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HONO´RES The word may be used in a general sense for any compliment or dignity conferred by a public body. We find it of the thanksgivings decreed by the senate for Caesar's victories in Gaul, “Caesar . . . singularibus ornatus et novis honoribus ac judiciis senatus” (Cic. Fam. 1.9, 14), and of the compliments showered on Cicero in his provincial quaestorship, “excogitati quidam erant a Siculis honores inauditi” (pro Plancio, 26, 64). In a similar loose sense the word is occasionally used for a commission in the army: e. g. Caesar (B.C. 1.77) says that he restored certain deserters “in tribunicium honorem.” But the more strict and technical use of the term confines it to the actual magistracies, whether of the Populus Romanus, of the Plebs, or of a municipium. The position of a judex or a senator does not come within this category, nor does the office of a priest (see Mommsen, Staatsr. i.3 p. 8). From the words of Suetonius (Suet. Cl. 14), “jus et consul et extra honorem laboriosissime dixit,” we might infer that even the principate, as not being one of the ordinary magistracies, was likewise excluded. It is in this sense that we hear of the “jus honorum” as a part of the qualities of a full citizen, which might be withheld when the other rights were granted. Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 11.23) tells us of certain Gauls who “civitatem Romanam jam pridem assecuti, jus adipiscendorum in urbe honorum expetebant.”

The most interesting questions relating to honores occur in connexion with the municipal institutions of the later empire. The Digest contains a title (50, 4) “de muneribus et honoribus,” in which the distinction between the “honours” and the “burdens” of the community is illustrated by numerous examples. We might expect to find adduced the obvious contrast that an office is sued for voluntarily, and that the burden is compulsorily imposed. It seems not unlikely that this distinction is valid for the offices of the Roman Republic. The chief difficulty is in the case of T. Manlius Torquatus, whom we find pleading with the people (Liv. 26.22) not to elect him consul in a tone which seems to imply that he could not absolutely refuse the office. It is possible, however, to [p. 1.970]take his words as merely begging them to spare him the necessity of an arrogant rejection of the people's wish. Mommsen (Staatsr. i.3 p. 470) points out that there is no clear instance of a man being compelled to hold a magistracy against his will; and in the frequent cases of abdication, we never hear of leave to retire being asked. The duties, on the other hand, of a priest (Liv. 27.8) and of a judex (Cic. pro Rab. Post. 7, 17) were certainly imposed even against the will of the person; it does not appear that the station of a senator could (apart from special agreements, as in Suet. Aug. 40) be declined by any man who had held a qualifying office, and certainly a man once in the senate required the “venia ordinis” (Tac. Ann. 1.75) before he could retire. This distinction, however, between honores and munera will certainly not hold for the municipal magistracies, which under the empire were not avoidable by the properly qualified persons. Such persons might not even refuse to be put over the heads of their seniors in the local senate, if they were better able to provide for the expenses of magistracy: “Sciant igitur locupletiores,” says a rescript of Caracalla and Geta (Dig. 50, 4.6), “non debere se hoc praetextu legis uti, et de tempore quo quisque in curiam allectus sit, inter eos demum quaerendum, qui pro substantia sua capiant honoris dignitatem.” It is even laid down (ib. § 12) that a “vacatio muneris publici” does not excuse a man from serving a magistracy, “quia id ad honorem magis quam ad munera pertinet.”

Of the two subdivisions of munera, those “quae patrimoniis injunguntur” (ib. § 6) are easily distinguished from honores. We find in this category such services as transport by land and water, “rei vehicularis, item navicularis” (ib. § 1). Under this head, notwithstanding a contradiction between two authorities quoted in the Digest (compare § 1 and § 14), we should probably place that species of task work from which the word munus seems to be etymologically derived, the “operae ad munitiones,” or labour requisitioned for the repair of the walls or streets of the town, since in the Lex Ursonensis (ch. 29) this burden falls on all who own land within the limits of the colony, though they may not be its burgesses. The “munera civilia personalia” (Dig. ib. § 1), such as the charge of acting as counsel for the corporation in legal proceedings ( “defensio civitatis, id est ut Syndicus fiat” ), the duty of registering the assessments ( “legatio ad census accipiendos” ), and the superintendence of the provision of corn, of water, or of horses for the public games, are assimilated on the one hand to the “privata munera” of the guardian or trustee, and on the other hand to the offices of the community. These “munera personalia” require “sollicitudinem animi et vigilantiam,” whereas the other category is of matters “in quo sumptus maxime postulatur.” The duty of sitting in the local senate is not mentioned among the munera, but it seems to be accurately distinguished from the honores (see Mommsen's explanation, Staatsr. 3.640, of the fragmentary passage of Gaius, 1.96), and it would probably fall in the category of munera, as that of serving among the “decemprimi” or select men of the decuriones is expressly said to do (Dig. ib. § 1). In the Roman senate in like manner the duty of giving advice in answer to the magistrate's question is spoken of by Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 3.17) as a munus. The “personalia munera” most nearly approach the honores in the case of the “Irenarchae, qui disciplinae publicae et corrigendis moribus praeficiuntur” (Dig. ib. § 18), and of the quaestors. This latter post belongs to the “charges” or to the “offices” according to the custom of the particular community; it is undoubtedly a magistracy according to the Law of Salpensa (ch. 26, 27), yet in the Digest (ib. § 18) we have “et quaestura in aliqua civitate inter honores non habetur sed personale munus est.”

The nearest approach to a definition of the two terms is that of Callistratus (Dig. ib. § 14): “Honor municipalis est administratio reipublicae cum dignitatis gradu, sive cum sumptu sive sine erogatione contigens . . . . Publicum munus dicitur, quod in administranda republica cum sumptu sine titulo dignitatis subimus.” This is, roughly speaking, a continuation in the municipalities of the Roman practice of ranking only actual magistracies among the honores.


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 1.9
    • Cicero, For Rabirius Postumus, 7
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 14
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.23
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.17
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.75
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 22
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