Roman censor

As censor (Latin censura of censere = " assess, estimate" ) that Office or the duties of the Censors is called. The Censor was a high official of the Roman Republic. His duties included the implementation of the population and wealth estimates ( census), the occupation of the senate ( lectio senatus ) and the supervision of the customs of the Romans ( regimen morum ).

Development of censorship

The censorship was ( according to Livy in 443 BC) created the beginning of the 5th century BC. Previously, the duties of the censors were perceived by the consuls. In contrast to the consulate the censorship was not, allocated annually office. At first censors were elected at irregular intervals, once every five years later determined two censors who had to meet the ( made ​​by the Senate ) tasks within 18 months. He was elected in the comitia centuriata.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Julius Caesar managed from the censorship temporarily. In imperial times, the former functions of the censors were transferred to the emperor and officials. In the 2nd century AD, the election of censors was unusual. The Office disappeared sooner than the other Republican offices. In the 4th century the title experienced a rebirth since Constantine the Great his half-brother Flavius ​​Dalmatius appointed to Censor. With the death of Dalmatius 337/38 the title is undocumented.

Powers of the censors

The most important task of the censors ( and the one from which the Office has its name ) was the so-called census, the census of citizens and the determination of their assets. In connection with this count and wealth estimate the power of the censors for the assignment of citizens entitled to voters classes and tribus. Since membership in these subdivisions of citizenship decided on the weight that had the voice of the individual in the People's Assembly, great political influence was associated with the power to carry out the assignment. This applies a fortiori to the censors also the incumbent decision to include a knighthood ( recensio equitum ) and the Senate ( lectio senatus ).

These powers can be explained as the censors could pass the customs supervision ( regimen morum ). They could reduce the level of the citizen with moral failings by put him in a less powerful class of voters or tribus or excluded from the equestrian or senatorial order. In less serious cases, they left it in a verbal caution or a formal censure ( nota censoria ), which was, however, noted in the civil list.

Also in connection with the task of census and asset estimates are further economic tasks of the censors. They could lease state revenue sources such as taxes and mining rights and awarded government contracts eg for maintenance of public buildings to entrepreneurs. In both cases, the term of the lease or the order was the five-year period until the next appointment of censors.

At the end of their term of office completed the censors a great cleansing sacrifice that was just like the said five-year period called the lustrum.


The censorship was one of the most prestigious Roman offices. It was - because of the long periods between elections - not regularly attend as part of the cursus honorum. Only respected senators who had almost always been held the consulate, came as censors into consideration, and the former censors ( censorii ) formed the highest class rank among the senators. Especially famous censors were:

  • Appius Claudius Caecus, censor 312 BC, builder of the Via Appia.
  • Marcus Porcius Cato called Cato the Censor or maior ( the elder Cato ), 234 BC -149 BC, censor 184 BC, Defender of old Roman virtues and the author of many works, including De Agri Cultura (On the agriculture ).

See also: List of Roman censors

Today's meaning of the words " censorship" and " censor "

Based on the regimen morum the censors took the Latin word censura generally means " customs supervision" to. Later it was used in particular for the control of publications by church or state agencies. Therefore, the present meaning of the word censorship explains. As censor logically which is referred to, the censored publication.

In France, earlier was also a special teacher who was in charge of discipline at the school, called Censeur.

See also: Freedom of the press, history of censorship