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The Roman Republic was ruled by Magistrates. The Cursus Honorum was a sequential order of public
offices for aspiring politicians, comprising of both military and administrative posts. Public careers
followed the same track, from mandatory military service, through the different magistracies, to the
ultimate goal of consulship.
Ordinary Magistracies:
20 Quaestors
4 Aediles
8 Praetors
2 Consuls
Extraordinary Magistracies:
2 Censors
Other Magistracies:
Tribune of the Plebs
Minimum age to hold each office was laid down in the Lex Vibia Annalis. To have held each office at
the youngest possible age was considered a great success, since to miss out on a Praetorship at 39
meant that a politician could not become consul at 42. Achieving each office at the minimum age was
known as suo anno, meaning “in his year”.
The career path during the height of the Republic is shown below:
Min. Age
Military Service
Aedile or
The career path shown in the form of a ladder:
The Cursus Honorum began with military service for a mandatory period, which was necessary to
qualify for public office.
 Twenty four men, each twenty years in age, would be selected each year by the Tribal
Assembly to serve as a Tribune in the Legions.
 There were no martial abilities required to attain the position of tribune, interested parties
needed only to be of Senatorial rank, though not themselves sitting on the Senate.
 Six tribunes would be appointed to each legion, where they would serve as officers, albeit
with no defined role. In the Early Republic, seniority rotated between the six tribunes.
 Post Marian-Reforms, the role of the Tribune changed.
 The reforms resulted in only one senatorial Tribune in each legion, and he would hold
superiority over the other five Tribunes.
 He was named the Tribunus Laticlavius, a name arising from a broad stripe worn on the toga
to signify the position.
 The Tribunus Laticlavius would be the second in command of the legion. He would be
destined for high public office.
 After service of two years, the Tribunus Laticlvius would return to Rome and be given a
government job.
 The lower ranking Tribunes were called Tribuni Angusticlavii. They would be of Equestrian
rank and would not expect to progress through public life as quickly as the Tribunus
After military service, each step up the Cursus Honorum was achieved by direct election every year.
The first official step was Quaestor.
 Quaestors supervised the treasury and financial affairs of the state.
 In the very earliest form of the Republic, there were four such officials but this was raised to
ten after 267 BC.
 The Quaestors were appointed by the Tribal Assembly.
 The reforms of Sulla in 81 BC resulted in the number of Quaestors being raised to twenty.
 These reforms also resulted in the role of Quaestor fitting better into the Cursus Honorum.
 The minimum age for a Quaestorship was set at 30 for patricians and at 32 for plebeians.
 Originally open only to Patricians, but made available to Plebeians in 409 BC.
 Election as Quaestor also gave the holder of the position automatic membership of the
 Some Quaestors worked in the city of Rome, whilst others were assigned to the staff of a
general to monitor the finances of the army.
 Aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public
 This was not a compulsory part of the Cursus Honorum.
 However, it was a position with many advantages. It demonstrated a politician’s
commitment to public service. Responsibility for public festivals was also an excellent way for
the aspiring politician to gain recognition and popularity.
 Originally, Aedile was a plebeian position, with two candidates selected each year at the
Plebeian Council.
 A law was passed around 376 called Lex Licinia Sextia. It resulted in an extra day being added
to the Roman games. The problem was that the plebeians were reluctant to pay for the
additional cost of an extra day. The patricians offered to undertake it, providing they were
admitted to the Aedileship.
 Thus, there were two pairs of Aediles. One pair from the ranks of the plebeians, and the
other pair from the ranks of the Patricians.
 The two factions agreed to elect their Aediles in alternate years.
 The full remit of the Aediles was threefold: First, repair of temples, public buildings, streets,
sewers and aqueducts. Second, the setting of set weights and measures, plus the distribution
of grain. Third, the organisation of public games.
 After holding the offices of Quaestor and/or Aedile, a man was eligible to run as Praetor.
 Candidates were chosen by the Comitia Centuriata, the army assembly.
 Following the Lex Vibia, eligibility also depending on having reached the age of 40.
 This post was held for two years.
 The Praetorship was created in around 366–367 BC to take some responsibility away from
the Consuls.
 This shifting of responsibility was because Consuls were expected to command armies and
therefore might have to leave Rome for lengthy periods of time.
 The Praetor also possessed Imperium, and would command the garrison in Rome in the
absence of the Consuls, or command an emergency field army.
 Because he had Imperium, a Praetor had the right to sit on the Curule Chair and wear the
toga praetexta.
 However, the main role of the Praetor was to be a judge. A Praetor would preside over
criminal trials and administer justice.
 Originally, there was only one Praetor, a patrician, but later, Plebeians were also allowed to
 In 242, a second praetor was introduced, the Praetor Peregrinus. The first praetor, now
renamed the Praetor Urbanus, was to stay in Rome, whilst the Praetor Peregrinus was
responsible for the rest of Italy.
In 227, two additional praetors were introduced. They were responsible for the provinces of
Sicily and Sardinia/Corsica.
As more territories became Roman provinces, the number of Praetors was increasingly
raised. It was between six and eight for the majority of the Republic.
 Barring extraordinary circumstances, the summit of a public career would be the consulship.
 The minimum age for consulship was forty-two for Plebeians and forty for Patricians.
 Each year was named after the Consul that had been in power. Consular years were the
Roman method for dating. Hence, 59 BC was known to Romans as the year that Julius Caesar
and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus held the consulship.
 Consulship was established by King Servius, who wished to substitute the kingship for a
shared annual magistracy.
 Consuls were chosen by the Comitia Centuriata and ratified by the Curiate Assembly.
 The Consuls had the power to veto each other, so it was best for them to work closely
 Originally, both Consuls would have been from the Patrician order.
 The Lex Licinia Sextia in 367 BC ruled that one of the two consuls had to be plebeian.
 The Consuls would alternate chairmanship of the senate each month.
 They were the highest judicial power in the Republic, with the ability to override the
decisions of almost every official, particularly those lower down the Cursus Honorum.
 They were also the supreme commanders of the Roman army, and were granted two
personal legions apiece.
 During times of war, Consuls would be appointed because of their war abilities, rather than
their judicial or oratory skills. It was, however, always a politically charged appointment.
 Due to their responsibilities to the army, it was not uncommon for a Consul to die whilst in
office. If this occurred, a replacement would be appointed to serve the remainder of the
term as a Suffect Consul.
 The Consuls wore the toga praetexta.
 When the term of office had finished, a further consulship would be permitted, but not for a
period of ten years. The theory was to prevent one man holding too much power.
 Not an official part of the Cursus Honorum.
 After the completion of service as either a Praetor or a Consul, a politician was expected to
serve as a Provincial Governor.
 They were nearly completely autocratic within their province, with abilities only limited by
decrees from the senate or from an incumbent Praetor or Consul.
 Authority was determined by the amount of Imperium the official had possessed in his
previous position.
 To explain, Propraetors governed the more peaceful provinces. Proconsuls, with far greater
Imperium, governed frontier provinces and commanded multiple legions.
 After holding a Consulship, the only higher promotion would be the office of Censor.
 The Censors took a regular census of the people and then sorted the citizens into voting
classes based on income and tribe. The censors would enrol new citizens into a tribe and
voting class. Censors were also in charge of the membership roll for the Senate.
 Census duties had originally belonged to the Consuls. The Censor role came into existence
because the Patricians did not like the possibility of a Plebeian consul having control of the
 The census was controlled by the Patricians until 351 BC, when Gaius Marcius Rutilus
became the first Plebeian Censor.
 In 339 BC, the Publilian laws required that one Censor had to be a Plebeian.
The censors were elected in the Comitia Centuriata.
Generally, only former Consuls were eligible for the office of Censor, but there were a few
A politician could only be a Censor once.
Unlike the other magistracies, the Censorship was limited to a period of eighteen months.
If a Censor died during his term of office, a replacement was chosen.
The Censorship had not Imperium, and inferior power to the Praetors and the Consuls, but it
carried more respect. Censors were the highest dignities of the state. This was because it was
a sacred magistracy.
 Not a formal part of a public career.
 In times of emergencies, the senate and sitting consuls would appoint a dictator.
 The term of office for a dictator was six months, and he could not be held legally accountable
for any actions during this term.
 Dictators outranked all other magistracies and were free from senate control, granting them
absolute power in both civil and military matters throughout the Republic.
 Dictator had the highest possible degree of Imperium.
 With the exception of famous examples such as Sulla and Julius Caesar, the majority of
dictators were happy to give up their power at the end of the emergency for which they had
been appointed.
 Not technically a magistrate, but an important position for Plebeians and a powerful figure in
Roman politics.
 In 494 BC, there was a labour strike which was only ended when the Plebeians were given
the right to choose their own officials.
 Plebeian Tribunes were the guarantor of civil liberties against arbitrary state power.
 Originally, two Plebeian Tribunes were elected, but in 449 BC, this was increased to ten.
 Plebeian Tribunes served as the head of the Plebeian Council.
 The Plebeian Tribune was considered to be the embodiment of the Plebeians, and was thus
sacrosanct, legally protected from any harm. This was a unique characteristic.
 If a magistrate or the senate did not comply with the orders of a Plebeian Tribune, he could
use his sacrosanctity to physically stop that particular action. He also had the ability to veto
any act.
 The sacrosanctity meant that it was considered a capital offense to disregard the veto of a
Plebeian Tribune.
 If a magistrate was threatening to take action against a citizen, that citizen could appeal to a
Plebeian Tribune.
 Due to their unique position, Plebeian Tribunes were often just as powerful and wealthy as
many Patricians. Hence, in the late Republic, an ambitious Patrician called Clodius arranged
for his adoption by Plebeians so that he could run for the tribunate.