previous next

SCRIBA

SCRIBA a title given to the clerks, or rather secretaries, who formed the highest class of the officials attached to a Roman magistrate. The scriba was much more than a mere librarius or copyist; thus Cicero, pro Sull. 15, 42, 44, distinguishes sharply the librarii who copied out the confessions of the Catilinarian conspirators from the scribae, the four senators who had taken them down. The compound expression scriba librarius is used to denote a superior kind of librarius: hence the quaestorian clerks often appear as scribae librarii. These were divided into three decuries, presided over by the sex primi (Cic. de Nat. Deor. 3.3. 0, 74; Wilmanns, Inscr. 1297, 1298, 1809), and had as their especial charge the administration of the treasury (whence they are sometimes called ex aerario, C. I. L. 6.1816) and the keeping of the public books. Every governor of a province had two of these treasury-clerks assigned to him to keep his accounts (Liv. 38.55, 5), and to draw up the statement which lie had to, give in upon his return (Cic. in Pis. 25, 61). Besides them, he would naturally have his own clerks for his private accounts. As the treasury contained the state archives, all the business connected with them, especially the registration of the decrees of the senate, passed through the hands of the scribae. There is no definite reference to scribae attached to the consuls; but the praetors and the judicial authorities generally were regularly aided by scribae, who read the documents laid before the court (Cic. in Verr. 3.10, 26), and drew up the decisions and sentences in due form (Cic. Clu. 53, 147). The censors especially were during their term of office in need of such clerical assistance, and sometimes they appear as the authorities in charge of the whole body of public clerks (Liv. 4.8, 4). Most of the clerks may have belonged to the class of public slaves; but others, again, must have been officials holding a respectable position, for, in the formula of the census, they are mentioned after the censors but before the other magistrates (Varro, 6.87). At least the more important of the clerks must have been [p. 2.613]taken from the decuries of the scribae quaestorii: the nominations were usually made by quaestors, but here, as always, a superior magistrate could interfere by the exercise of his overruling powers when he pleased. We learn from the case of Horace that appointments could be, in some cases at least, obtained by purchase. The number of the quaestorian clerks was 27 before the time of Sulla, and was raised by him to 36. As there were probably 11 provincial governors sent out after Sulla's re-arrangements, this left 14 for duty at home. The clerks of the curule aediles, mentioned by Cicero (Cic. Clu. 45, 126) and Livy (30.39, 7), and often in inscriptions (e. g. Wilmanns, 1296, 1300, 1302, 1303, &c.), formed one decuria, presided over by 10 head clerks (C. I. L. 6.1840). They were not much inferior in standing to the former class. We also find mention of clerks to the plebeian magistrates, the tribunes, the plebeian aediles, and the Cerial aediles; but little is known of their functions, and they do not appear to have been important. On the other hand, the first two classes contained men of great knowledge of business and even of law (C. I. L. 6.1819), and these may be compared to the permanent officials of our own public offices. Their services must have been quite necessary to the annually elected magistrates, often young and inexperienced. They formed collectively an ordo (Cic. Ver. 3.79, 184), claiming to rank with that of the equites (Schol. in Juv. 5.3), and it was the gradual establishment of a claim to lifelong tenure of office that led to the sale of posts which the incumbents were willing to vacate. In the provinces they ranked immediately after the staff officers of the governor; but the fact that they received pay (under the Republic called merces, under the Empire salarium) drew a sharp line between them and the officers who were not merscenarii. Hence, as in the well-known case of Cn. Flavius, a scriba was not allowed to stand as a candidate for office until he had laid down his scriptus or official position. Cicero (de Off. 2.8, 29) mentions another case of a man who had been a clerk under Sulla becoming praetor urbanus under Caesar. In Horace (Sat. 2.5, 56) we have an instance of an inferior magistrate, one of the quinqueviri, turning clerk; he also speaks of the order, to which he himself belonged, in Sat. 2.6, 36, as possessed of influence. In Tacitus they are apparently included libertini or their descendants. (Cf. Mommsen, Röm. Staatsrecht, i.3 331-339.)

[A.S.W]

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: