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(from quaero, quaesitor, “the investigator,” “searcher”). The Latin term originally given to two officials chosen by the king; they had to do with those suspected of capital offences. In the time of the Republic they performed the same duty under the consuls, by whom they were chosen every year. When the administration of justice in criminal cases came into the hands of the Comitia Centuriata, the quaestors received, in addition to their old privilege of pleading by the mandate of the consuls, which they lost later, the management of the State treasury (aerarium) in the temple of Saturn. They became recognized officials when they were elected at the Comitia Tributa under the presidency of the consuls (probably about B.C. 447). The quaestors had no regular badges of office. In 421 their number was doubled, and the plebeians received the right of appointing to the office of quaestor, though they did not exercise it till twelve years later. The four quaestors shared their duties, so that two of them acted as masters of the treasury (quaestores aerarii) and remained in the city (hence their name quaestores urbani), while the other two accompanied the consuls on campaigns, in order to administer the military chest.

It was part of the duty of the former two to collect the regular revenues of State (taxes and custom dues) and the extraordinary revenues (fines, levies for war, and money produced by the sale of booty); further, to make payments, which might not be made to the consuls except by special permission of the Senate; to control the accounts of income and expenditure, which were managed under their responsibility by a special class of officials (scribae); to make arrangements for public burials, for the erection of monuments, for the entertainment of foreign ambassadors, etc., at the expense of the treasury. Further, they preserved at their place of business—the temple of Saturn—the military standards, also the laws, the decrees of the Senate, and the plebiscita, and kept a register of the swearing in of the officials, which took place there.

After the subjection of Italy, four more quaestors were appointed in B.C. 267. They were stationed in different parts of Italy, at first at Ostia and Ariminum, probably to supervise the building of fleets. Sulla increased their number to twenty, ten of whom were appointed, in the place of the previous two, to accompany the proconsuls and propraetors to the provinces, two to help the consul who remained in the city, and two to help the other two original quaestors at their work in the city. The quaestors employed in the provinces (Sicily alone had two of these, stationed at Syracuse and Lilybaeum respectively) were principally occupied with finance; they managed the provincial treasury, and defrayed out of it the expenses of the army, the governor, and his retinue; any surplus they had to pay in to the State treasury at Rome, and to furnish an exact statement of accounts. The governor might appoint them his deputies, and if he died they assumed the command; in both of these cases they acted pro praetore—i. e. as propraetors. Caesar raised their number to forty, in order to be able to reward a greater number of his adherents; for the office gave admittance to the Senate, and the position of quaestor was looked upon as the first step in the official career. The age defined by law was from twentyseven to thirty years. When the beginning of the magisterial year was fixed for January 1, the quaestors assumed office on December 5, on which day the quaestors in the aerarium decided by lot what the work of each should be.

Even under the Empire, when the normal number of quaestors was increased to twenty and the age reduced to twenty-five, the office of quaestor remained the first step to higher positions in the State. But the power of the quaestors grew more limited as the management of the treasury was intrusted to special praefecti aerarii, so that the city quaestors had only charge of the archives, to which the supervision of the paving of streets was added. After the division of the provinces between the emperor and the Senate, quaestors were only employed in the senatorial provinces, and were not abolished till the constitution of the provinces in general was altered by Diocletian. Four quaestors were told off for service to the consuls. The two quaestores principis, or Augusti, were a new creation: they were officers assigned to the emperors, if the latter were not consuls, in which case they would already be entitled to two quaestors. As secretaries to the emperor, they had to read his decrees to the Senate at its sittings. From these quaestors was developed, in the time of Constantine, the quaestor Sacri Palatii, the chancellor of the Empire.

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