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date: 26 September 2022



  • Ernst Badian
  •  and Tony Honoré


  • Ancient Economy
  • Roman Law

Quaestores parricidii (see parricidium) are said to have been appointed by the kings. Under the republic there were two, who prosecuted some capital cases before the people. They fade from our record by the 2nd cent. bce.

Financial quaestors (perhaps not connected with them) were at first appointed by the consuls, one by each; after 447 bce (Tac.Ann. 11. 22) they were elected by the tribal assembly. Two were added when plebeians were admitted (421), to administer the aerarium in Rome (hence urbani) under the senate's direction. Four more were instituted in 267 (Tac. loc. cit.; Livy, Per.15), perhaps called classici and stationed in various Italian towns, notably Ostia (see food supply). More (we do not know how many and when) were added as various provinces were organized (Sicily even had two), until Sulla, finding nineteen needed for all these duties, added one for the water supply and raised the total to twenty. Caesar doubled this number, but Augustus—proposing to rely less on regular magistrates—returned to it.

The quaestorship was commonly held at the age of 27 to 30 (often—in the late republic normally—after a military tribunate and/or a civil minor magistracy). It was the lowest of the regular magistracies. By the late 2nd cent. bce, most ex-quaestors were enrolled in the Senate, but the size of the Senate did not permit the enrolment of all. Sulla, who doubled the size of the Senate, made quaestors' entry automatic. Provinciae of quaestors were normally allotted, but—in a tradition going back to the origins of the office—magistrates could choose a quaestor extra sortem for personal reasons. Quaestors attached to magistrates or promagistrates abroad (militiae) did not normally serve more than two years: C. Sempronius Gracchus thought he had been imposed upon by having to serve three. In addition to managing the fiscus, they had judicial and military duties. When their superior left or was disabled, they were expected to assume command pro praetore (see pro consule, pro praetore). Quaestors were supposed to remain bound to their commanders in fides for life. But their accounts were prime evidence in repetundae trials, and some were tempted to apply to prosecute their own commanders, to advance their own careers. They seem normally to have been rejected.

Augustus and—after a brief restoration by ClaudiusNero removed the quaestors from the aerarium; but under the empire the princeps, as well as each consul, had two quaestors; the quaestores Caesaris, chosen by the emperor himself, were often patricians and always young men of distinction. The actual duties of the quaestors in Italy were gradually taken over by imperial officials, but in the public provinces quaestors retained some financial functions throughout the Principate.

Colonies and municipia (see municipium), and normally collegia also had quaestors in charge of their finances. In the later empire the office of emperor's quaestor (sometimes called quaestor sacri palatii: quaestor of the sacred palace) grew in importance since he assumed the role of spokesman for the emperor and in particular drafted laws for the imperial consistory. The quaestorship was held by prominent lawyers such as Antiochus (13) Chuzon and Tribonianus, the architects of the Theodosian Code and of Justinian's codification respectively, but more often by men of literary talent such as Ausonius and Nicomachus (4) Flavianus. The quaestor did not have his own staff but could draw on expertise from the imperial offices (scrinia).


  • Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft 24 (1963), 801–827, s.v. ‘quaestor’.
  • W. V. Harris, Classical Quarterly 1976, 92 ff.
  • E. Badian, American Journal of Philology 1983, 156 ff.
  • T. Honoré, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, romanistische Abteilung 1986, 139–56, 181–222.
  • J. Harries, Journal of Roman Studies 1988, 148–172.
  • A. Coşkun, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, romanistische Abteilung 118 (2001), 312–43.