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Senatorial Careers

Augustus reformed the career structure of the senators

The major offices were retained. These included a number of posts a senator might take early in his career, such as

  • Triumvir for executions
  • decemvir stlitibus iudicandis (One of the 10 for the settlement of dispute)
  • Military tribune
  • Praefectus Fabrum (Prefect of Smiths)
  • Praefectus equitum (Prefect of Horse)

The old offices were retained, but seem to have been interspersed either with extensions (serving as pro-magistrate) or by the new Augustan offices.

  • Quaestor
  • (Pro-Quastor)
  • Aedile or Tribune
  • Praetor
  • (Pro-Praetor)
  • (Legate of Augustus)
  • Proconsul
  • Consul
  • Proconsul

New offices were created. These included:


  • Praefecti frumenti dandi (Prefect of the corn supply) (2 in 22 BC, increased to 4 in 18 BC)
  • Curatores viarum (Care of the Roads) (created in 20 BC)
  • Curatores Aquarum (Care of the Water supply) (created in 11 BC)
  • Curatores locorum publicorum iudicandorum (Care of judgments on public places)
  • Curatores tabularum publicarum (Care of public accounts)
  • Curatores aedium sacrarum et operum locorumque publicorum (Care of sacred buildings and public works and places)
  • Curatores alvei Tiberis (Care of the Banks of the Tiber)
  • Legati Augusti (Representative of Augustus: A governor or the commander of a legion)
  • Praefecti aerarii Saturni (Prefect or the treasury of Saturn) (appointed from praetorians from 29 BC, replaced by praetors from 23 BC)

At some point, Augustus also accelerated the senatorial career. The evidence comes from a ‘proposal’ in Cassius Dio (52.20) set in 30 BC. This laid a career progression with minimum ages for the quaestorship  and praetorship from which we can reconstruct the following list (allowing one year for service and the following year for electioneering) as:

  • Quaestor ( 25-26 years old)
  • [electioneering 26-27]
  • Aedile or tribunes [27-28]
  • [electioneering [28-29]
  • Praetors (30-31 years old)
  • Consul [32-33]

This changed from a Republican norm in which the consulship was held at aged 42. Rather than the consulship now being the culmination of a career, it was a point reached relatively early. Such a concentration of the traditional career allowed space for other offices after a consulship.

It is not obvious when this new order was brought in. There are obvious dates at which it might fit, 28 BC and 18 BC being the best guesses. But we are guessing.

During the triumviral period, the triumvirs had rewarded their followers with consulships by increasing the number available. Although there were only two consuls serving at one time, the ‘ordinary’ consuls were often required to retire during the year to be replaced by ‘suffect’ consuls. After 28 BC, Augustus did not make much use of this procedure, except when he himself held consulships, but the procedure was revived from 5 BC onwards and continued throughout the Julio-Claudian period.

This created a distinction between different types of consular. The holding of the ordinary consulship remained the prestigious.

Career inscriptions

In the Augustan period, we see a new phenomenon. Senatorial careers began to be recorded on inscriptions. These inscriptions were normally put up to honour the individual and would list his offices, or were funerary.

They function as lists of offices:

EJ 196 (Rome)

Q. Propertius, son of Quintus, Fab. tribe

Gaius Propertius, son of Quintus, grandson of Titus, Fab. tribe, Postumus, triumvir for executions and the following year protriumvir for executions, quaestor, praetor designate by decree of the senate care of the roads, praetor by decree of the senate he gave judgements for the aedile, proconsul.


EJ 187:

Lucius Munatius Plancus, son of Lucius, grandson of Lucius, great-grandson of Lucius, consul, censor, twice imperator, on Board of 7 for feasts, triumphed over the Rhaetians, built the temple of Saturn out of the booty, allotted land at Beneventum in Italy, founded the colonies of Lugdunum and Raurica in Gaul.


EJ 200: (Tibur)

Marcus Plautius Silvanus, son of Marcus, grandson of Aulus, consul, on Board of 7 for feasts. To him the senate decreed triumphal ornamenta for his successes in Illyricum.

Lartia, daughter of Gnaeus, his wife.

Aulus Plautius Urgulanius, son of Marcus, lived 9 years.


EJ 195 (Rome).

To P. Numicus Pica Caesianus, prefect of horse, one of the six, quaestor for the praetor of the province of Asia, tribune of the plebs. Province of Asia.

To P. Numicus Pica Caesianus, prefect of horse, one of the 6, quaestor for the praetor of the province of Asia, tribune of the plebs. (Various people) to their patron.


EJ 202 (Athens).

To L. Aquilius, son of Gaius, Pomptine tribe, Florus Turcianus Gallus, decemvir stlitibus iudicandis, tribune of VIII Macedonica, quaestor of the emperor Caesar Augustus, proquaestor in the province of Cyprus, tribune of the plebs, praetor, proconsul of Achaea. The council of the Areopagus and the council of the 600 and the people honour L. Aquilius Florus Turcianus Gallus on account of goodwill to the city. When the priestess was Hippossthenis, daughter of Nikokles of the Piraeus.


EJ 205 (Superaequum, Italy).

Q. Varius, son of Quintus, legate of the divine Augustus twice, proconsul, praetor, tribune of the plebs, judge of the public court, in charge of the distribution of the grain, decemvir stlitibus iudicandis, manager for the supervision of the sacred temples and public monuments. This man was first among all the Paeligni to be made a senator and hold these honours. Superaequani, at public expense, to their patron.


EJ 207 (Treia, Italy).

To Manius Vibius, son of Manius, military tribune, prefect of the workshop, prefect of cavalry, quaestor, aedile of the plebs, praetor of the treasury, legate of the deified Augustus and Tiberius Caesar Augustus, proconsul of the province of Narbonensis


How can we use these sources?

  • The lists offer evidence of career structures. There are some irregularities in the list and lots of instances of special jobs. The posts are not completely systematic.
  • The lists also offer evidence of a mentality. What you want to advertise to the world and what makes you who you are (or were) are the offices you have held. Since Augustus controls the offices, he has considerable power.


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