the name of a class of Roman officers. The origin of
the quaestorship is somewhat uncertain. The best authorities know nothing of
it in the time of the kings. Cicero (de Rep.
mentions it in connexion with the trial of Sp. Cassius in B.C. 485. Livy
) refers to it first on the same
occasion, and in a chronological enumeration of the magistrates places it
between the tribuneship of the commons (B.C. 493) and the decemvirate (B.C.
451). Dionysius mentions quaestors incidentally in speaking of the sale of
booty in B.C. 507 (5.34), and speaks also of their action in the case of Sp.
Cassius. Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 11.22
them to the time of the kings, but on grounds which plainly do not bear out
his view. The silence of our earlier authorities on occasions like the trial
of Horatius makes it evident that there was no good reason for believing
that the office was then in existence; and this view is confirmed by the
fact that the quaestors were elected in the comitia of the tribes. It cannot
be upset by the assertions of later writers, such as Ulpian (in Dig. 1
pr.) and Lydus (de Mag.
1.24). Further, the
quaestors were at first two in number; and this of itself makes it highly
probable that the office came into being along with the consulship, as a
part of the earliest republican constitution. When the consulship was
suspended under the decemvirate, the quaestorship ceased along with it.
As early as B.C. 421 the number was raised to four, one being assigned to
each consul for domestic affairs and one for war. In B.C. 267, or perhaps
not until B.C. 241, four more were added to take part in the administration
of Italy. The number probably steadily increased with the addition of new
provinces; but we are only told that Sulla raised the annual total to twenty
(Tac. Ann. 11.22
; cf. C. I.
i. p. 108). Julius Caesar increased it to forty, but there is
reason to believe (Mommsen, Staatsrecht,
2.516, note 1) that
Augustus reduced it again to twenty.
The quaestorship was the first of the ordinary magistracies to be thrown open
to the plebeians: in B.C. 421 it was agreed that patricians and plebeians
should be eligible without distinction (Liv.
), and in B.C. 409 three of the four were actually plebeians
). Tacitus asserts
11.22) that the quaestors were at first nominated by
the consuls, and that it was only sixty-three years after the expulsion of
the kings that they were elected by the people; that is, probably in
consequence of the Valerio-Horatian laws of B.C. 449. This is at variance
with the view of Junius Gracchanus (in Dig. 1
pr.), that they were
elected by popular vote, even under the kings; but that we have already seen
to be erroneous, and, though Livy does not mention the introduction of
popular election, the probabilities of the case are decidedly in favour of
the statement of Tacitus. The quaestors were elected in the comitia of the
tribes (Mommsen, Röm. Forsch.
1.159 ff.), and their
elections came off last in the annual series. The office was held for one
year: but when the custom sprang up that the consul should govern a province
as proconsul in the year after his consulate, it came to be usual that his
quaestors should accompany him with an extension of powers as proquaestors.
The quaestors had the usual insignia of magistrates, but a sella
which was not curulis,
but one with straight legs, such as that used by the
if he was not a curule
magistrate. They were attended by scribae,
The provinces of the various quaestors were determined by a resolution of the
senate each year, before the new quaestors entered upon office. The number
of the posts to be filled probably exceeded that of the new quaestors,
before their number was increased by Sulla, seventeen being known to us.
Deficiencies seem to have been made good by continuing some in office as
proquaestors; perhaps also by giving governors of provinces the right of
choosing their proquaestors. Under the Empire the number of posts appears to
have exactly equalled that of the annual appointments.
When the provinciae
had been determined by the
senate, they were distributed among the quaestors, partly by selection by
the superior magistrates, to whom they were severally attached (Liv. 30.33
; Cic. Att.
), confirmed by the senate,
partly by lot (Cic. pro Mur. 8
18; Div. in Caec.
14, 46, and elsewhere). Under the Empire
the selection was made by the emperor and by the consuls (Plin. Ep. 4.15
The duties of the quaestors will be best discussed under the head of the
1. Quaestores urbani.
This was the official
designation, frequently occurring in inscriptions, of the two quaestors
whose duty required them to remain in Rome during their year of office.
Their primary function was to be officials subordinate to the consuls, the
only other magistrates in existence at the time of the creation of the
office. Hence such duties as the latter could discharge by deputy commonly
fell to the quaestors. They had no functions in connexion with civil
jurisdiction; the superintendence of this naturally lay with the supreme
authority, while the decision of details was committed to a private judex.
But in criminal jurisdiction they took an
important part, from which indeed they originally derived their name. The
is only another form of quaesitor
by the side of sarcitor
), and denotes “investigator.” In the
Twelve Tables they appear under the full title of quaestores parricidii
(cf. [p. 2.533]
Pomponius in Dig. 1
; Festus, p. 221,
“parricidi quaestores appellabantur qui solebant creari causa
rerum capitalism quaerendarum:” cf. p. 258). When this part of
their functions fell into desuetude, the term parricidii,
at first necessary for distinctiveness, was dropped,
or replaced by some other phrase, a fact which led some late authorities
into the error of supposing that the term quaestores
denoted an obsolete office, distinct from the later
quaestorship. That this is an error is proved indirectly by the silence of
Livy, Dionysius, and Tacitus, and explicitly by the language of Varro
5.81, “quaestores a quaerendo, qui
conquirerent publicas pecunias et maleficia” ). Modern scholars
have been misled by the statement of Pomponius (Dig. l.c.), which must
certainly be rejected. But the quaestors never had the imperium,
nor the right of convoking the centuries on their
own account. It is therefore necessary that we should regard them as acting
by virtue of a mandate from the consuls. It is a reasonable conjecture that
under the kingship, as an appeal from a capital sentence to the judgment of
the people was allowed, the king, in order to avoid the appearance of a
conflict between his authority and the rights of the community, exercised
his jurisdiction through a representative; and that the consul, after the
institution of the quaestorship, was bound by tradition to choose a quaestor
as his representative. Thus, through the action of the right of appeal, the
power of criminal jurisdiction came to attach itself to the quaestorship.
This accounts for the fact that originally this jurisdiction extended only
to capital offences, where the accused had a right of appeal, if condemned.
It did not, however, include the offences against the state, included under
the head of perduellio:
these were tried, not
by the standing magistrates, the quaestors, but by special commissioners
[PERDUELLIONIS DUO VIRI] appointed specially
for the purpose. It is probable that in cases of less gravity, where the
punishment was not capital, the quaestors had no right of jurisdiction, as
no appeal was allowed; but when an appeal came to be permitted in cases of
fine above a fixed maximum, these too fell under their cognisance.
We hear very little of the criminal jurisdiction of the quaestors, because
they had nothing to do with political prosecutions, almost the only
prosecutions of which history takes notice. A formula preserved by Varro
(6.91) proves that it was in operation in the latter part of the third
century B.C. We know further that there was no authority which could have
taken their place until a century after this date. The tribunes prosecuted
only political offences; the aediles only offences against special laws
entailing a fine for their violation: the tres viri
acted as police magistrates, and in cases of
ordinary offences, where individual citizens were the complainants. Hence it
seems clear that the quaestors must have tried cases of murder and arson
until these were brought under the jurisdiction of the quaestiones perpetuae.
The second main branch of the duties of the quaestors likewise devolved upon
them as subordinates of the consuls. The same consuls who passed the
Valerio-Horatian law of appeal (provocatio
founded the aerarium populi Romani;
and it is
probable that the first quaestors were quaestores
as well as parricidii.
consuls indeed retained, subject to the senate, the supreme control of the
treasury, but the quaestors had the actual charge of the money and kept the
accounts, receiving the former from the consuls and paying it out on their
order. They held the keys of the treasury in the temple of Saturn (cf. Plb. 23.14
, where Scipio threatens, as consul, to
take the keys and open it himself), and had charge of all that was in it,
including not only coin and bullion, but also the military standards (Liv. 3.69
). State papers of all kinds were also
preserved there, not only account-books, contracts, and lists of persons who
had claims on the treasury, but (after the institution of the curule
aedileship) decrees of the senate, and (after the Lex Licinia Junia of B.C.
62) all laws and proposals of laws. Lists of magistrates and senators, who
had taken the oaths of office, of jurymen, and of other official
appointments were also preserved there, and it seems to have been the duty
of the quaestors to satisfy themselves as to their genuineness and accuracy
(Plut. Cat. Mi. 17
; Cic. Phil. 5.4
It was further the duty of the quaestors to see to the payment of arrears of
taxation (Liv. 33.42
), probably through the
and to keep lists of
defaulters; to receive the sums due from the publicani
(Cic. pro Flacc.
, 79), the balances in the hands of ex-governors of provinces,
fines due on a legal sentence to the treasury, and the war indemnities
exacted from a conquered enemy (Liv. 32.2
In cases of default the quaestors had the right to proceed against the debtor
per manus injectionem;
but we hear nothing
of any state-debtors being sold into slavery, or serving as nexi:
hence it seems that the custom of proceeding
against the debtor's property and not his person established itself earlier
here than in private legal actions. The property was seized and sold by
The quaestors also had to conduct the ordinary sales of state property, so
far as these were not managed by the censors, including prisoners of war and
booty, and also estates coming to the nation by will or by confiscation.
We know very little about the details of the receipt of taxes and payments
from the exchequer: but there is evidence that there were distinct
treasuries attached to different departments. The payment of the soldiers,
for instance, was made through the tribuni aerarii: the few salaries paid
under the Republic, and the cost of maintenance for the public slaves, were
defrayed directly from the treasury. So were the expenses of entertaining
distinguished strangers, in connexion with whose visits we often find the
quaestors mentioned (V. Max. 5.1
; Liv. 45.13
Contracts were only managed by the quaestors in comparatively unimportant
cases. They naturally took a part in discussing financial questions in the
senate, like that of our Chancellor of the Exchequer (Auct. ad
1.12, 21). It seems strange to us that such important
duties should be assigned to young and inexperienced magistrates, changing
yearly; [p. 2.534]
but possibly much of the duty was done by
permanent officials, like the permanent heads of our own state offices. It
was only after the battle of Actium that Augustus gave the charge of the
treasury to two ex-praetors (called praefecti aerarii
), elected annually by the senate (Tac. Ann. 13.29
; Sueton. Aug.
36): subsequently, to avoid the excitement of elections, it was committed to
two of the praetors chosen by lot. Claudius in A.D. 44 gave it back to two
of the quaestors, selecting himself those who were to fill this office,
which now was held for three years, under the title of quaestores aerarii Saturni.
Finally Nero, in A.D. 56,
restored it to ex-praetors, again holding the title of praefecti aerarii Saturni,
but now appointed by the emperor
for three years at a time (Tac. Ann. 13.28
), sometimes extended, as we see from
the case of Pliny (see Hermes,
3.90). Quaestores urbani
continued to be elected late into
the third century; possibly their functions were restricted to the charge of
such state papers as were not of a financial nature.
The duties of criminal prosecution and of the charge of the treasury were the
main, if not the sole duties of the quaestores
and they were both of a nature to make their continuous
presence in the city necessary. On the other hand, the
not distinguished as urbani,
nor by any special appellation, were
regularly attached, each to some general or governor of a province, as his
adjutant. The dictator alone was not required to have any such assistant.
Nor were quaestors attached to the praetors who remained in the city to
preside in the courts. But the magistrates who had quaestors at all, always
had them. If the term of office of the quaestor expired before that of his
superior, it was extended by prorogatio:
quaestor died or left the province, the governor nominated some one, usually
one of his legati,
to be pro
, 12). It was only in Sicily, where the province
was divided into an eastern and a western district, that more than one
quaestor was ever assigned to a governor: in that case there were two. The
praetor was supposed to hold a kind of parental relation to his quaestor
(Cic. pro Planc. 11
13.10, 1, and often), even after the term of
office had expired.
The special duties of what may be termed (somewhat loosely) provincial
quaestors were financial. As the consul could only draw upon the state
treasury through the quaestores urbani, so the generals and governors were
similarly restricted. Receipts and payments passed through his hands, and he
seems to have been in charge of the military stores (Plb. 6.31
). Even when coins were stamped by a general, the
quaestor's name often appears alone upon them (Mommsen, Röm.
p. 374). The accounts of the campaign had to
be given in by him, although the commander shared the responsibility. But
the booty was disposed of by the commander at his pleasure; and if he sold
it, he often did so through inferior officers, especially the praefecti fabrum.
But even from a military point of view the quaestor ranked next to the
commander: he had three sentinels, and the legati only two, and the quaestorium
was an important centre in the camp
]. In case of the
death of the commander, he succeeded to the vacancy; and if the former left
the camp, it was usually the quaestor whom he chose to replace him pro praetore
). Similarly, in
judicial business, as the governor exercised the jurisdiction of the praetor
in civil business, the quaestor exercised that of the aediles, and issued
the appropriate edicts (Gaius, 1.6). Under the Empire no quaestors were sent
to imperial provinces (ib.); but a senatorial proconsular governor had
attached to him a quaestor pro praetore.
While no quaestor was specially attached to a consul for his duties in the
city, each would receive one as a military adjutant when he took the field,
and doubtless he would use his services also in the city as he had occasion
for them: for instance, for the organisation of a consular army. So, at the
time of the conspiracy of Catiline, P. Sestius, the quaestor attached by lot
to the consul C. Antonius, was sent with an armed force to Capua, to remove
the danger of a rising there (Cic. pro Sest.
9). When the custom came in for a consul to proceed at the end of his year
of office to govern a province as proconsul, it was the regular thing for
his quaestor to accompany him as pro quaestore:
thus Sestius followed Antonius to Macedonia in B.C. 62. From B.C. 38 each
consul had two quaestors, selected by himself (D. C.
), who assisted him, among other things, in his duties of
presiding in the senate. Nothing is known as to the disuse of this practice.
Under the Empire we meet with quaestores
they were two
in number, assigned to the emperor as holding proconsular power, and
employed by him, when he thought fit, to read in the senate any written
communication to that body (Ulpian, Dig. 1
). But the duty did not necessarily fall upon them: Augustus in his
later years employed the services of Germanicus (D. C.
), Nero the consuls (Suet. Nero
), and Vespasian one of his sons (Suet. Tit.
3. Quaestores classici
were four in number,
established after the reduction of Italy in B.C. 267, originally
subordinates of the consuls, charged especially with the defence of the
coast. Their stations were at Ostia, at Cales,1
the oldest Latin colony in Campania, and doubtless the centre of the
Roman administration of that district [Calles,
in Tac. Ann. 4.27
, can be hardly anything
but a corruption for Cales
], in Cisalpine Gaul
about the Po (ταμίας τῆς περὶ Πάδον Γαλατίας,
Plut. Sert. 4
), probably at Ariminum, and at
a fourth place, nowhere mentioned, but possibly Lilybaeum in Sicily. Their
duties were generally those of the provincial quaestors; but as they had no
resident superior, they had in practice more independent powers, including
certainly military authority, as we see from Tac.
They had also the duty of seeing that the allies
furnished the proper contingents for the fleet, and the quaestor at Ostia
had important and onerous functions in connexion with the corn supply, which
made it an unpopular office (Cic. pro
, 18). If the quaestorship at Lilybaeum ever
belonged to this [p. 2.535]
group, its character must have
been changed, after Sicily became a province; and that at Cales seems to
have been suppressed soon after A.D. 24 (the date of the events mentioned by
), for when Claudius in A.D. 44
transferred again to the quaestors the charge of the treasury, he suppressed
the other two, and none were then left. There are references to a provincia aquaria,
discharged by one of the
quaestors (Cic. in Vatin. 5
12), which had probably reference to the water-supply, but we know nothing
of it definitely.
The quaestors, as a body, were charged, probably at an early date under the
Empire, with the expense of paving roads, but we do not know to what extent:
this seems to have been a device for making them “pay their
footing” when entering the senate. Claudius substituted for this the
duty of giving a gladiatorial show (Suet. Cl.
, “collegio quaestorum pro stratura viarum gladiatorium munus
injunxit:” cf. Tac. Ann. 11.22
). This is the only instance of
common action on the part of the college.
(The above account follows closely that given by Mommsen,
511-537. The account in Becker, Handbuch,
2.2, 327-358, is
confused by an attempt to distinguish two different kinds of quaestors from
the first, following, as usual, the theories of Niebuhr. Madvig,
Verf. u. Verwalt.
1.438 ff., also shares this view,
rightly rejected by Bouché--Leclercq, Manuel,
75; Willems, Droit Public,
p. 303: cf. Lange,
Herzog, Gesch. d. Röm. Verf.
i. pp. 814-826.)