magistracy(redirected from magistracies)
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(1) A state position in ancient Rome. The origin of the magistracy dates to the time of the establishment of the republic (late sixth century B.C.). Initially all magistracies, except those of the plebeian tribunes, were occupied by patricians, but by the early third century B.C. they became accessible to the plebeians as well. The duties of the magistracies were performed without monetary compensation, and they were short-term (as a rule, one year) and collegial (with the exception of the position of dictator). A distinction was made between ordinary magistracies, which were filled by elections, and extraordinary ones, which were filled by appointment. There was also a difference between the higher magistracies, who had the right to perform the higher auspices and who were elected in the centuriate committees, and the lower ones, who were elected in the tribune committees; the higher and lower magistracies worked, correspondingly, in the centuriate and tribune committees.
Higher extraordinary magisterial positions were those of dictator, master of the horse, and decemvir. Ordinary magistracies included the high magistrates (consuls, praetors, and censors) and the lower ones (including the plebeian tribunes, aediles, and quaestors). All magistrates had the power of potestas, that is, the right to issue decrees within the field of their jurisdictions and to impose penalties; the higher magistrates, except for the censors, held the power of life or death (imperium). The magistrates were attended by a retinue of lictors bearing fasces. The law of Villius (Lex Villia annalis; 180 B.C.) established a sequence whereby minimum ages for each magistracy and the progression from one office to the next were set. The colleges of priests were a specific kind of magistracy.
(2) A term used as a synonym for a juridical administration.