stlitibus iudicandis – 10 magistrates who judged lawsuits, including those dealing with whether a man was free or a slave;
the tresviri capitales, also known as nocturni – three magistrates who had a police function in Rome, in charge of prisons and the execution of criminals;
the tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo, also known as tresviri monetales – three magistrates who were in charge of striking and casting bronze, silver and gold (minting coins);
the quattuorviri viis in urbe purgandis, also known as quattuorviri viarum curandarum – four magistrates overseeing road maintenance within the city of Rome;
the duoviri viis extra urbem purgandis, also known as duoviri curatores viarum – two magistrates overseeing road maintenance near Rome;
the four praefecti Capuam Cumas – praefecti sent to Capua and Cumae in Campania to administer justice there.The singular of tresviri is triumvir; triumviri is also sometimes used for the plural but is considered to be less correct.In the Republic, the Vigintisexvirate had served as a stepping stone for the sons of senators to begin their own public careers in the cursus honorum; Julius Caesar had served as curator viarum and restored parts of the Via Appia. In AD 13, however, the Senate passed a senatus consultum restricting the reduced Vigintivirate to the Equestrians.
During the Principate, Caesar Augustus abolished the duoviri viis extra urbem purgandis and the four praefecti Capuam Cumas, thereby changing the vigintisexviri into the vigintiviri ("Twenty Men").