The first political post that was under the Cursus Honorum was the office of Quaestor. This was attainable at the ages of 30 or 28 (if Patrician). Also this was a ticket into the Roman Senate, as after being elected and serving their term, a Quaestor would be a member of the Senate. (During Sulla’s reform it was on election, or else they’d have to wait 5 years before the Censors of Rome would change the Senate Rolls).
What was a Quaestor?
In short: Administrator and mini-general. The main task of a young Quaestor was to administrate the finances of the city of Rome. There were 20 of them by the time Sulla made reforms in 81 BCE (up from 4). Anyhow, the administration of Rome and its finances was a big job. If a man had real serious political ambitions, you’d have to be elected to this post (or hope you are like Pompey or Scipio Africanus to get elected to Consul right away).
These magistrates could be serving in Rome or abroad. When Rome was at war, each consul had a Quaestor assigned to him. The main job was to partition the spoils of war between the army and the city treasury. The Quaestor could also be entrusted with minor military duties if the need arose. Quaestors were assigned to the Roman provincial governors as well. They would be the second in charge of the province, administer the finance or lead the troops if the need came up.
The responsibility was immense which is why you would end up being on the senate after being elected to the post. There were some benefits apart from responsibility (and the potential to line your pockets) and senate membership. Every Quaestor was given Fasces (a bound bundle of wooden sticks with an axe head emerging) which signified authority as a magistrate (and the power to enforce capital punishment). They also were assigned 1 Lictors or civil body guard when they held Imperium. And just for your information, most Lictors were former centurions or legionaries, and were therefore were tough guys.
An interesting part of the job, while Quaestor’s had imperium, they were still subordinated to consuls or pro-consuls. It becomes a client-patron relationship, where the Consul is the patron to the younger senator. In return for getting favours from the younger man (such as getting support for agenda or leading troops or accounting the finances differently), the consul would promise future support to the Quaestor. If he wanted to become a Praetor or Consul in the future, he needed as much senatorial support as he could, since the Patricians had a big say in who gets elected.
Now, here are some of the more famous Roman politicians who became immensely popular through their term in this office.
Gaius Gracchus, the more impactful of the Gracchi brothers (an article on these two men will be coming in the future). He was a Quaestor in Sardinia. His oratory skills were exceptional, and he got the local villages to supply the Roman legions for the winter, after they had refused the Governor. The senate rightfully feared his power, but were unable to stop him in his defence of himself when he returned to Rome. After that, he would forever be remembered in Roman history in his fight against the Optimates.
Another successful Quaestor? Cicero, one of the greatest orators in Rome. Being appointed in Sardinia, he ran the place with complete honesty and integrity. He even successfully prosecuted the Governor of Sicily and beat Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. The latter at the time was the best lawyer in Rome. Cicero’s successful prosecution and his administrative duties won him fame in Rome and the loyalty of Sicily. Every time he stood for elections, many Sicilians would make the journey to Rome to vote for him, a rarity at the time. He would successfully ascend the Cursus Honorum and be a prominent Roman over the next 20 years.
The post of Quaestor was an important step in the political ladder. It was the first official position in the Roman Cursus Honorum and guaranteed a person membership into the Senate. A successful stint in this office can win a lot of praise and recognition from the elite (Cicero) or animosity (Gracchus). It was the first position with Imperium. In a traditional sense, a Quaestor would just be a member of the senate for at least 7 more years. The office of Aedile, which will be discussed next was an optional step.
Next, we will talk about the Patrician’s office of Aedile, an optional office but one which could gain a person immense popularity with the mob of Rome.
Interested in the world of Ancient Greece?? Check out Athenian Inspector’s blog here: https://athenianinspector.wordpress.com/