These public treasures were deposited in the temple of Saturn, on the eastern slope of the Capitoline hill, and, during the republic, were in charge of the urban quaestors (see Quaestor), under the superintendence and control of the senate.
This arrangement continued (except for the year 45 B.C., when no quaestors were chosen) until 28 B.C., when Augustus transferred the aerarium to two praefecti aerarii, chosen annually by the senate from ex-praetors; in 23 these were replaced by two praetors (praetores aerarii or ad aerarium), selected by lot during their term of office; Claudius in A.D.
44 restored the quaestors, but nominated by the emperor for three years, for whom Nero in 56 substituted two ex-praetors, under the same conditions.
The origin of the quaestorship is obscure, but it was probably instituted simultaneously with the consulship in 509 B.C. 1 The number of the quaestors was originally two, but this was successively increased to four (in 421 B.C.), eight (in 267 or 241 B.C.), and by Sulla (in 81 B.C.) to twenty.
The original quaestors were afterwards distinguished by the title of urban quaestors (quaestores urbani).
Originally the quaestors seem to have been nominated by the consuls, but later, perhaps from the fall of the decemvirs (449 B.C.), they were elected by the people assembled in tribes (comitia tributa) under the presidency of a consul or another of the higher magistrates.
The quaestors held office for one year, but, like the consuls and praetors, they were often continued in office with the title of proquaestor.
Before the election of the quaestors the senate decided the duties to be undertaken by them, and after election these duties were distributed amongst the new quaestors either by lot or by the choice of the higher magistrates to whom quaestors were assigned.
A peculiar burden laid on the quaestors, not as an official duty, but rather as a sort of fee exacted from all who entered on the political career, was the paving of the high roads, for which Claudius substitiited the exhibition of gladiatorial games.
Various classes of quaestors may be distinguished according to the duties they had respectively to discharge.
Originally the duties of the quaestors, like those of the consuls, were undefined; the consuls were the superior magistrates of the republic, the quaestors their assistants.
From a very early time, however, the quaestors possessed criminal jurisdiction.
In the code of the Twelve Tables they are designated quaestores parricidii, " inquisitors of parricide or murder"; 2 and perhaps originally this was their full title, which was afterwards abbreviated into quaestors when their functions as criminal judges fell into the background.
In addition to parricide or murder we can hardly doubt that all other crimes fell within the jurisdiction of the quaestors; political crimes only seem to have been excepted.
The criminal jurisdiction of the quaestors appears only to have terminated when towards the close of the republic trial by permanent courts (quaestiones perpetuae) was extended to criminal cases.'
The quaestors had also charge of the public treasury (aerarium) in the temple of Saturn, and this was in the later times of the republic their most important function.
Their functions as keepers of the treasury were withdrawn from the urban quaestors by Augustus and transferred to other magistrates, but the office itself continued to exist into the 3rd century, though as to the nature of the duties attached to it we have little or no information.
These were instituted in 421 B.C., when two new quaestors were added to the original two.
They never had a distinctive appellation like that of the urban quaestors, from whom, however, they were clearly distinguished by the fact that, while the urban quaestors did not stand in a special relation of subordination to any particular magistrate, a non-urban quaestor was regularly assigned as an indispensable assistant or adjutant to every general in command, whose name or title the quaestor usually added to his own: Originally they were the adjutants of the consuls only, afterwards of the provincial praetors, and still later of the proconsuls and propraetors.
The governor of Sicily had two quaestors; all other governors and commanders had but one.
The subjugation of Italy occasioned the institution (in 267 B.C.) of four new quaestors, who appear to have been called quaestores classici because they were originally intended to superintend the building of the fleet (classes); their functions, however, are very imperfectly known.
Though no doubt intended to assist the consuls, they were not subordinated (like the military quaestors) to a special consul.
P. 523 foll.; for the existence of the quaestorship under the monarchy, and a different view of the second station of the Italian quaestors, see A.
But, as a survival of the earlier state of things, one of his two quaestors was quartered at Eryx, the other being in attendance on himself.
But of the praetorships with special jurisdiction (especially the ward praetorship and the liberation 1 [Until the time of Tiberius, when their election was transferred to the Senate.] [The age for the office was forty under the republic, thirty under the empire.] 3 [They took the place of the quaestors; this arrangement continued till the time of Claudius.] ' [The fiscal praetor (praetor fiscalis) was appointed by Nerva to hear claims preferred against the imperial fiscus.] Marquardt conjectures with much probability that when Caracalla extended the Roman franchise to the whole empire he at the same time abolished the foreign praetorship.
Under the Republic the Senate had been the financial authority, with the Censors as finance ministers and the Quaestors as secretaries of the treasury.