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The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and the early
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. It was designed for men of
senatorial
senatorial
rank. The ''cursus honorum'' comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts; the ultimate prize for winning election to each 'rung' in the sequence was to become one of the two ''consuls'' in a given year. Each office had a minimum age for election; there were also 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 Gaius Marius (; – 13 January 86 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. Victor of the and wars, he held the office of an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his of . He set the precedent for the shift fro ...
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 Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...

Sulla
between 82 and 79 BC 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 Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
expressed extreme pride not only in being a ''
novus homo ''Novus homo'' or ''homo novus'' (Latin for 'new man'; ''novi homines'' or ''homines novi'') was the term in ancient Rome for a man who was the first in his Roman gens, family to serve in the Roman Senate or, more specifically, to be elected as Ro ...
'' ("new man"; comparable to a "
self-made man Self-made or Self Made or Selfmade may refer to: * Self-made man * Selfmade Records, a German hip hop label * ''Self Made'' (album), an album by Rocko * "Self-Made" (''Law & Order: Criminal Intent''), an episode of ''Law & Order: Criminal Intent'' * ...
") who became consul even though none of his ancestors had ever served as a consul, but also in having become consul "in his year".


Military service

Prior to entering political life and the ''cursus honorum'', a young man of senatorial rank was expected to serve around ten years of military duty. The 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. The aspiring politician would serve in the Roman cavalry (the ''
equites The ''equites'' (; la, eques nom. singular; literally "horse-" or "cavalrymen", though sometimes referred to as "knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the pope) or representative ...
'') or in the staff of a general who was a relative or a friend of the family. Advancement and honors would improve his political prospects, and a successful military career might culminate in the office of
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
, to which 24 men were elected by the
Tribal Assembly The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of ...
each year. The rank of military tribune is sometimes described as the first office of the ''cursus honorum'', but it was not recognized as such in Roman law and did not carry automatic admittance to the
senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...

senate
.


Quaestor

The first official post was that of ''quaestor''. Candidates had to be at least 30 years old. However, men of
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
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 The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historiography, R ...
, but was not escorted by
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *'' ...

lictor
s, nor did he possess
imperium In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A histori ...

imperium
.


Aedile

At 36 years of age,
proquaestor In ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roma ...
could stand for election to one of the ''aedile'' (pronounced ''EE-dyle'' /ˈiːdaɪl/, from ''
aedes ''Aedes'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their an ...
'', "temple edifice") 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 The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually ...
and the curule aediles were either elected by the
Tribal Assembly The Tribal Assembly (''comitia populi tributa'') was an assembly consisting of all Roman citizens convened by tribes (''tribus''). In the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of ...
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 ''Aedes'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their an ...
'', "
temple A temple (from the Latin ) is a building reserved for spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. Religions which erect temples include Christianity (whose temples are typically called church (building), churches), Hinduism (w ...
"), 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 Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments, ...
, 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 A curule seat is a design of chair noted for its uses in Ancient Rome and Europe through to the 20th century. Its status in early Rome as a symbol of political or military power carried over to other civilizations, as it was also used in this regard ...
'' 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
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest ...
ship and before the
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
ship, there are some cases with former praetors serving as aediles.


Praetor

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 In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A histori ...

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.


Consul

The office of ''consul'' was the most prestigious of all of the offices on the cursus honorum, and represented the summit of a successful career. The minimum age was 42. 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 A veto (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Re ...
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 In ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roma ...
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.


Governor

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 A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
. 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 #REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs#REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs Tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune ( la, tribunus plebis) was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeians, and was, throughout the his ...

Tribune of the Plebs
was unable to veto their acts as long as the governor remained at least a mile outside of Rome.


Censor

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 toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historiography, R ...
''.


Tribune of the Plebs

The office of
Tribune of the Plebs #REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs#REDIRECT Tribune of the plebs Tribune of the plebs, tribune of the people or plebeian tribune ( la, tribunus plebis) was the first office of the Roman state that was open to the plebeians, and was, throughout the his ...
was an important step in the political career of
plebeians The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in ...

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 The ''Concilium Plebis'' (English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually ...
. 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 Sacrosanctity was the declaration of physical inviolability of a temple A temple (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spo ...
(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.


Princeps senatus

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''.


Dictator and magister equitum

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 Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey Caesar's C ...

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 ''Lex Antonia'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...
).


See also

* * * * * ''
Tres militiae Funerary inscription of Titus Cornasidius Sabinus detailing his equestrian career in the early Severan period (193-211 AD), including his rise through the ''tres militiae'':* prefect of ''Cohors I Montanorum'' in Pannonia;* military tribune of Legi ...
'' - the
equestrian order The ''equites'' (; la, eques nom. singular; literally "horse-" or "cavalrymen", though sometimes referred to as "knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in ...
version of the ''cursus honorum''.


References


External links


Diagram of the ''cursus honorum''Livius.org: Cursus honorum
{{DEFAULTSORT:Cursus Honorum Ancient Roman government
Roman law {{CatAutoTOC, numerals=no Law in ancient history Ancient Rome, Law Indo-European law, Roman Law by former country ...