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As censorship ( Latin censura of censere = "inspect, estimate") which is office or the duties of censor referred. The censor was one of several high officials in the Roman Republic . His tasks included the implementation of the population and property appraisals ( census ), the occupation of the Senate ( lectio senatus ) and the supervision of the manners of the Romans ( regimen morum ).

Powers of the censors

The most important task of the censors (and the one from which the office takes its name) was the census , the census of citizens and the determination of their property. In connection with this census and asset appraisal is the authority of the censors to assign citizens to electoral classes and tribes . Since belonging to these subdivisions of the citizenry determined the weight that an individual's voice had in the people's assembly , the power to make the allocation carried great political influence. This applies even more to the decision on admission to the knighthood ( recensio equitum ) and the senate ( lectio senatus ), which is also incumbent on the censors .

These powers explain how the censors were able to supervise morals ( regimen morum ). In the event of moral misconduct, they could reduce the citizen's status by transferring him to a less influential electoral class or tribus or by excluding him from the rank of knights or senators. In less serious cases, they left it with a warning or a formal reprimand ( nota censoria ), which, however, was noted in the citizens' list.

Other economic tasks of the censors are also related to the task of census and property appraisal. They could lease government sources of income such as taxes and mining rights and government contracts e.g. B. awarded to entrepreneurs to maintain public buildings . In both cases, the term of the lease or the contract was the five-year period until the next installation of censors.

At the end of their term of office, the censors carried out a great sacrifice of cleansing, which, like the five-year period mentioned , was referred to as the lustrum and which was considered the solemn conclusion of the census.

Development of the censorship

The censorship was introduced at the beginning of the 5th century BC. (After Livy in the year 443 BC). Previously, the duties of censors had been carried out by the kings and later by the consuls . In contrast to the consulate , the censorship was not an annual office. Initially, censors were elected at irregular intervals, later two censors were appointed every five years, who had to fulfill the tasks (set by the Senate) within 18 months. The election took place in the centuriate committee .

Gaius Marcius Rutilus is said to be 351 BC. Was the first plebeian censor, but numerous details of his biography were forged in later times. In addition, 339 BC. A law, the Lex Publilia Philonis , was passed through which plebeians were allowed to take over the censorship - so this does not seem to have been possible before. The first non- patrician office holder to be clearly documented was Quintus Publilius Philo 332 BC. The first plebeian to carry out the lustrum as censor was, however, Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus Maximus in 280 BC. The fact that this was only possible so much later is probably due to the fact that this closing ceremony of the Census had such a sacred meaning that it was regarded as a privilege of the patricians for a long time. 131 BC With Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus and Quintus Pompeius , both censors were plebeian for the first time.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Iulius Caesar abolished the censorship temporarily. During the imperial era , the previous tasks of the censors were transferred to the emperor and officials. In the 2nd century AD, the choice of censors became uncommon. The office disappeared earlier than the rest of the republican offices. In the 4th century, the title experienced a rebirth when Constantine the Great appointed his half-brother Flavius ​​Dalmatius as censor. After the death of Dalmatius 337/338 the title is no longer documented.

Public officials

Initially, the censorship was a rather unpopular and arduous office that was supposed to relieve the busy consuls of tasks. Only later did it become one of the most prestigious Roman offices, including the Lex Ovinia from 312 BC at the latest. BC, which gave the censors the right (previously exercised by the consuls) to determine the members of the Senate . It was not run through regularly as part of the cursus honorum - if only because of the long periods between the elections . Only respected senators, who had almost always held the consulate, were considered as censors, and the former censors ( censorii ) formed the highest rank among the senators. Particularly famous censors were:

  • Appius Claudius Caecus , censor 312 BC BC, builder of the Via Appia .
  • Marcus Porcius Cato , called Censorius or Cato maior (the elder Cato), 234 BC. BC – 149 BC BC, censor 184 BC BC, defender of ancient Roman virtues and author of many writings, including De agri cultura (On Agriculture).

Later meanings of the words "censorship" and "censor"

Based on the regimen morum of the censors, the Latin word censura generally took on the meaning of "moral supervision". Later it was used in particular for the control of publications by church or government agencies. This explains the current meaning of the word censorship . A censor is the one who censors a publication.

In France, a special teacher who was responsible for the discipline at the school used to be called a censeur .

In Spain there was a newspaper called Censor from 1781 to 1788 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Alfred Klotz : On the history of the Roman censorship. In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie , Vol. NF 88 (1939), pp. 27–36 ( PDF; 2.3 MB ).
  2. Athanasius , Contra Arianos 65.1 ff.
  3. ^ Titus Livius , Ab urbe condita IV, 8.
  4. Bartolomé Bennassar, Jean-Pierre Amalric, Jacques Beyrie, Lucienne Domergue: Histoire des Espagnols XVIIIe – XXe siècle . In: Marguerite de Marcillac (ed.): Tempus . 2nd Edition. tape 2 , no. 378 . Editions Perrin, Paris 2011, ISBN 978-2-262-03441-2 , pp. 151 .