Who Were the Roman Magistrates?

The Elected Officials of the Roman Republic

Gaius Gracchus
Gaius Gracchus, tribune of the people, presiding over the Plebeian Council.

Silvestre David Mirys/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons 

The Roman Senate was a political institution whose members were appointed by consuls, the chairmen of the Senate. The founder of Rome, Romulus, was known to create the first Senate of 100 members. The wealthy class first led the early Roman Senate and were also known as patricians. The Senate heavily influenced the government and public opinion during this time, and the goal of the Senate was to give reason and balance to the Roman state and its citizens.

The Roman Senate was located at The Curia Julia, with connections to Julius Caesar, and is still standing today. During the period of the Roman Republic, Roman magistrates were elected officials in ancient Rome who took over the power (and divided into increasingly smaller bits) that had been wielded by the king. Roman magistrates held power, either in the form of imperium or potestas, military or civil, that might be limited to either inside or outside the city of Rome.

Becoming a Member of the Roman Senate

Most of the magistrates were held accountable for any misdeeds while in office when their terms came to an end. Many of the magistrates became members of the Roman Senate by virtue of having held office. Most magistrates were elected for the period of a single year and were members of a collegium of at least one other magistrate in the same category; that is, there were two consuls, 10 tribunes, two censors, etc., although there was only one dictator who was appointed by members of the Senate for the period of no more than six months.

The Senate, comprised of patricians, were the ones who voted for the consuls. Two men were elected and only served for one year to avoid corruption. Consuls were also unable to be re-elected for more than 10 years to prevent tyranny. Before re-election, a specified period had to elapse. Candidates for an office were expected to have held lower ranked offices previously, and there were age requirements, as well.

The Title of the Praetors

In the Roman republic, the Praetors title was granted by the government to the commander of an army or elected magistrate. Praetors had privileges to act as judges or jurors in civil or criminal trials and were able to sit on various administrations of the court. In the later Roman era, the responsibilities were changed to a municipal role as treasurer.

Benefits of Upper Roman Class

As a senator, you were able to wear a toga with a Tyrian purple stripe, unique shoes, a special ring and other fashionable items that came with additional benefits. A representation of the Ancient Roman, the toga was important in society as it denoted power and upper social class. Togas were only to be worn by the most notable citizens, and the lowest workers, enslaved people, and foreigners were unable to wear them.

Reference: A History of Rome up to 500 A.D., by Eustace Miles

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Gill, N.S. "Who Were the Roman Magistrates?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-were-roman-magistrates-120099. Gill, N.S. (2020, August 28). Who Were the Roman Magistrates? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-were-roman-magistrates-120099 Gill, N.S. "Who Were the Roman Magistrates?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-were-roman-magistrates-120099 (accessed June 3, 2023).