Numismatic and History Discussions > History and Archeology

Path from common soldier to man of the people

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Tacitus:
I have been trying to come up with a path a young soldier or knight could take to higher offices.

I looked at this: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Cursus_Honorum.png

But it seems to not coincide with what the Wiki says.  Why would a consul become a Proconsul and then back to Senator or a Censor?  What could a Censor offer that a Senator or Consul not?

Thilo:
Dear Tacitus,

the table is maybe a bit unclear at some points. The cursus honorum was different in different times of the republic as well as during the imperium. It is even unclear whether there was a real "cursus honorum" for the first two to three centuries of the republic. So, I would assume that the scheme shows the times of the late republic.

Even then, I would not see a reason why only senatorial family member should be able to go through the quaestor line. That would be - at the very least -  the case for anyone having senatorial census, likely rather even  for anyone (in theory, and, if you did not have senatorial census, the censors would likely remove you from the senate in their next census, again). Also, the military tribunes would not have to serve ten years but ten campaigns. While in the earlier years, this generally accounted for 10 years (of course only during fighting season), usually, in later times, ten campaigns might have happened in a shorter (sometimes maybe longer, too)  period of time.

Also, it is actually not clear if the lower age for patricians indeed did apply. This theory is based mostly on the fact that Caesar became praetor when he was 38 and consul when he was 40. This might have had other reasons, though, e.g. that he won a major crown in his military career.

Coming to your questions - why would a consul become proconsul or censor? Maybe some ideas, here:

Generally, one could not be elected consul for another ten years after holding the consulship. Thus, after being a consul for one year you would always be a "simple" senator (which is not really true - as a former consul you would be high in the senate's speaking order) if you did not become a proconsul.

Proconsul would mean that you generally were the head of a provincia and thus could refinance what you've spent on your campaign of actually becoming consul. That at least seemed to be one of the reasons why consuls wished to be proconsul - and especially for provinces in which wars might be fought as a certain share of the spoils belonged to the proconsul, then. Proconsulships generally were limited to one year, too, but could be enhanced, if required (or, if granted by the people's assembly per law could last longer from the very start)

And the censorship was highly sought after because simply to be elected censor meant that you had immense auctoritas (which might be translated as clout). And by being elected, your dignitas (yes, the stuff that Caesar fought civil wars for) would rise in the eyes of your peers. As censors were elected every fifth year, only every fifth consul had the chance to become censor, at all. Thus, in a competitive society as the Roman, a censorship was a career peak (dictator or a second consulship would be great, too, but censorship was important). Btw., the censorship also gave you quite some control of who was member of the senate. Censors could remove senators if they did not have senatorial census (i.e. having a sufficiently large fortune) or if they were considered "immoral" (as happened, e.g. to Marcus Antonius's stepfather Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura who was consul in 71 BC but was excluded  from the senate for immorality in 70 BC. He still re-entered the senate by becoming elected praetor in 63 BC; however, he was executed as one of Catalina's companions). Thus, being censor gave you quite some political influence, even if not imperium.

Maybe some of these ideas help.

Best

Thilo

Tacitus:
Thanks... that helped out greatly...

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