Cursus honorum  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The cursus honorum (Latin: "course of honours") was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum age for election. There were minimum intervals between holding successive offices and laws forbade repeating an office. These rules were altered and flagrantly ignored in the course of the last century of the Republic. For example, Gaius Marius held consulships for five years in a row between 104 BC and 100 BC. Officially presented as opportunities for public service, the offices often became mere opportunities for self-aggrandizement. The reforms of Lucius Cornelius Sulla required a ten year period between holding another term in the same office.

To have held each office at the youngest possible age (in suo anno, "in his year") was considered a great political success, since to miss out on a praetorship at 39 meant that one could not become consul at 42. Cicero expressed extreme pride both in being a novus homo ("new man") who became consul though none of his ancestors had ever served as a consul, and in having become consul "in his year".


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cursus honorum" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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