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A quaestor (//; Latin pronunciation: [ˈkʷajstor]) was a type of public official in the "cursus honorum" system who supervised the financial affairs of the state and conducted audits. In the Roman Republic a quaestor was an elected official, but in the Roman Empire, quaestors came to be simply appointed.
Today the term quaestor is used as a senior police rank in Italy and Romania, and as the title of an office of financial oversight in some organizations.
The earliest quaestores were the quaestores parricidii, an office dating back to the Kingdom of Rome. The quaestores parricidii were chosen to investigate capital crimes, and may have been appointed as needed rather than on a regular basis. Ancient authors disagree on the earliest institution of this office, with some dating it to the mythical reign of Romulus, and also on the exact manner of selection.
The word itself derives from the verb quaero, quaerere, meaning "to inquire", and the title quaestor has traditionally been understood as deriving from the original investigative function of the quaestores parricidii. Ancient authors, perhaps influenced by etymology, reasoned that the investigative role of the quaestores parricidii had evolved to include financial matters, giving rise to the similarly-named later offices. This connection has, however, been questioned by modern scholars.
A variant of the title, quaestor, continued to be used in judicial proceedings during the Roman Republic. This referred to the chairman of a jury in a criminal court, and sometimes to a praetor or other official serving as president of a permanent commission. This usage has the same origin as quaestor and preserves the association with criminal trials as in the earlier quaestor parricidii.
Quaestores in the Roman Republic
In the Roman Republic, quaestores were elected officials who supervised the treasury and financial affairs of the state, its armies and its officers. The quaestors tasked with financial supervision were also called quaestores aerarii, because they oversaw the aerarium or public treasury in the Temple of Saturn. The earliest origins of the office is obscure, but by about 420 BC there were four quaestors, elected each year by the Comitia Tributa. After 267 BC the number was expanded to ten. Some quaestors were assigned to work in the City, while others were assigned to the staffs of generals or served as lieutenant governors in the provinces. Still others were assigned to oversee military finances. Every consul and every provincial governor was appointed a quaestor, and whilst in the provinces their responsibilities could also include military recruitment.
The office of quaestor was adopted as the first official post of the cursus honorum, and was usually a former broad-stripe tribune. By achieving election as quaestor, a Roman man would earn the right to sit in the Senate and begin to progress along the standard sequence of offices that made up a career in public service. Quaestors were entitled to one fasces and one lictor.
During the reforms of Sulla in 81 BC, the minimum age for a quaestorship was set at 30 for patricians and at 32 for plebeians, and election to the quaestorship gave automatic membership in the Senate. Before that, the censors revised the rolls of the Senate less regularly than the annual induction of quaestors created. The number of quaestors was also raised to 20.
Later Roman quaestores
During Late Antiquity, the office of quaestor sacri palatii existed, created by Constantine the Great, which functioned as the Roman Empire's senior legal official. Emperor Justinian I also created the offices of quaesitor, a judicial and police official for Constantinople, and the quaestor exercitus, a short-lived joint military-administrative post covering the border of the lower Danube. The quaestor sacri palatii survived long in the Byzantine Empire, albeit with his duties altered to coincide with those of the quaesitor. The term is last attested in Byzantium in the 14th century, as a purely honorific dignity.
The Capuchin friars, in earlier centuries, would designate one or more of the members of each community as quaestor, whose duty was to go about the region collecting alms to support the friars and their works of charity.
In Italy a quaestor (Italian: questore) heads the police of his province (Polizia di Stato), and his office is called questura. Some quaestors have other assignments, however.
The European Parliament has five Quaestors to look after the financial and administrative needs of its members.
Some ancient British universities, such as the University of St Andrews, have a quaestor who is responsible for financial management.
In the United States, the Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity currently uses the Officer title quaestor as their treasurer's name as he oversees the financial obligations of the Fraternity.
- Bourne, Frank (Princeton University). "A History of the Romans" Boston, MA. 1967, D.C. Heath and Company
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- Smith, William (1875). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. John Murray. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- Gaughan, Judy E. (2009). Murder Was Not a Crime: Homicide and Power in the Roman Republic. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292721110. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
- Latte, Kurt (1936). "The Origin of the Roman Quaestorship". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 67: 23–24. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
- Livy (1881). J. R. Seeley, ed. Livy, Book I, with Introduction, Historical Examination, and Notes. Clarendon Press. Retrieved 2012-08-12.