The post was created by the Marian reforms. Its holder stood just below the legatus legionis, the legion's commander, and above the other five tribuni angusticlavii (and later the praefectus castrorum). The position was the first step of the traditional cursus honorum, the formalized sequence of public offices held by Roman nobles of the senatorial class (conversely, the tribuni angusticlavii were knights). Thus the tribunus laticlavius would usually be a young man who might belong to one of the richest families in Rome or be a close friend to the legionary commander. After two or three years in the army he would go back to Rome and be given a government job, usually a quaestorship.
By the middle of 250s, at the earliest, the post of the tribunus laticlavius had disappeared from the Roman army, following the general trend of removal of the senatorial class from military commands.