Tribune of the Plebs - after serving

Feb 2018
5
Sweden
#1
I've tried to find any information about this on the internet, but have failed so far.

1) What happened to a Tribue of the Plebs after they had served their year. Did they just become ordinary citizens again, or did they remain Senators? Would they have any political advantages/disadvantages compared to an Ex-Quaestor or be viewed pretty much as the same?
2) Also, Senators seemed to be a "Census class" above Equites. Would that mean they had to stay rich, or risk losing their status as Senators? Would a Tribune of the Plebs be called a Senator during a Census, regardless of how rich they were, and pay taxes as them? Or were the Tribunes simply wealthy enough most of the time?
3) This is more speculating, but would you say that the status of a Tribune of the Plebs was roughly equal to that of an Aedile?

I'm mostly interested in how it was during the Republic in general. (I know that it was different under Sulla for example.)

Thanks!
 
Oct 2015
671
Virginia
#2
After his year of office a tribune of the plebs probably retained a seat in the senate as a non--voting member until his status was confirmed by the next censors. The plebiscitum Atinium (132BC?) confirmed the right of ex tribunes to be senators, but most tribunes had already held the quaestorship, which was the usual qualification for senate membership.

There was no official census requirement for senators until Augustus. But to be active politically, the equestrian census was probably necessary. Tribunes were elected from the equestrian and senatorial families, and once a senator they would be liable to censorial scrutiny.

Vellius Patercus (II.111) says tribunes were considered equal to quaestors in rank. Many ex tribunes went on to stand for aedile, and in some cases (like C Servilius Glaucia) immediately stood for the praetorship.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2018
5
Sweden
#3
Thank you Dentatus!

I guess what I had missed was that Tribunes often came from the already equestrian or senatorial families, and not less wealthy social classes.

You make it sound like becoming Tribune of the Plebs was an "optional step" much like Aedileship, would you say it was? Rather than a way into the senate, which my mind pieced together from reading assorted snippets on the internet.

(edit: grammar fix)
 
Last edited:
Oct 2015
671
Virginia
#4
The names of 113 tribunes are known for the years 79-49BC (106 of them from 69-49).

33 were nobiles (from families with consular ancestors) many of whose ancestor had ennobled the family in the distant past or very recently. 42 others came from senatorial families that had not reached the consulship, and 38 were novi homines with no known senatorial ancestor. Many of the 187 tribunes of that period whose names have escaped preservation in the sources may also have been "new men".

So two thirds of the known tribunes were men from senatorial families, who were using the office as a stepping stone to revive or maintain their families political fortunes. But as there were 10 tribunes elected each year, and patricians were excluded, the tribunate did provide some opportunity for social mobility.

Most of the 38 new men whose names are known were equestrians associated with the major figures of the period (Pompeius, Crassus and Caesar). Most had served them as military officers, and half went on to higher office (probably with the help of their patron).

See E S Gruen "Last Generation of the Roman Republic" for the analysis.

The tribunate was not a recognized step in the cursus honorum. Some, like Cicero, avoided it as they were trying to project a respectable image, and others as they were already prominent public figures. But for many it provided an opportunity to put themselves in the public eye as a servant of the people, or to do a service for a powerful patron who might help them to advance their career.

Apparently, radical, rabble-rousers from obscure backgrounds were few. The Roman electorate was too conservative.
 
Jan 2015
3,292
Australia
#6
Censors periodically removed senators, so if you didn't meet the basic criteria (which many wouldn't have) you'd be removed after your term anyway. I imagine almost no tribunes stuck in the Senate between Sulla's removal of their powers and Crassus and Pompey restoring them.
 
Oct 2015
671
Virginia
#7
Sulla added at least 300 equestrians to the much depleted senate during his dictatorship (Livy Per 89, Appian BCiv 1.100 ). He also increased the number of quaestors elected each year from 8 to 20 so as to maintain the number of senators at about 600 (Tacitus Ann 11.22).

No censors were elected between 85-71BC. Some think Sulla supressed the office. But if so, Pompeius and Crassus restored it, and the censors of 70BC struck 64 names from the senate roll (Livy Per 98).
 
Jan 2015
3,292
Australia
#8
Roman democracy was a robust and pragmatic thing. It wasn't like a swipe card for getting into a building, and yours never got revoked so you could still enter until it did. If you tried to turn up to the Senate as an ex-tribune who'd never been inducted into the Senate for any other reason, when you obviously didn't meet the criteria, you'd be ridiculed out of the building probably, or the Senators might ask the Princeps Senatus to determine if you had standing, or might vote on it.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,092
#9
An ex-tribune has achieved a higher entry on his CV. In Roman society that would enable certain privileges and the Romans would respect that, albeit sometimes reluctantly. In any case, if the ex-tribune demanded entry, it would be a formality to provide the person with the status required. Status to be respected must be earned of course. But the Romans also respected courage and daring, even if they sometimes disliked supporting it because of the risks.

I recall Caractacus being captured in Britain and dragged into the Senate in Rome to be displayed as a prisoner of war. Instead of acting as a defeated man, he stood there and told the Romans exactly what he thought of them. They were impressed with his defiance and allowed him a comfortable house arrest on a state income as befitted a man of ruling status, even if he was a barbarian chieftan their view.
 
Jan 2015
3,292
Australia
#10
An ex-tribune has achieved a higher entry on his CV. In Roman society that would enable certain privileges and the Romans would respect that, albeit sometimes reluctantly. In any case, if the ex-tribune demanded entry, it would be a formality to provide the person with the status required. Status to be respected must be earned of course. But the Romans also respected courage and daring, even if they sometimes disliked supporting it because of the risks.

I recall Caractacus being captured in Britain and dragged into the Senate in Rome to be displayed as a prisoner of war. Instead of acting as a defeated man, he stood there and told the Romans exactly what he thought of them. They were impressed with his defiance and allowed him a comfortable house arrest on a state income as befitted a man of ruling status, even if he was a barbarian chieftan their view.
And some others in like situations to Caractacus were simply executed. You have this habit of finding one sliver of information somewhere, then trying to apply it 100% literally and universally, with no context, to every single instance in history. Remember the board's utter bafflement at your continual claim that the emperors were mere servants of the people, not autocrats at all, based off a literalist reading of propaganda they commissioned, as opposed to the crushing weight of all other evidence? You've done a similar thing with the tribunes, both here and elsewhere; trying at one point to claim the veto power had various limitations that it simply did not, or in this case that it granted a status that it almost certainly did not. Let's say the average tribune was appointed at age 30, and lived till age 51. That's very conservative, and obviously people died early, etc, but let's go with that. On that math, the tribunate would be providing an extra 200 Senators in that twenty year period between age 30 and 50, from just that one office. 200 Senators would be enough to carry the day on almost any slightly divisive motion. Despite the size of the Senate being increased under Sulla then Caesar, the motions whose votes we know about indicate nothing like that number of Senators actually sat in the Senate (for obvious reasons, they were off governing, etc). Most tribunes did not also go on to hold other offices either (let's say maybe 2-3 tribunes per year, at most, would have entered the Senate through other means). So by that logic at any given time there were up to 200 of these people (minus say a dozen or so dead or absent ones) who could vote in Senate meetings, but simply inexplicable chose not to. It doesn't pass the smell test, especially when different factions had a vested interest in paying these people to turn up and stack motions in their favour.

The motion to try and force a peace between Pompey and Caesar was passed 370-22, and logic suggests given the stakes that would have been one of the better attended meetings you'd be likely to see. I think it more likely that while you were technically a Senator after achieving the tribunate, you would have been unwelcome attending meetings after your term if you did not meet the qualifications. If you pushed the matter by trying to attend, I suspect the Senate would have shunned you and/or simply have voted/declared you ineligible; and so knowing this only legitimate Senators (from noble families) would have continued trying to attend. There are instances where ex-tribunes plainly did keep attending (for instance, I believe Curio continued to attend meetings once Antony took over his role as tribune), but I doubt it was common. Imagine if the tribunes from the post-Sulla rule changes tried to attend? That was like a 15 yr period, so 150 Senators, who were literally barred from holding other offices in the future. Does anyone really think these one-time nobodies with no connections who had doomed themselves politically were sitting next to the nobles in the Senate and voting on important motions? (remember, no Censors were appointed for a while after, so by Cal's logic they were all still in the Senate)
 

Similar History Discussions