Censors were elected by the Centuriate Assembly and served as a duo. Censors were elected to take an account of all citizens and their property value before performing a rite of religious purification. Roman taxes were levied based on the censors' account, and the censors could punitively tax citizens who failed to present at the census or falsely accounted for their property.
Whilst having no right to uphold law or command in war, the office of censor was the highest honour. Unlike the office of consul, which deteriorated over the Roman Republic period, most censors were men of exceptional standing and character. Censors were known also as castigatores (English: chastisers) for their duty as the regulators of public morality. For instance, in 92 BC censors Domitius Ahenobarbus and Crassus condemned the teaching of rhetoric in Latin (as opposed to the customary Greek):
We have been informed that there are persons who have established a novel sort of instruction and that the youth gather at their school; that these people have styled themselves "Latin rhetoricians"; and that young persons idle away whole days there. […] These new practices, which do not accord with ordinary custom and the way of our ancestors, are vexatious and wayward-seeming. Therefore we make our judgment plain both to those who preside over these schools and those who have become accustomed to attending them: we do not approve.
Initially, censors were chosen exclusively from among Roman citizens of patrician birth. [clarification needed] after legislation – that he introduced while dictator – providing one censor of each two must be a plebeian.
5th century BC
Before 443 BC, the consuls were responsible for the census. In 443 BC, the right to take the census was moved from the consuls to the newly established office of censor. They were chosen exclusively from Patricians.
|Year||Birth||Names||Completed||Changed Senate or equites roll||Laws or regulations promulgated||Undertook public works or building|
|443||Patrician||Lucius Papirius Mugillanus||Yes||No||No||No|
|Patrician||Lucius Sempronius Atratinus||Yes||No||No||No|
|435||Patrician||Gaius Furius Paculus Fusus||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Patrician||Marcus Geganius Macerinus||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|430||Patrician||Lucius Papirius (Crassus?)|
|Patrician||Publius Pinarius (Mamercinus?)|
|Patrician||Lucius Papirius Mugillanus||Unknown||No||No||No|
|403||Patrician||Marcus Furius Camillus|
|Patrician||Marcus Postumius Albinus Regillensis|
4th century BC
In 393 BC, Marcus Cornelius Maluginensis was elected suffect censor to replace the deceased censor Gaius Iulius Iullus. In 351 BC, Gaius Marcius Rutilus was elected as the first plebeian censor. According to the Lex Publilia, since 339 BC at least one of the censors had to be plebeian. In 312 BC, Appius Claudius Caecus was elected censor without being consul before.
3rd century BC
In 294 and 265 BC, Gaius Marcius Rutilus Censorinus was elected censor. This was the only time a person was elected censor twice. Marcius prevented this situation from repeating itself by originating a law stating that no one could be elected censor twice.
2nd century BC
In 131 BC, for the first time both censors were plebeian.
After only one year in office the in 109 BC elected censor Marcus Livius Drusus died. His colleague Marcus Aemilius Scaurus at first refused to resign but resigned when new censors were elected in 108 BC.
1st century BC
|97||Patrician||Lucius Valerius Flaccus|
|Plebeian||Marcus Antonius Orator|
|92||Plebeian||Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus|
|Plebeian||Lucius Licinius Crassus|
|89||Patrician||Lucius Julius Caesar|
|Plebeian||Publius Licinius Crassus|
|86||Plebeian||Lucius Marcius Philippus|
|70||Patrician||Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus|
|65||Plebeian||Marcus Licinius Crassus|
|Plebeian||Quintus Lutatius Catulus|
|Plebeian||Lucius Aurelius Cotta|
|Plebeian||Gaius Scribonius Curio|
|55||Patrician||Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger|
|Plebeian||Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus|
|50||Patrician||Appius Claudius Pulcher|
|Plebeian||Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus|
|42||Patrician||Publius Sulpicius Rufus|
|Plebeian||Gaius Antonius Hybrida|
|Plebeian||Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (They did not hold the title Censor)|
|22||Patrician||Paullus Aemilius Lepidus|
|Plebeian||Lucius Munatius Plancus|
|8||Patrician||Caesar Augustus as sole censor|
After the Republic
With the solidification of Augustus' rule, the Roman Republic came to an end. The office of censor nominally continued a small way into the Roman Empire, for example in 14 AD when Caesar Augustus held the office with Tiberius Julius Caesar.
- Cram, Robert Vincent. “The Roman Censors.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. 51, 1940, pp. 71–110. JSTOR, JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/310923.
- tr. W. M. Bloomer, The School of Rome: Latin Studies and the Origins of Liberal Education (2011).
- Livy 4.22.7
- Broughton notes "This censorship is very doubtful." Diodorus Siculus (15.22.1) is our source for this censorship; Livy does (6.5.8) not mention them; this portion of the Fasti Capitolini is missing. These persons are otherwise unknown. (Broughton, Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 1 p. 98 n. 3)
- Velleius Paterculus, 2.8.2. Broughton indicates that this censorship is doubtful, "since Velleius may possibly be thinking simply of brothers who were colleagues in the same office and not specifically of the censorship." (Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 1 p. 137 n. 4)
- Broughton: "The name of the second Censor is lost. They did not complete the lustrum and probably abdicated, since others were elected to the censorship in 318." (Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 1 p. 154 n. 2)
- Broughton notes, "Both the date of this censorship and the names of the Censors remain not completely certain" and discusses the issues. Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 1 p. 184 n. 2
- The authority for this year, the Fasti Capitolini is damaged at this point and only indicates Noctua abdicated.
- According to Broughton, the name of his colleague is unknown. (Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2 p. 161)
- Although there is ample proof that censors were elected this year (for example, Dio Cassius 37.46.4), no primary source recorded their names. Scribonius was suggested by Bartolommeo Borghesi as one of the possible censors. (Broughton, Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2 p. 179)
- Thomas Robert Shannon Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Philological Monograph No. 15, vols. 1 and 2. (New York: American Philological Association, 1951, 1952).