Roman Censor - Creation of The Rank

Creation of The Rank

The census was first instituted by Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome. After the abolition of the monarchy and the founding of the Republic, the consuls had responsibility for the census until 443 BC. In 442 BC, no consuls were elected, but military tribunes with consular power were appointed instead; this was a move by the plebeians to try to attain higher magistracies: only patricians could be elected consuls, while some military tribunes were plebeians. To avoid the possibility of plebeians obtaining control of the census, the patricians removed the right to take the census from the consuls and tribunes, and appointed for this duty two magistrates, called censores (censors), elected exclusively from the patricians in Rome.

The magistracy continued to be controlled by patricians until 351 BC, when Gaius Marcius Rutilus was appointed the first plebeian censor. Twelve years afterwards in 339 BC, one of the Publilian laws required that one censor had to be a plebeian. Despite this, no plebeian censor performed the solemn purification of the people (the "lustrum"; Livy Periochae 13) until 280 BC. In 131 BC, for the first time, both censors were plebeians.

There were two censors, because the two consuls had previously taken the census together. If one of the censors died during his term of office, another was chosen to replace him, just as with consuls. This happened only once, in 393 BC. However the Gauls captured Rome in that lustrum (five-year period), and the Romans thereafter regarded such replacement as "an offense against religion". From then on, if one of the censors died, his colleague resigned, and two new censors were chosen to replace them.

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