[Footnote: Most of the information given in this chapter is scattered in different parts of the history; but it seems well to condense it into one chapter for readier reference.]


The magistrates of Rome were of two classes; the Majores, or higher, and the Minores, or lower. The former, except the Censor, had the Imperium; the latter did not. To the former class belonged the Consuls, Praetors, and Censors, who were all elected in the Comitia Centuriáta. The magistrates were also divided into two other classes, viz. Curule and Non-Curule. The Curule offices were those of Dictator, Magister Equitum, Consul, Praetor, Censor, and Curule Aedile. These officers had the right to sit in the sella curúlis, chair of state. This chair was displayed upon all public occasions, especially in the circus and theatre; and it was the seat of the Praetor when he administered justice. In shape it was plain, resembling a common folding camp-stool, with crooked legs. It was ornamented with ivory, and later overlaid with gold.

The descendants of any one who had held a curule office were nobles, and had the right to place in their halls and to carry at funeral processions a wax mask of this ancestor, as well as of any other deceased members of the family of curule rank.

A person who first held a curule office, and whose ancestors had never held one, was called a novus homo, i. e. a new man. The most famous new men were Marius and Cicero.

The magistrates were chosen only from the patricians in the early republic; but in course of time the plebeians shared these honors. The plebeian magistrates, properly so called, were the plebeian Aediles and the Tribúni Plebis.

All the magistrates, except the Censor, were elected for one year; and all but the Tribunes and Quaestors began their term of office on January 1st. The Tribune's year began December 10th; that of the Quaestor, December 5th.

The offices, except that of Tribune, formed a gradation, through which one must pass if he desired the consulship. The earliest age for holding each was, for the quaestorship, twenty-seven years; for the aedileship, thirty-seven; for the praetorship, forty; and for the consulship, forty-three. No magistrate received any salary, and only the wealthy could afford to hold office.


The two Consuls were the highest magistrates, except when a Dictator was appointed, and were the chiefs of the administration. Their power was equal, and they had the right before all others of summoning the Senate and the Comitia Centuriáta, in each of which they presided. "When both Consuls were in the city, they usually took turns in performing the official duties, each acting a month; and during this time the Consul was always accompanied in public by twelve lictors, who preceded him in single file, each carrying on his shoulders a bundle of rods (fasces), to signify the power of the magistrate to scourge criminals. Outside the city, these fasces showed an axe projecting from each bundle, signifying the power of the magistrate to behead criminals."

At the expiration of his year of office, the Consul was sent to govern a province for one year, and was then called the Proconsul. He was chief in his province in all military, civil, and criminal cases.


There were eight Praetors, whose duties were to administer justice (judges). After the expiration of their year of office, they went, as Propraetors, to govern provinces. The most important Praetor was calledPraetor Urbánus. He had charge of all civil suits between Roman citizens. In the absence of both Consuls from the city, he acted in their place. Each Praetor was attended by two lictors in the city, and by six outside. The Praetor Peregrínus had charge of civil cases in which one or both parties were aliens. The other six Praetors presided over the permanent criminal courts.


The Aediles were four officers who had the general superintendence of the police of the city, and the care of the public games and buildings. Two of the Aediles were taken from the plebeians, and two, called Curule Aediles, ranked with the higher magistrates, and might be patricians. They were elected in the Comitia Tributa. Their supervision of the public games gave them great opportunities for gaining favor with the populace, who then, as now, delighted in circuses and contests. A small sum was appropriated from the public treasury for these games; but an Aedile usually expended much from his own purse to make the show magnificent, and thus to gain votes for the next office, that of Praetor. Only the very wealthy could afford to hold this office.


There were twenty Quaestors. Two were city treasurers at Rome, having charge also of the archives. The others were assigned to the different governors of the provinces, and acted as quartermasters. Through their clerks, the two city Quaestors kept the accounts, received the taxes, and paid out the city's money, as directed by the Senate. A Quaestor always accompanied every Imperator (general) in the field as his quartermaster. The elections for Quaestors were held in the Comitia Tribúta.


There were ten Tribunes, elected in the Comitia Tribúta. They were always plebeians, and their chief power lay in their right to veto any decree of the Senate, any law of the Comitia, and any public act of a magistrate. Their persons were considered sacred, and no one could hinder them in the discharge of their official duties under penalty of death. They called together the Comitia Tribúta, and they also had authority to convene the Senate and to preside over it. Sulla succeeded in restricting their power; but Pompey restored it. The Tribunes did not possess the imperium.


There were two Censors, chosen from Ex-Consuls, and they held office for eighteen months. They were elected once every five years, this period being called a lustrum. They ranked as higher magistrates without possessing the imperium. Their duties were:

(1) To take the census, i.e. register the citizens and their amount of property, and to fill all vacancies in the Senate. (2) To have a general oversight of the finances, like our Secretary of the Treasury; to contract for the erecting of public buildings, and for the making or repairing of public roads, sewers, etc.; to let out the privilege of collecting the taxes, for five years, to the highest bidder.[Footnote: In the intervals of the censorship, the duties under (2) fell to the Aediles. ] (3) To punish gross immorality by removal of the guilty parties from the Senate, the Equites, or the tribe.


In cases of great danger the Senate called upon the Consuls to appoint a Dictator, who should possess supreme power, but whose tenure of office could never exceed six months. In later times Dictators were not appointed, but Consuls were invested with the authority if it was thought necessary. Sulla and Caesar, however, revived the office, but changed its tenure, the latter holding it for life.


This was an officer appointed by the Dictator, to stand next in authority to him, and act as a sort of Vice-Dictator.


The priests formed a body (collegium) of fifteen members, at the head of whom was the Pontifex Maximus (high priest). Their tenure of office was for life, and they were responsible to no one in the discharge of their duties. Their influence was necessarily very great.


This was a power to command the armies, and to exercise judicial functions conferred upon a magistrate (Dictator, Consul, or Praetor) by a special law passed by the Comitia Curiáta. The Imperium could be exercised only outside of the city walls (pomoerium), except by special permission of the Senate for the purpose of celebrating a triumph. The one receiving the Imperium was called IMPERATOR.


This was the power, in general, which all magistrates possessed.