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date: 27 September 2022

cursus honorumfree

cursus honorumfree

  • T. Corey Brennan


  • Roman History and Historiography
  • Roman Law

Down to the 3rd cent. bce there were perhaps few rules concerning the cursus honorum (career path) other than a requisite period of military service before seeking the political offices open to one's order, and some restrictions on iteration (cf. Livy 27. 6. 7). The senatorial establishment in the early 2nd cent. continued to support a loosely regulated cursus (Livy 32. 7. 8–12; cf. Cic. De or. 2. 261), surely because it facilitated use of private influence in elections. However, in or soon after 197, when the number of praetors was set at six, a new law stipulated that all consuls be ex-praetors. Henceforth, the basic progression was quaestor–praetor–consul. If the tribunate of the plebs and the aedileship were held, the former usually and the latter always followed the quaestorship; the censorship traditionally went to ex-consuls (see aediles; censor; tribuni plebis). The cursus acquired further rigidity from the lex Villia annalis of 180 (see villius (annalis), l.), which set minimum ages for each of the curule magistracies. L. Cornelius Sulla added an age requirement for the quaestorship, which he made compulsory. In the early Principate the pattern was extended. The vigintivirate (see vigintisexviri) became a prerequisite for the quaestorship; between these two offices it was customary (though not mandatory) to serve as military tribune. All except patricians were obliged to hold either the tribunate of the plebs or the aedileship before reaching the praetorship. Career patterns beyond the praetorship were less structured, though promotions to provincial governorships and the new non-magisterial posts show certain regularities. Established patterns of advancement eventually developed for equestrian careers, especially for the senior prefectures, but with greater variations than the senatorial cursus. A cursus was observed also in municipal magistracies. See careers, roman.


  • A. Astin, The Lex Annalis Before Sulla (1958).
  • A. R. Birley, The Fasti of Roman Britain (1981), 4–35.