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A term used of any compliment or honour conferred by the Roman Senate or any public body (Pro Planc. 26, 64; Ad Fam. i. 9, 14).


A commission or rank in the army (B. C. i. 77).


Technically the name denotes actual magistrates whether of the Populus Romanus, the Plebs, or of a municipality, excluding, however, the office of iudex, senator, and priest (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, i. p. 8), and possibly the principatus (q. v.). The ius honorum was a part of the rights of one who was a free citizen and might be withheld when all the other rights were granted (Tac. Ann. xi. 23). (See Munus.)

4. Cursus honorum

Cursus honorum is an expression of Roman official life which may be defined as the career of public service through which a citizen must pass before attaining to the position of the highest rank. In the early Roman Republic there existed in an informal way a principle of official promotion by which those who had held inferior magistracies were understood to be eligible for higher positions after the lapse of a certain interval of time (Callist. Dig. 50, 4, 14, 5). The order, certus ordo magistratuum, in which the various magistracies should be held, was, however, formally defined in B.C. 180 by the Lex Villia Annalis. The cursus honorum thus legally determined consisted of the quaestorship, curule aedileship, praetorship, consulship. A preliminary military service of ten years was required before the career of magistracies could be begun. Since enrollment by the censors took place at the census next following the attainment of the age of seventeen years, allowing for the ten years of military service, we may place the earliest age at which the quaestorship could be held as twenty-eight years. An interval of at least two years was required between the holding one office and the following, so that the aedileship could be held at thirty-one years, the praetorship at thirty-four, and the consulship at thirty-seven. Since the holding of the curule aedileship was optional, the praetorship might directly follow the quaestorship, and the consulship might thus be reached at thirty-four years.

The principle of an ordo honorum found, however, its most important application in the development of the imperial government under Augustus and his successors.

In the imperial period there were three careers of official service. The republican magistracies formed the cursus honorum for those of senatorial rank—i. e. senators, sons of senators, or those raised to senatorial rank by the emperor, all possessing the requisite property of one million sesterces.

To a select body of the knights invested by the emperor with membership in the equestrian troop through the conferring of the knight's horse, were assigned the offices of administration, the various procuratorships and praefecturae which formed the equestrian cursus honorum.

To the commonalty were assigned the subordinate offices, civil and military.

senatorial cursus honorum

  • I. Preliminary service.
    a) Annual tenure of one of a group of minor offices, known as vigintiviri: triumvir capitalis, triumvir monetalis, quattuorvir viarum curandarum, decemvir stlitibus iudicandis.
    b) A year's service as tribunus militum laticlavius.
  • II. Quaestorship—at twenty-five years.
    Interval of at least one year.
  • III. Aedileship or tribunate of the plebs.
    Interval of at least one year.
  • IV. Praetorship—at thirty years.
    Interval of at least two years.
  • V. Consulship.
    A patrician being ineligible for the tribunate of the plebs or the plebeian aedileship could pass directly from the quaestorship to the praetorship.

equestrian cursus honorum

    I. Preliminary service.
    a) Military service. No special military service appears to have been regularly required, although Claudius determined upon three positions—
    • 1. praefectura cohortis;
    • 2. praefectura alae;
    • 3. tribunatus legionis; and these tres militiae equestres became the usual preliminary service in the second century. In the inscriptions the tribunatus regularly holds the second place.
      b) Civil service. Through the reforms of Hadrian, training in state affairs was recognized as equivalent to service in the army—e. g. those who had served as advocati fisci or ab commentariis praefecti praetorio were eligible for the procuratorships and praefectures.
  • II. Procuratorships of various kinds and grades.
  • III. Praefecturae. The highest offices open to those of the equestrian order given in ascending order were: praefectura classis, praefectura vigilum, praefectura annonae, praefectura Aegypti, praefectura praetorio.

Officials of the third class

These were of great number and variety, being made up mainly of subordinate officers of administration in Rome and the provinces, attendants of public officials, officers of the army and the fleets, magistrates of the coloniae and municipia, and the officers of the collegia. The inscriptions show that these subordinate offices were arranged in a cursus honorum on the same principle prevailing in the senatorial and equestrian cursus.


See T. Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, vol. i. 523-577; and O. Hirschfeld, Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiete der römischen Verwaltungsgeschichte, vol. i. 240.

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