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Cursus Honorum

This Prezi introduces the Cursus Honorum (or "order of offices") in the Roman Republic. Citizens began in the assemblies (which included all male citizens), and could work their way up to the highest office (consul), although this was rare.

A. Schmidt

on 3 July 2013

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Transcript of Cursus Honorum

Cursus Honorum
Making it in Ancient Rome
COMITIA CENTURIATA (Assembly of the Centuries) | COMITIA TRIBUTA (Assembly of the Tribes) | CONCILIUM PLEBIS (Council of the Plebs)
included all male Roman citizens
voted on laws
elected some magistrates
Comitia Centuriata
elected some officials (consuls, praetors, and censors), declared war, passed certain types of laws, were the final court of appeals for some trials, and ratified the census (crafted by the censors, who were elected every five years.)

The Comitia Centuriata organized male Roman citizens into numbered groups called centuries. Originally there were 100 centuries, but this number was later increased because the higher-ranking centuries had too much power. Citizens were placed into centuries according to their wealth, and the first centuries included the richest citizens - and the fewest citizens. Later centuries had more but poorer citizens.

Within the Comitia Centuriata, each century had one vote, and measures were passed with a simple majority vote. The centuries voted in order, and once a measure had a majority, the voting stopped. This meant that some centuries rarely if ever got to vote, and the wealthy minority controlled most outcomes.
Comitia Tributa
elected lower-ranking officials: quaestors, curule aediles, and consular tribunes. It passed few laws, but it tried judicial cases (until reforms in 82 BCE removed this power).

The Comitia Tributa organized citizens into 35 tribes, which were originally based on where citizens lived. Four tribes were from Rome itself, and 31 were from outside Rome. The tribes eventually lost their geographic association, however, because children joined their family's tribe.

Like the Comitia Centuriata, votes in the Comitia Tributa gave each tribe one vote, with a simple majority deciding the matter, and voting stopped once a majority was reached. Unlike in the Comitia Centuriata, however, the order of the votes was decided by lot. A tribe needed five members to be present at the election in order to cast a vote, and when tribes didn't have at least five men present, a presiding magistrate (a consul or a tribune) would assign people from other tribes to vote with the missing tribe. Since many tribes' population included mostly citizens from outside Rome and travel was expensive, this tactic could control elections.
Consilium Plebis
was a subset of the Comitia Tributa. It included only the plebeians, and organizes them by tribe. It elected two important officials, the Plebeian Tribunes and Plebeian Aediles, and only plebeians could be elected to either office. It also passed bills which - after 287 BCE - applied to both plebeians and patricians.
Quick facts:
elected by the Comitia Tribunis
20 quaestors served at a time
made citizens eligible to join the Senate (though they still had to be elected by censors)
Duties included:
serving as secretaries for higher-ranking magistrates, both inside and outside Rome
controlling the Treasury, which stored both money and important documents
publically reporting the state of the Treasury
distributing money while on military campaigns, including soldiers' salary
Quick facts:
4 aediles per year: 2 plebeian aediles (from the plebs) and 2 curule aediles (from either the plebs or the patricians)
plebeian aediles were elected by the Consilium Plebis
curule aediles were elected by the Comitia Tributa
Unless otherwise noted, all magistrates (officers):
were elected each year
had a term of one year
could not be reelected for 10 years
could veto orders by their equals and inferiors
Getting elected required many connections and a lot of money, so many magistrates were patricians, although some offices only allowed plebeians to be elected.
Duties included:
assisting higher magistrates
overseeing daily life in Rome, which meant...
managing public games and shows
managing the public markets
building, maintaining, and repairing public buildings (temples, sewers, aqueducts, etc.)
maintaining public records
issuing edicts
Quick facts:
8 praetors per year
sometimes allowed to keep their power after leaving office - called a propraetor
sometimes managed a province
curule magistracy
wielded imperium
Duties included:
managing Rome in the consuls' absense
serving in the law courts
convening & presiding over the Senate and assemblies
leading the military when necessary
Quick facts:
2 per year
highest office in Rome
often became proconsul after their term of office & governed a province
curule magistracy
wielded imperium
came with a permanent Senate seat (if they didn't have one already)
non-patricians became novi homines (sg. novus homo) - they were "new men" among the nobility
Duties included:
convening & presiding over the Senate and Assemblies
introducing & administer legislation
serving as general in wars
representing Rome in foreign affairs
appointing or serving as dictator
Wait...curule office?
A curule office had special privileges as a symbol of their power and importance. They could:
wear the toga praetexta, which had a scarlet stripe
sit in a sella curulis (curile seat), which might have armrests but usually didn't have a back
If you think that the curule seat doesn't look very comfortable, you're right! These chairs were MEANT to be uncomfortable, to reinforce the fact that these magistrates were expected to be up and doing, not down and sitting. (But they were still ornamented like crazy, because power is power.)
Imperium is a special type of power. It was:
primarily a military power (i.e., command)
given to an individual
given by the Roman state
meant to protect the Roman state and its interests
included ordering executions, floggings, imprisonment, etc.
limited within the city of Rome; unlimited outside it
symbolized by lictors (attendants) carrying fasces (bundles of whipping rods, which included an axe outside Rome)
permanent governing body
only included distinguished Roman citizens (patricians, magistrates, some military officers)
consuls got an automatic seat once they finished their term
members were voted in or out by the censors during the census every 5 years
The more lictors stalking you, the more important you were. Praetors got 6, consuls had 12, and if you were a dictator, you got 24!
Fasces is where Mussolini got the name for his political party...fascism.
Fasces are STILL used as a symbol of political power. Just check out statues and monuments if you don't believe me!
See Lincoln's armrests? Look familiar?
See the lictors carrying fasces in front of the consul (the guy in the white toga)?
Quick Facts:
2 per year
MUST be plebeian
elected by the Consilium Plebis
NOT technically magistrates because they weren't elected by ALL of Rome
sacrosanct b/c they represented the plebs (if someone touched or interfered with them, plebs had the DUTY to kill that person)
Duties included:
many of the same duties as curule aediles: caring for the city, distributing public food, and planning public games
assisting the Tribunes Plebes (tribunes of the plebs)
paying special attention to the plebs within their normal duties
Quick facts:
10 per year
MUST be plebeian
elected by the Consilium Plebis
NOT technically magistrates because they weren't elected by ALL of Rome
sacrosanct (like the plebeian aediles)
their duties came from their power as sacrosanct: no one could touch or fight them, so they could do X, Y, and Z...
Duties included:
representing the plebeians in legal matters (plebs could appeal to them by calling "ego te provoco" or "I appeal to you")
using intercessio - symbolically placing their body between an intented action and its completion
could stop bills from being passed
could halt an execution
required the tribune to be present at the action
condemning people who harassed them
arresting people
Full transcript