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Roman Political Career Paths

This coin prompted a bit of exploration of the cursus honorem, the ladder of a political career in ancient Rome. It also added the word "subsillium" to my ancient Roman vocabulary.

Roman Republic, M. Fannius and L. Critonius, Denarius, Rome, 86 BC, AR

Obv: Head of Ceres right, wearing wreath of grain ears; AED•PL behind

Rev: Two aediles seated right on subsellium; grain ear to r.; P•A to l., M•FAN•L•CR+ below.

Ref: Crawford 351/1; Critonia 1; Sydenham 717a

Here's a picture of a subsilium from another denarius minted in 45 BC by Lollius Palikanvs.

Fannius & Critonius were aediles in 86 BC. The aediles were responsible for care of the city; public building (aedēs), public provisions e.g. grain. Curule aediles were responsible for public games and when they administered justice were seated on curule chairs. Plebeian aediles kept the decrees of the senate in the temple of Ceres and the treasury and on this coin they are depicted seated on subsellia. During Sulla's reign these roles, curule and plebian, were combined. This PA on this coin indicates a special issue that was probably minted after the death of Marius.

The cursus honorem was the ladder of public offices for politicians in the Roman republic who aspired to the highest office of consul. The ladder is nicely illustrated with this image from C.K. Ruppelt.

Image by C.K. Ruppelt (Cruppelt), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There were also lesser offices including the triumvir monetales which was established ~289 BC .

Pomponius l.S. enchir. Constituti sunt eodem tempore et quattuorviri qui curam viarum agerent, et triumviri monetales aeris argenti auri flatores, et triumviri capitales qui carceris custodiam haberent...

Digest of Justinian

At that time there were quattuorviri (4 men) who maintained the roads, and triumviri monetales (3 men) who struck coins in copper, silver and gold and triumviri capitales (3 men) who served as custodians of the prisons....

Digest of Justinian


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Mar 09, 2021

Very informative! I particularly appreciated the graphic included that lists the stages of the cursus honorem, a promotional ladder that has always confused me. Thanks🙂

Mar 12, 2021
Replying to

Thanks, @mvrainwater 😀

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