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The Offices of the Cursus Honorum in Imperial Rome:

The government of the Roman Empire changed significantly from that of the Republic. While most of the
following offices, taken from the time of the Emperor Trajan, are the same or similar to that of the Republic,
the real power lay with the Emperor himself. The senate, the elite class of Rome, functioned more as a club
of the rich and famous families than as a governing body in the Imperial system. Almost all of the offices listed
here were filled by members of the senate and was still an indication of great status despite their reduction
as true law-makers. These positions, mostly appointments rather than elections, are still the basis for the
governing class, and performed the duties listed, within the agenda of the Emperor.

Military Tribunate
Tribunes of the Plebs
Caesar & Augustus

Vigintiviri - (XXViri or 20 men)
An office held for one year only around the ages of 18-20. In 13 BCE, a law was passed making the holding of
one of these offices necessary for future entry into the Senate. The duties fall into the following 4 categories:
XViri Stlitibus Iudicandis - 10 men responsible for legal cases involving freedom or slavery.
IIIViri Monetales - 3 men in charge of the overseeing the imperial mints.
IVViri Viarum Curandarum - 4 men in charge of maintaining the roads in Rome.
IIIViri Capitals - 3 men in charge of prisons and state executions

Military Tribunate
An office normally held at the age of 19-21 with a term of usually 2 or 3 years. There were 29 of these posts
available after 105 CE. Each legion had at least one Tribune of senatorial rank and this was usually his first
significant command post. The Senatorial rank tribune was generally second in command behind the Legatus.
This post could be skipped by young senatorial candidates not interested in military duty, but was among the
quickest ways to gain political awareness and respect.

Being appointed by the Emperor (candidati Augusti) or elected as Quaestor actually allowed entry into the Senate.
There were 20 per year and could be attained at the age of 24. 10 served in Rome acting as treasurers and keepers
of the public record. They conducted funding efforts for military operations and supervised the distribution of
booty gained in war. Another 10 served as assistants to provincial governors in a similar capacity.

Tribunes of the Plebs
There were 10 Tribunes annually. Tribunes represented the interests of the plebs (common people). Tribunes
could introduce measures and laws and had the right to veto acts of other magistrates (including other tribunes).
This power, of course, had very little meaning in the Imperial system as an Emperor could override any such
attempt at a veto. They could convene the senate and much like a Quaestor could be enrolled in the senate.
The 10 tribunes were broken down with the following titles:
Tribune Aeraii - Tax collectors oversaw the payment of tribute and war taxes.
Tribuni Militum - Senior officers of the legion.
Tribuni Plebis - asserted a right of veto against higher magistrates.

There were 6 Aediles per year. Originally they oversaw the plebeian temple and cult of Ceres. The job eventually
grew to include maintenance of public buildings in general, especially archives. They also were responsible for
the supervision of water supplies and administration of public market and weights and measures. They were
divided up 3 equal ways:
Curule Aediles - 2 per year - were elected or appointed from the patrician class.
Aediles Ceriales - 2 per year and were also in charge of the Games of Ceres.
Aediles Plebis - 2 per year and were also in charge of the Plebeian Games.

There were 18 praetors per year and the office could be held at the age of 31. The position could be responsible
for any number of duties including judicial matters, military command, provincial governorships, grain supplies
or road and treasury supervision. A Praetor Urbanus was responsible for the administration of duties at Rome.
A Praetor Peregrinus provided for government in the provinces. In the empire this became an increasingly
honorary appointment. At the end of an official term as Praetor and if still being used in the same capacity,
a person in this position would be called Propraetor. Since there were more positions than there were praetors
appointed every year, this, of course was a regular practice. The following is a more specific breakdown of a
Praetor’s possible functions:
Legatus - 50 available posts included several forms of command with varying terms of service. There were 24
posts for the command of a legion within a multi-legion province; 14 posts to assist provincial governors; 8 posts
serving as a provincial governor without a legion; 4 posts for provincial governors with a legion to command.
Praefectus – 16 available posts including 2 for distribution of the grain supply; 3 posts to oversee the military
treasury; 2 posts to oversee the treasury of Saturn; 9 posts for the maintenance of each of the 9 major roads in Italia.

There could be as few as 2 or more commonly, as many as 20 consuls appointed per year. Consuls served in much
the same capacity, but a little more advanced than Praetors. Generally, 42 was the minimum age to hold this title.
In the Republic the 2 Consuls were the leaders of the government and military commanders during their 1 year
terms, but in the Empire, while many duties remained the same, they obviously didn’t wield the same power.
Consuls and Proconsuls functioned as military commanders, provincial governors and curators of public works.
The following highlights these responsibilities:
Legatus – 14 total posts with varying terms. There were 7 provincial governor posts with 0 – 2 legions to
command; 5 provincial governor posts with 3 or 4 legions to command; and 2 proconsular posts governing
Asia and Africa.
Praefectus or Curator – 6 total posts to manage various public interests.
2 Curators of the Public Works
Curator of the Tiber and Sewers
Curator of the Water Supply
Praefect of the Alimenta – supervised subsidies for orphans and the infirmed
City Praefect – supervised Rome in the Emperors absence

Censors in the Republican government were highly esteemed and had to be former Consuls. They maintained
the role of the Senate, deciding who was morally fit to sit on the Senate. They also conducted the census of
Roman citizens for conscription into the army. This office was regarded as the crowning of Roman civic life, and
in a sense the culminating achievement of a political career. Its powers were very extensive and they included
the right to inquire into the lives of citizens and punish any tendency to indulge in immoral habits that departed
from the traditional and established way of living. It is difficult to say what power, if any they may have had in the
imperial system as this sort of supervision was really at the whim of the Emperor himself. They may have still
maintained the census, but doubtful that they did much else.

Caesar and Augustus
The title of Caesar, taken from the hereditary name of Gaius Julius Caesar, eventually became synonymous with
the heir to the throne. The title of the Emperor (Imperator) was actually “Augustusâ€

Here is some more from

cursus Honorum

Cursus honorum: the 'sequence of offices' in the career of a Roman politician.
In the late sixth century BCE, Rome became a republic and was, by definition, ruled by magistrates.
The most important of these were the consuls and the praetors; the aediles and the quaestors
occupied occupied positions of lesser importance.
After their period in office, the magistrates became member of the Senate. During the centuries,
new magistracies were added, but the tasks of the four main magistracies remained more or less
the same. This changed in the first century BCE, when the Roman state was first ruled by military
commanders (e.g., Sulla, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar), and later by an emperor.
Then, the old functions became prestigious but meaningless sinecures.
The senatorial magistracies of the Roman republic and empire can be divided into four main groups:
1. Ordinary senatorial magistracies (quaestor, aedile, praetor, consul)
2. Extraordinary senatorial magistracies (dictator, censor, pontifex maximus)
3. Promagistracies (procunsul, propraetor)
4. Other magistracies (tribune, prefect)
From the third century BCE on, senatorial careers followed more or less the same track.
After military service, one became quaestor, aedile, praetor and finally reached the consulship.
Minimum ages were laid down in the Lex Vibia annalis (180). This typical career was called the
cursus honorum, the 'sequence of offices'. When one was elected consul, he had already shown
what kind of man he was in several branches of government activity (the army, accounting, care for
the temples and Games, justice); in other words, the Roman magistrates were not specialists but generalists.
The career in the last two centuries of the Roman republic can be summarized as follows.

See attachment.

During the empire, new functions were created. One of the prerogatives of the emperor was to reward
talented men with a dispensation for the minimum age. This was a sign of imperial favor.
So far the senatorial magistracies. There were functions for the equestrian order as well. (This was the
second level' of the Roman elite.) The most important function in this career was that of procurator,
prefect and the praetorian prefect.


M. Spedius Corbulo
remember that there also was an equestrian cursus honorum as well! I'm at work so can't give you the track of that one..
Quote:remember that there also was an equestrian cursus honorum as well! I'm at work so can't give you the track of that one..

Ave pelgr003,

Thank you for your message.

I will look forward to reading any additional information that you are able to supply.


M. Spedius Corbulo

Here's another cursus honorum image for you.


M. Spedius Corbulo

This topic was inspired by a need to expand my own knowledge and to "pass on" my discoveries.

I found this inscription, whilst searching for information about the disappearance of legio IX Hispana using

Belegstelle: AE 1914, 00262 = AE 1922, 00079
Provinz: Galatia Ort: Yalvac / Antiochia Pisidiae
C(aio) Carist[a]/nio C(ai) f(ilio) Ser(gia) Fr[on]/toni trib(uno) mil(itum) pr[aef(ecto)] / eq(uitum) alae Bosp(oranorum) adl[e]/cto in senatu inter tribunic(ios) promoto in/ter praetorios leg(ato) pro / pr(aetore) Ponti et Bithyn(iae) leg(ato) Imp(eratoris) / divi Vespasian(i) Aug(usti) leg(ionis) / IX Hispanae in Britann(ia) / leg(ato) pro pr(aetore) Imp(eratoris) divi Titi / Caes(aris) Aug(usti) et Imp(eratoris) Domitiani / Caes(aris) Aug(usti) provinc(iae) Pam/phyliae et Lyciae patro/no col(oniae) // T(itus) Caristanius Cal/purnianus Rufus / ob merita eius h(onoris) c(ausa)

The more that I read this inscription the more interesting it became.

I searched through my books to see if I could find anything that would add more details.

The most helpful was by Hubert Devijver "The Equestrian Officers of the Roman Imperial Army" MAVORS Vol. VI 1989

This is not the first time that this inscription has been the subject for discussion. On pages 126 and 127 of Devijer's book is the following:-

C. Praefecti alae:

1. C. Carist[a]nius C. f. Ser(gia) F[ron]to
-W. M. Ramsay, Journal of Roman Studies, III (1913), p. 260 = AE 1914, 262 = ILS 9485; cfr. AE 1888, 76; EE IX 1242 = AE 1898, 152; IGR III 300; PIR II2, p. 100, nr. 423; G. L. Cheesman, Jounal of Roman Studies, III (1913), p. 253-236; A. Stein, Ritterstand, p. 231; E. Birley, Epigraphische Studien, 8 (1969), p. 81; W. Eck, Senat. Vesp. bis Hadr., p. 103.
-trib. mil, p[reaf.] eq(uitum) al(ae) Bosp(oranae) (Syria; ten tijde van Nero).
-adl[e]ctus in senatu inter tribunic(ios), promotus inter praetorios, leg(atus) pro pr(aetore) Ponti et Bithyn(iae), leg(atus) Imp. Divi Vespasian(i) leg(ionis) IX Hispanae in Brit(annia), etc. …

Belegstelle: CIL 13, 07692 = AE 1888, 00076
Provinz: Germania superior Ort: Toennisstein
[Apo]l[l]in[i?] / [1] Veraniu(s) / [3]uperman(us) / [l(egionis)] XXII Pr(imigeniae) P(iae) F(idelis) / [|(centuria) 3]ralbi / [3] I V D

Belegstelle: RIB 02167 = AE 1898, 00152
Provinz: Britannia Ort: Bar Hill
[D]eo Silv[ano] / [C]aristan[ius] / [I]ustianu[s] / praef(ectus) / [c]oh(ortis) I Ham[ior(um)] / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito)

More details are on pages 337 and 338.



Antiochia Pisidiae - Galatia

13. C. Carist[a]nius C.f. Ser(gia) F[ron]to (PME C 80): Antiochia; aet. Neronis; II. trib. mil.; III. p[reaf.] eq(uitum) al(ae) Bosp(oranae) (Syria); - adl[e]ctus in senatu inter tribunic(ios) (a. 73/74), promotos inter praetorios (ca. a. 75/76), leg. pro. pr. Ponti et Bithyn. (ca. a. 76/77), leg. Imp. divi Vespasian(i) Aug. IX Hispanae in Britann(ia) (Birley 1981: 233-4: a. 76-9), leg. pro pr. Imp. divi Titi Caes. Aug. et Imp. Domitian(i) Caes. Aug. provinc. Pamphyliae et Lyciae (inter a. 81-4; Thomasson 1984: 277 n. 11; Eck 1982: 305-8), consul (suffectus a. 90); cf. Halfmann 1979: 109 n. 13; Halfmann 1982: 606-7, 613, 645: Devreker 1980: sub2; Houston 1977: 41 n. 4, 52, 2 n. 5 (Pisidian family from Etruria); uxor: Sergia L.f. Paulla; filius Caristanius Paulinus, trib, mil. (laticlavius) leg. XII Fulminatae; avus: n. 14, qui sequitor.

Some more are on pages 340 and 341.

3. Adlection to the Senate

It is evident that we will encounter the first senators in the ranks of the equestrian officers - or their descendants - from Antioch. The prime candidate is the Caristanii family - possibly emigrants from Etruria - whose tradition of loyalty was a support to Rome in distant Galatia: 5 officers! C. Caristanius Fronto (13) was adlected to the senate after two militiae (a. 73-4); cos. suff. a. 90, he was presumably the grandson of C. Caristanius Fronto Caesianus Iulius (14). He was married to Sergia L.f. Paulla, a sister of L. Sergius L.f. Paullus, quaestor; the gens Sergia was also a well-known senatorial family from Antioch, Pisidiae (Halfmann 1982: 645).

D. The Career as Equestrian Officer

The career of the Caristani suggests the existence of something like a family tradition: three members served as tribune in legio XII Fulminata (14 - Syria; 15, 17 - Cappadocia). C. Caristanius Fronto (13) was trib. Mil., but the unit is not mentioned; he was praef. alae in Syria; so he too can possibly have served with legio XII Fulminata. His senatorial cursus took him to Pontus-Bithynia, Britannia, Pamphylia and Lycia.

He was elected as a consul; this is an entry from my consuls list for Domitian, 25.May.90 - Q(uinto) Accaeo Rufo, C(aio) Caristanio Frontone, see CFA 58. As this is not mentioned in his cursus perhaps the dedication inscription was before 90, and he was still alive?

A summary of the above is presented in tabular form for easier viewing, please see the attachment.


M. Spedius Corbulo
Hm, the Vigintiviri were for some reason neglected in my course literature... :?

Great info, as always!
Quote:Hm, the Vigintiviri were for some reason neglected in my course literature... :?
Great info, as always!

Ave Susanne,

I'm pleased that you've found the information helpful. It makes my efforts all the more worthwhile when just one person says, thank you.

In my continual search for more information about diplomas, I've often discovered "gems" similar to the subject of this topic. I make a habit of copying and pasting these "gems" into spreadsheets for future use.

I found the opening post some three years ago and unfortunately omitted to make a note of the website address. If anyone recognises it could they please let me know so that I may give full credit to the writer.

I have a problem with what to write about sometimes, what interests me doesn't necessarily interest anyone else. I do enjoy sharing my "discoveries" with the other members though and then waiting for a reaction, any reaction.

I will continue to write in the hope that one of my topics sparks into life and then many members will contribute their own thoughts, ideas and knowledge.


The URL of the opening post of this topic has been found and included.


M. Spedius Corbulo