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MAGISTER which contains the same root as mag-is and mag-nus, was applied at Rome to persons possessing various kinds of offices, and is thus explained by Festus (s. v. Magisterare):--“Magisterare, moderari. Unde magistri non solum doctores artium, sed etiam pagorum, societatum, vicorum, collegiorum, equitum dicuntur; quia omnes hi magis ceteris possunt.” Paulus (Dig. 50, tit. 16, s. 57) thus defines the word: “Quibus praecipua cura rerum incumbit, et qui magis quam ceteri diligentiam et sollicitudinem rebus, quibus praesunt, debent, hi magistri appellantur.” The following is a list of the principal magistri:--


MAGISTER ARMORUM appears to have been the same officer as the Magister Militum. (Amm. Marc. 16.7, 20.9.)




1MAGISTER A CENSIBUS (or praepositus a censibus) was an official who examined the qualifications of persons who applied to be enrolled among the knights. He is sometimes [p. 2.110]connected with the a libellis, who received the application in the first instance. [EQUITES]

MAGISTER COLLEGII was the president of a collegium or corporation. [COLLEGIUM]

2MAGISTER EPISTOLARUM (or AB EPISTOLIS), a private secretary, answered letters on behalt of the emperor. (Orelli, Inscr. 2352.)


MAGISTER FANI in coloniae and municipia was appointed each year by the duumviri of the town (one for each temple or shrine), to arrange the ceremonies, sacrificia, pulvinaria, &c. (Lex Col. Genet. 100.128, Orelli, 2218.) They were equivalent to the Roman aedituus, who was also called magister fani. (Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 3.215.)

3MAGISTER LIBELLORUM (or A LIBELLIS) was an officer or secretary who read and answered petitions addressed to the emperors. [LIBELLUS p. 57 a.] He is called in an inscription “Magister Libellorum et Cognitionum Sacrarum.” (Orelli, l.c.

4MAGISTER MEMORIAE, an officer whose duty it was to receive the decision of the emperor on any subject and communicate it to the public or the persons concerned. (Amm. Marc. 15.5, 27.6.)

MAGISTER MILITUM, the title of the two officers to whom Constantine entrusted the command of all the armies of the Empire. One was placed over the cavalry, and the other over the infantry. On the divisions of the Empire their number was increased, and each of them had both cavalry and infantry under his command. In addition to the title of Magistri militum, we find them called Magistri armorum, equitum et peditum, utriusque militiae (Zosim. 2.33, 4.27; Vales. ad Amm. Marc. 16.7). In the 5th century, there were in the Eastern empire two of these officers at court and three in the provinces; in the Western empire, two at court and one in Gaul. Under Justinian, a new magister militum was appointed for Armenia and Pontus. (Walter, Geschichte des römischen Rechts, § 342, 2nd ed.)


5MAGISTER OFFICIORUM was an officer of high rank at the imperial court, who had the superintendence of all audiences with the emperor, and also had extensive jurisdiction over both civil and military officers. They originally took part of the duty of the court cubicularius; the other part went to the praefectus sacri cubiculi. [See also ADMISSIO] (Cod. 1, tit. 31; 12, tit. 16;--Cod. Theod. 1, tit. 9; 6, tit. 9;--Amm. Marc. 15.5, 20.2, 22.3; Cassiod. Variar. 6.6.)



6MAGISTER A RATIONIBUS, more usually called procurator, had the charge of the emperor's private expenses [see FISCUS].

7MAGISTER SCRINIORUM had the care of all the papers and documents belonging to the emperor. (Cod. 12, tit. 9; Spartian. Ael. Ver. 4; Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 26.)

MAGISTER SOCIETATIS. The equites, who farmed the taxes at Rome, were divided into companies or partnerships; and he who presided in such a company was called Magister Societatis. (Cic. Ver. 2.74, 182; ad Fam. 13.9; pro Plancio, 13, 32.) [SOCIETAS]

MAGISTRI VICORUM. These officials had existed under the Republic, and we have no account of their beginning. Livy (34.7) introduces them into a speech of the year 195 B.C. as officials of an inferior class, but allowed to have the magisterial insignia--no doubt at the festivals which were under their charge. The magistri vicorum were, however, entirely re-organised by Augustus in the year B.C. 7, when he divided the city into 14 regions and 265 vici, and assigned 4 magistri vicorum to each vicus (the number may be gathered from inscriptions, C. I. L. 6.445, 975), who were elected annually by the inhabitants of the vicus (Suet. Aug. 30). The first so appointed entered upon their office on August 1, B.C. 7, and accordingly in several inscriptions we find mentioned magistri anni secundi, tertii, &c., equivalent to the years B.C. 6, 5, &c. (C. I. L. 6.764, 282). Those of the year B.C. 7 are “magistri qui primi Kal. Aug. magisterium inierunt.” The total number of magistri vicorum remained 1060 till the beginning of the 4th century, when it was reduced to 672, and 48 were assigned to each region: the title magistri vicorum was, however, retained. Their functions were partly civil, partly religious. When Augusti appointed them, they had (with servi publici under them) especially to guard against fires. This had been a function of the old magistri vicorum, who accordingly were in charge of the worship of Stata Mater, the protectress against fire (see Fest. p. 317; Preller, Röm. Myth. 531; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 1.328). They had other duties, as to the limits of which we have not very clear information, regarding the maintenance of order within their district. The duty of watching against fire was in A.D. 6 transferred to the newly constituted cohortes vigilum.

As regards their religious duties (their most characteristic function), they presided over the Compitalia in honour of the Lares Compitales [COMPITALIA], besides the worship of Stata Mater mentioned above, and these offices were continued to the newly constituted magistri vicorum under Augustus, with increased importance when the Genius Augusti was included in the same worship. They had also to superintend the building or repairs of the Sacella of the Lares, as churchwardens, so to speak, of their vicus: but in this they had to obtain the approval of the praetor or of the official over the region who was appointed by lot from the aediles, tribunes, and praetors (see Suet. Aug. 30; D. C. 55.8; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.516). In the exercise of their religious office they wore the toga praetexta, and had two lictors assigned to them. (D. C. 1. c.; Liv. 34.7; Marquardt, Staats-verwaltung, 3.203.)

[W.S] [G.E.M]

1 It should be noticed that these private offices in the imperial household were in the earlier Empire discharged charged by slaves or by freedmen (some of whom, Narcissus and Parthenius, had exceptional official rank); in the later Empire they gradually assumed a higher public standing. Vitellius thus employed men of equestrian rank (Tac. Hist. i. 58), and therefore the statement that Hadrian “ab epistulis et a libellis primus equites Romanos habuit” (Spart. Hadr. 22) is not correct; but it probably marks the date from which, this became the rule. The three chief departments were a rationibus, a libellis, ab epistolis. (See for a full account, Friedländer, Sittengeschichte, i. pp. 51 ff.)

2 See note in preceding page.

3 See note in preceding page.

4 See note in preceding page.

5 See note in preceding page.

6 See note in preceding page.

7 See note in preceding page.

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.182
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 7
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 15.5
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 16.7
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 20.2
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 20.9
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 22.3
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 27.6
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