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The Roman magistrates were elected officials 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 historian is a person who stud ...
. During the
period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical composition * Period, a descriptor for a historical or period drama ...

period
of the
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilis ...
, the
King of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate have often overlapped and ...
was the principal executive magistrate.Abbott, 8 His power, in practice, was absolute. He was the chief
priest A priest is a religious leader Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social w ...

priest
, lawgiver,
judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In th ...

judge
, and the sole commander of the
army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branc ...

army
.Abbott, 8Abbott, 15 When the king died, his power reverted to the
Roman Senate
Roman Senate
, which then chose an
Interrex The interrex (plural interreges) was literally a ruler "between kings" (Latin ''inter reges'') during the Roman Kingdom and the Roman Republic. He was in effect a short-term regent. History The office of ''interrex'' was supposedly created followi ...
to facilitate the election of a new king. During the transition from
monarchy A monarchy is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a ...
to republic, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the executive (the
Roman king The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate The term magistrate is ...
) to the Roman Senate. When 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 ...
was founded in 509 BC, the powers that had been held by the king were transferred to the
Roman consul A consul held the highest elected political office The incumbent is the current holder of an office An office is a space where an Organization, organization's employees perform Business administration, administrative Work (human acti ...
s, of which two were to be elected each year. Magistrates of the republic were elected by the
people of Rome
people of Rome
, and were each vested with a degree of power called "major powers" (''maior potestas'').Abbott, 151 Dictators had more "major powers" than any other magistrate, and after the Dictator was the
censor Censor may refer to: People with the name *Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">R ...
, and then the
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the 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 ...
, and then 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 ...
, and then the
curule aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
, and then the
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, ' (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. ...
. Any magistrate could obstruct ("
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 ...
") an action that was being taken by a magistrate with an equal or lower degree of magisterial powers.Abbott, 154 By definition,
plebeian tribunes
plebeian tribunes
and
plebeian aediles 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 ...
were technically not magistratesAbbott, 196 since they were elected only by the
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
,Abbott, 151 and as such, . During the transition from republic to the Roman empire, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the Roman Senate back to the executive (the
Roman Emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becom ...
). Theoretically, the senate elected each new emperor; in practice each emperor chose his own successor, though the choice was often overruled by the army or civil war. The powers of an emperor (his ''
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
'') 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" and the "proconsular powers".Abbott, 342 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
proconsul A proconsul was an official of 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 wo ...

proconsul
s, 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.Abbott, 341 The traditional magistracies that survived the fall of the republic were the consulship,
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,
plebeian tribunate
plebeian tribunate
,
aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
ship,
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, ' (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. ...
ship, and military tribunate.Abbott, 374
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
abolished the offices of
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
and
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. Magister Equitum (Ancient Rome) The original Master of the Horse (Latin ''Magister Equitum'') in the Roman Republic The ...
during his Consulship in 44 BC, while the offices of
Interrex The interrex (plural interreges) was literally a ruler "between kings" (Latin ''inter reges'') during the Roman Kingdom and the Roman Republic. He was in effect a short-term regent. History The office of ''interrex'' was supposedly created followi ...
and Roman censor were abolished shortly thereafter.


Executive magistrates of the Roman Kingdom

The executive magistrates of the Roman Kingdom were elected officials of the ancient
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilis ...
. During the period of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman King was the principal executive magistrate.Abbott, 8 He was the chief executive, chief priest, chief lawgiver, chief judge, and the sole
commander-in-chief A commander-in-chief or supreme commander is the person who exercises supreme command and control Command and control is a "set of organizational and technical attributes and processes ... hat A collection of 18th and 19th century men' ...
of the army.Abbott, 8Abbott, 15 His powers rested on law and legal precedent, and he could only receive these powers through the political process of an election. In practice, he had no real restrictions on his power. When war broke out, he had the sole power to organize and levy troops, to select leaders for the army, and to conduct the campaign as he saw fit.Abbott, 15 He controlled all property held by the state, had the sole power to divide land and war spoils, was the chief representative of the city during dealings with either the Gods or leaders of other communities, and could unilaterally decree any new law.Abbott, 15 Sometimes he submitted his decrees to either the popular assembly or to the senate for a ceremonial ratification, but a rejection did not prevent the enactment of a decree. The king chose several officers to assist him,Abbott, 16 and unilaterally granted them their powers. When the king left the city, an Urban Prefect presided over the city in place of the absent king.Abbott, 16 The king also had two Quaestors as general assistants, while several other officers assisted the king during treason cases. In war, the king occasionally commanded only the infantry, and delegated command over the cavalry to the commander of his personal bodyguards, the Tribune of the Celeres.Abbott, 16 The king sometimes deferred to precedent, often simply out of practical necessity. While the king could unilaterally declare war, for example, he typically wanted to have such declarations ratified by the popular assembly.Abbott, 16Abbott, 19 The period between the death of a king, and the election of a new king, was known as the ''
interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order. Archetypally, it was the period of time between the reign of one monarch and the next (coming from Latin ''i ...

interregnum
''.Abbott, 12 During the ''interregnum'', the senate elected a senator to the office of
Interrex The interrex (plural interreges) was literally a ruler "between kings" (Latin ''inter reges'') during the Roman Kingdom and the Roman Republic. He was in effect a short-term regent. History The office of ''interrex'' was supposedly created followi ...
Abbott, 14 to facilitate the election of a new king. Once the Interrex found a suitable nominee for the kingship, he presented this nominee to the senate for an initial approval. If the senate voted in favor of the nominee, that person stood for formal election before the People of Rome in the
Curiate Assembly The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...
(the popular assembly).Abbott, 14 After the nominee was elected by the popular assembly, the senate ratified the election by passing a decree.Abbott, 14 The Interrex then formally declared the nominee to be king. The new king then took the
auspices Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. ...
(a ritual search for omens from the Gods), and was vested with legal authority (''
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
'') by the popular assembly.Abbott, 14


Executive magistrates of the Roman Republic

The Roman magistrates were elected officials of the Roman Republic. Each Roman magistrate was vested with a degree of power.Abbott, 151 Dictators (a temporary position for emergencies) had the highest level of power. After the Dictator was the Consul (the highest position if not an emergency), and then the Praetor, and then the Censor, and then the
curule aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
, and finally the
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, ' (quaestors with judicial powers) were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. ...
. Each magistrate could only veto an action that was taken by a magistrate with an equal or lower degree of power. Since plebeian tribunes (as well as plebeian aediles) were technically not magistrates,Abbott, 196 they relied on the sacrosanctity of their person to obstruct.Holland, 27 If one did not comply with the orders of a Plebeian Tribune, the Tribune could interpose the sacrosanctity of his personPolybius, 136 (''intercessio'') to physically stop that particular action. Any resistance against the tribune was considered to be a capital offense. The most significant constitutional power that a magistrate could hold was that of "Command" (
Imperium In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a Roman citizenship, citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''auctoritas'' and ''potestas'', different and generally inferior types of power in t ...

Imperium
), which was held only by consuls and praetors. This gave a magistrate the constitutional authority to issue commands (military or otherwise). Once a magistrate's annual term in office expired, he had to wait ten years before serving in that office again. Since this did create problems for some magistrates, these magistrates occasionally had their command powers extended, which, in effect, allowed them to retain the powers of their office as a
promagistrate 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 ...
.Lintott, 113 The consul of the Roman Republic was the highest ranking ordinary magistrate.Polybius, 132Byrd, 20 Two Consuls were elected every year, and they had supreme power in both civil and military matters. Throughout the year, one Consul was superior in rank to the other Consul, and this ranking flipped every month, between the two Consuls.Cicero, 236 Praetors administered civil law, presided over the courts, and commanded provincial armies.Byrd, 32 Another magistrate, the Censor, conducted a
census A census is the procedure of systematically calculating, acquiring and recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In ...

census
, during which time they could appoint people to the senate.Lintott, 119 Aediles were officers elected to conduct domestic affairs in Rome, and were vested with powers over the markets, and over public games and shows.Byrd, 31 Quaestors usually assisted the consuls in Rome, and the governors in the provinces with financial tasks.Byrd, 31 Though they technically were not magistrates, the Plebeian Tribunes and the Plebeian Aediles were considered to be the representatives of the people. Thus, they acted as a popular check over the senate (through their veto powers), and safeguarded the civil liberties of all Roman citizens. In times of military emergency, a
Roman Dictator A dictator was a magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In , a ' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both an ...
was appointed for a term of six months.Byrd, 24 Constitutional government dissolved, and the Dictator became the absolute master of the state.Cicero, 237 The Dictator then appointed a
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. Magister Equitum (Ancient Rome) The original Master of the Horse (Latin ''Magister Equitum'') in the Roman Republic The ...
to serve as his most senior lieutenant.Byrd, 42 Often the Dictator resigned his office as soon as the matter that caused his appointment was resolved.Byrd, 24 When the Dictator's term ended, constitutional government was restored. The last ordinary Dictator was appointed in 202 BC. After 202 BC, extreme emergencies were addressed through the passage of the decree ''
senatus consultum ultimum ''Senatus consultum ultimum'' ("final decree of the Senate" or Final Act, often abbreviated SCU), is the modern term given to a decree of the Roman Senate during the late Roman Republic that was passed in times of emergency. It expressed the opi ...
'' ("ultimate decree of the senate"). This suspended civil government, declared
martial law Martial law is the temporary imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an military occ ...
,Abbott, 240 and vested the consuls with Dictatorial powers.


Executive magistrates of the Roman Empire

The executive magistrates of the Roman Empire were elected individuals of the ancient
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
. The powers of an emperor (his ''
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
'') 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'').Abbott, 342 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.Abbott, 341 By virtue of his proconsular powers, the emperor held the same grade of military command authority as did the chief magistrates (the Roman consuls and proconsuls) under the republic. However, the emperor was not subject to the constitutional restrictions that the old consuls and proconsuls had been subject to.Abbott, 344 Eventually, he was given powers that, under the republic, had been reserved for the
Roman Senate
Roman Senate
and the
Roman assemblies The Roman Assemblies were institutions in ancient Rome. They functioned as the machinery of the Roman legislative branch, and thus (theoretically at least) passed all legislation. Since the assemblies operated on the basis of a direct democracy, ord ...
including the right to declare war, to ratify treaties, and to negotiate with foreign leaders.Abbott, 345 The emperor's degree of Proconsular power gave him authority over all of Rome's military governors, and thus, over most of the Roman army. The emperor's
tribunician powers
tribunician powers
gave him power over Rome's civil apparatus,Abbott, 357Abbott, 356 as well as the power to preside over, and thus to dominate, the assemblies and the senate.Abbott, 357 When an emperor was vested with the tribunician powers, his office and his person became sacrosanct,Abbott, 357 and thus it became a capital offense to harm or to obstruct the emperor.Abbott, 357 The emperor also had the authority to carry out a range of duties that, under the republic, had been performed by the Roman censors. Such duties included the authority to regulate public morality (''
Censorship 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 ...

Censorship
'') and to conduct a
census A census is the procedure of systematically calculating, acquiring and recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In ...

census
. As part of the census, the emperor had the power to assign individuals to a new social class, including the senatorial class, which gave the emperor unchallenged control over senate membership.Abbott, 354 The emperor also had the power to interpret laws and to set precedents.Abbott, 349 In addition, the emperor controlled the religious institutions, since, as emperor, he was always ''
Pontifex Maximus The (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation w ...
'', and a member of each of the four major priesthoods.Abbott, 345 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 ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; ...
'').Abbott, 374 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.Abbott, 374 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. During the transition from republic to empire, no office lost more power or prestige than the consulship, which was due, in part, to the fact that the substantive powers of republican Consuls were all transferred to the emperor. Imperial Consuls could preside over the senate, could act as judges in certain criminal trials, and had control over public games and shows.Abbott, 376 The Praetors also lost a great deal of power, and ultimately had little authority outside of the city.Abbott, 377 The chief Praetor in Rome, the urban praetor, outranked all other Praetors, and for a brief time, they were given power over the treasury.Abbott, 377 Under the empire, the plebeian tribunes remained sacrosanct,Abbott, 378 and, in theory at least, retained the power to summon, or to veto, the senate and the assemblies.Abbott, 378 Augustus divided the college of Quaestors into two divisions, and assigned one division the task of serving in the senatorial provinces, and the other the task of managing civil administration in Rome.Abbott, 379 Under Augustus, the Aediles lost control over the grain supply to a board of commissioners. It wasn't until after they lost the power to maintain order in the city, however, that they truly became powerless, and the office disappeared entirely during the 3rd century.Abbott, 378


See also


References

* Abbott, Frank Frost (1901). ''A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions''. Elibron Classics (). * Byrd, Robert (1995). ''The Senate of the Roman Republic''. U.S. Government Printing Office, Senate Document 103-23. * Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1841). ''The Political Works of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations and Notes in Two Volumes''. By Francis Barham, Esq. London: Edmund Spettigue. Vol. 1. * Lintott, Andrew (1999). ''The Constitution of the Roman Republic''. Oxford University Press (). * Polybius (1823). ''The General History of Polybius: Translated from the Greek''. By James Hampton. Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter. Fifth Edition, Vol 2. * Taylor, Lily Ross (1966). ''Roman Voting Assemblies: From the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar''. The University of Michigan Press ().


Notes


Further reading

* Ihne, Wilhelm. ''Researches Into the History of the Roman Constitution''. William Pickering. 1853. * Johnston, Harold Whetstone. ''Orations and Letters of Cicero: With Historical Introduction, An Outline of the Roman Constitution, Notes, Vocabulary and Index''. Scott, Foresman and Company. 1891. * Mommsen, Theodor. ''Roman Constitutional Law''. 1871-1888 * Tighe, Ambrose. ''The Development of the Roman Constitution''. D. Apple & Co. 1886. * Von Fritz, Kurt. ''The Theory of the Mixed Constitution in Antiquity''. Columbia University Press, New York. 1975. * ''The Histories'' by
Polybius Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the ...

Polybius
* Cambridge Ancient History, Volumes 9–13. * A. Cameron, ''The Later Roman Empire'' (Fontana Press, 1993). * M. Crawford, ''The Roman Republic'' (Fontana Press, 1978). * E. S. Gruen, "The Last Generation of the Roman Republic" (U California Press, 1974) * F. Millar, ''The Emperor in the Roman World'' (Duckworth, 1977, 1992). * A. Lintott, "The Constitution of the Roman Republic" (Oxford University Press, 1999)


Primary sources


Cicero's De Re Publica, Book Two



Secondary source material



* ttps://web.archive.org/web/20080829134354/http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/misc/romancon.html The Roman Constitution to the Time of Cicero
What a Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us
{{Authority control Government of the Kingdom of Rome Government of the Roman Republic Government of the Roman Empire