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I. AEDILES PLEBIS. In the year B.C. 494, after the secession of the plebs to the Mons Sacer, this body was organised for the first time under magistrates of its own, answering to those of the patrician community. As the tribuni plebis corresponded to the consuls, so the aediles plebis corresponded to the quaestors; they were the subordinate officers of the tribunes, at first perhaps appointed by them, but after the Lex Publilia elected in the plebeian assembly under their presidency, placed under the same leges sacrae, and possessing a sacrosanct character (Dionys. A. R. 6.90). The origin of their name is not certain, but the best interpretation is that which explains it from their functions as guardians of the temple of Ceres, in which copies of all the decrees of the senate were preserved (so Niebuhr, Hist. 1.621; Lange, R. A. i. p. 715; Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.447).1 After the Lex Publilia they were no longer mere assistants of the tribunes, but collegae minores. By degrees, as the political side of the functions of the tribunes became the more important, the aediles came to play a more independent part within the sphere that was left to them. In B.C. 454, the Lex Aternia Tarpeia conferred upon them the ius multae dictionis; this carried with it the ius contionis, and the ius edicendi, the right of convening and addressing a meeting of the citizens, and of declaring beforehand the principles on which they meant to act; but the ius auspiciorum was still wanting; so that they could not be reckoned as, strictly speaking, magistratus populi Romani. The recorded instances of their action at this period are such as were due to the direction either of the tribunes or of the senate. Thus, acting under the orders of the former, they arrested accused men (Dionys. A. R. 6.90), and carried out sentences of death (when confirmed by the popular assembly) by hurling from the Tarpeian rock (Dionys. A. R. 7.35, 11.6; Plut. Cor. 18 ;Liv. 6.20). Their superintendence of the publication of the Twelve Tables (Liv. 3.57), of the exclusion of foreign deities and forms of worship (Liv. 4.30), of the corn supplies (Plin. Nat. 18.15), and of the plebeian (Pseud. Ascon. p. 143, Or.) and Roman (Liv. 6.42) games, seems to have been the result of special commissions from the senate or the consuls. As the aediles thus ceased by degrees to be the mere assistants of the tribunes, they gradually lost their sacrosanct character, which attached to them only as agents of the inviolable tribunes, and were ranked in [p. 1.32]this respect with other lesser magistrates (Liv. 3.55). But they never ceased to be plebeian magistrates, and none but plebeians were eligible; they had no insignia of office; and were always chosen apart from the curule aediles at the comitia tributa, under the presidency of a tribune.

II. AEDILES CURULES. Livy's story (6.42) is that in commemoration of the passing of the Licinian Rogations, the senate ordered that a fourth day should be added to the ludi Romani; the plebeian aediles were reluctant to bear the burden thus imposed upon them; the young patricians volunteered to undertake it; and a resolution of the senate empowered the dictator to propose to the people the election of two patrician aediles curules. This story is altogether rejected by Niebuhr (Hist. 3.33 f.), and it is far more probable that we have here an instance of the desire to absorb into the constitution of the united community an office which was originally characteristic of the plebeian revolution (Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.457). Hence we find after this no traces of any especial connexion between the aediles and the tribunes: but plebeian and curule aediles alike are regarded as the subordinates of the consuls (Liv. 39.14). Hence too the curule aedileship the year after its institution to the plebeians (Liv. 7.1); but by a curious provision it was arranged that the office should be held, not by a patrician and a plebeian as colleagues, but by two patricians and two plebeians alternately, This arrangement lasted till B.C. 91, when the plebeian M. Marcellus appears in the place of a patrician (Mommsen, Röm. Forsch. 1.97-102), and after that date it was entirely abandoned.2 The reason for it seems to lie in the fact that the curule aediles were jointly responsible for the cost of the games, and this might more probably have led to discord if the colleagues had belonged to different orders (Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.488). The curule aediles were distinguished by the bordered robe (toga praetexta) and the use of the sella curulis, which we find figured on their coins, while the plebeian aediles wore only the ordinary toga, and their official seat was the subsellium or bisellium. The former were elected in the comitia tributa, under the presidency of a magistrate cum imperio, usually the consul, and had from the first the auspicia minora, which were only conferred on the latter at a later date (before B.C. 340, when we find aediles plebis vitio creati, Liv. 30.39).

Cicero (de Leg. 3.3, 7) defines the aediles as curatores urbis, annonae, ludorumque sollemnium. We may arrange their functions under these three heads :--

    1. Cura urbis (including the district within a mile of the town: cf. Lex Jul. Mun. 1. 69) : i. e. the superintendence of the repair and cleansing of the roads and streets, of the public baths, fountains and aqueducts, of eating-houses and brothels; the aediles also took care that the streets were not encumbered by goods offered for sale, or by the deposit of rubbish, by funerals or carriage traffic (which was strictly limited and regulated : Lex Jul. Mun. 1. 58 f.), nor encroached upon by private buildings. Further, they had a general control in matters of police. We find them either inflicting fines themselves or acting as prosecutors before the comitia tributa in cases of witchcraft (Plin. Nat. 18.42), stuprum (V. Max. 6.1, 7 ; Liv. 8.22; Plut. Marc. 2), fraud on the part of the pecuarii (Liv. 10.23, 47, &c.), insolent language (Gel. 10.6), stone-throwing from a window (Gel. 4.14), usury (Liv. 7.28; 10.23; 35.41, &c.), and the like. The fines so inflicted were spent upon public buildings and works of general utility; but more important works, for which the treasury paid, were in charge of the censors. In many respects the police functions of the aediles appear to supplement those of the censors, especially during the period when the censors were not in office, but their action was doubtless more strictly limited to the punishment of offences against positive law (Lange, p. 729). Their control of public buildings does not appear to have extended beyond a general supervision of their condition and proper use; the charge of building and repairs lay rather with the censors or their special commisioners (Vviri muris turribusque reficiendis, IIIviri reficiendis aedibus: Liv. 25.7; 42.6).
    2. Cura annonae. This is properly only one aspect of the general charge of the market, which was opened in was so important a part of the duty of the aediles that it gave them the name by which they are called in Greek writers, ἀγορανόμοι (Dionys. A. R. 6.90). As it was their duty to superintend trade of all kinds, especially in cattle and slaves, to look after the quality of the goods exposed for sale (Plaut. Rud. 374), to destroy unjust weights and measures(Juv. 10.100; Pers. 1.129), and to put down usury (Plin. Nat. 33.19; Liv. 10.23, &c.), so it was especially incumbent upon them to provide for a proper supply of corn, partly by punishing dardanarii (forestallers, and regraters), and partly by purchasing themselves and supplying it at a low rate (Liv. 10.11: cf. 30.26; 31.4, 50; 33.42).
    3. Cura ludorum. This must be distinguished from the general police control of the popular amusements, exercised for instance when the aediles prohibited the people from pelting an unpopular man, who was giving a show of gladiators, with anything but fruit (Macrob. 2.6, 1). It must be distinguished also from the presidency of the games, which was held by a consul or praetor. The aediles had only to organise the games. This was done nominally at the expense of the state. Up to the time of the First Punic War, 500,000 asses were annually allowed for this (Dionys. A. R. 7.71), besides an extra allowance for any official festivals (Liv. xxii 10; 31.9, &c.). But these sums by no means sufficed to defray the expenses, especially under the later republic, when the aediles were expected to spend largely from their own resources, so that the office became exceedingly burdensome. Milo and Scaurus especially are noted as having spent large fortunes on their aedileships (Ascon. Scaur. p. 18; Mil. p. 32, Orell.). Cicero kept within moderate limits (de Off. 2.17, 59), but as a rule an aedile who did so lost all chance of election to higher office (pro Mur. 19, 40), and Sulla failed as a candidate for the praetorship because he had not been aedile, and given the splendid shows which the people expected of him (Plut. Sull. 5). It was a common custom, though forbidden by law (Liv. 40.44), for the aediles to receive much [p. 1.33]assistance, nominally by way of loan, from the provinces in decorating the forum, theatre, and circus with statues and other works of art (ad Att. 5.21, 6.1 ; Verr. 4.59, 133; ad Qu. fr. 1.1,9, &c. ; Plin. Nat. 35.173). The aediles had to provide the general decorations and costumes, to organise the processions and the games, to arrange the seats and preserve order; when plays were given, they selected the piece, and paid and had also the power of chastising the actors (Liv. 34.44; Plaut. Truc. 990; Tac. Ann. 1.70, &c.).

Lange (p. 725) has well shown that the cura ludorum, like most of the functions of the aediles, arose from their general character as acting under commissions from the superior magistrates. The ludi Romani and Megalenses were always in charge of the curule, the ludi plebeii in that of the plebeian aediles; other games, such as the Cerealia and Floralia, were superintended by either without distinction, sometimes acting singly, but more commonly as a college.

III. AEDILES CEREALES. In B.C. 44 Julius Caesar added two aediles, with special charge of the annona and the ludi Cereales (Dig. 1, 2, 2.32 ; cf. Suet. Jul. 41). These continued under the empire, and are mentioned in inscriptions and on coins.

IV. But the functions of the aediles were greatly restricted by Augustus and his successors; their powers were gradually diminished, and their functions exercised by new officers created by the emperors. After the battle of Actium, Augustus appointed a praefectus urbi, who exercised the general police, which had formerly been one of the duties of the aediles. Their right of jurisdiction was further transferred to the praetor (D. C. 53.2), who also assumed henceforth the superintendence of the games (D. C. 54.2 ; Tac. Ann. 1.15 ; Plin. Ep. 7.11, 4). Augustus also took from the aediles, or exercised himself, the office of superintending the religious rites, the banishing from the city of all foreign ceremonials, and the superintendence of the temples. Hence no one was willing to hold so contemptible an office, and Augustus was therefore reduced to the necessity of compelling persons to take it: persons were accordingly chosen by lot, out of those who had served the office of quaestor and tribune; and this was done more than once (D. C. 55.24). The last recorded instance of the splendours of the aedileship is the administration of Agrippa, who volunteered to take the office, and repaired all the public buildings and all the roads at his own expense, without drawing anything from the treasury. (D. C. 49.43; Plin. Nat. 36.122.) The aedileship had, however, lost its true character before this time. Agrippa had already been consul before he accepted the office of aedile. Augustus appointed the curule aediles specially to the office of putting out fires, and placed a body of 600 slaves at their command; but the praefecti vigilum afterwards performed this duty (D. C. 4.21). In like manner the curatores viarum were appointed by him to superintend the roads near the city, and the quatuorviri to superintend those within Rome. The curatores operum publicorum and the curatores alvei Tiberis, also appointed by Augustus, stripped the aediles of the remaining few duties that might be called honourable. They lost also the superintendence of wells or springs, and of the aqueducts. [AQUAEDUCTUS] They retained, under the early emperors, the superintendence of the markets, the duty of repressing open licentiousness and disorder: thus the baths, eating-houses, and brothels were still subject to their inspection, and the registration of prostitutes was still within their duties (Tac. Ann. 2.85). We read of the aediles under Augustus making search after libellous books, in order that they might be burnt; and also under Tiberius (Tac. Ann. 4.35).

The last mention of aediles is under Gordian III. (A.D. 238-244): cf. Orell. Inscript. 977.

The history, powers, and duties of the aediles are stated with great minuteness by Schubert, De Romanorum Aedilibus, lib. iv. Regimontii, 1828. See Hofmann, De Aedilibus Romanorum, Berlin, 1842; cf. Rein in Pauly's Realenkykl. vol. i. p. 208 if.; Lange, Röm. Alt.2 1.2 715-735; Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.443-491. Full details as to their municipal duties are given in the Lex Julia Municipalis on the Tabula Heracleensis (C. I. L. i. p. 122), with the commentary of Dirksen, Civil. Abh. Berlin, 1820.

[G.L] [A.S.W]

1 Madvig, Verf. 1.422, prefers the old derivation from aedes in the most general sense, arguing both from the application of the name also to the patrician magistrates and from the fact that the title was common in the municipia, where no such special relation can be supposed.

2 Livy's phrase in 7.1, “postea promiscuum fuit,” is misleading, as is seen from his own account.

hide References (35 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (35):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 57
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 41
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.15
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.85
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.70
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.35
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.15
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.42
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.19
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 7.11
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 7.4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 55
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 22
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 47
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 44
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.14
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.6
    • Plutarch, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, 18
    • Plutarch, Sulla, 5
    • Plutarch, Marcellus, 2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 6.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 6.7
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