Aedile: Roman magistrate, responsible for the Games and the maintenance of the temples.

The original tasks of the two plebeian aediles are unclear. The name suggests that they had something to do with an aedes ('shrine'), but the Greek translation agoranomos implies that the aedile was a market superintendent. The discrepancy may be superficial, however, as the Roman tradition states that the first aediles were the assistants of the plebeian tribunes. Now the Plebs had their archives at the shrine of Ceres on the Forum Boarium, 'cattle market'. So it is possible that the first aediles were market superintendents, and as representatives of the merchants did not belong to the aristocracy, whence they had to side with the Plebs in the conflict of the orders. They were probably responsible for the organization of the Plebeian Games (Ludi plebeii).

However this may be, the aediles were recognized by the Senate as official magistrates after the reforms of the 360s, which found their expression in the Lex Furia de aedilibus. In this law, a second couple of aediles was introduced, the curulian aediles ('curulian' means 'patrician' or 'aristocratic'). Their task was to organize the Ludi Romani or Roman Games.

The plebeian and curulian aediles were elected by the Comitia tributa, an assembly of the people that was divided into voting districts. In this assembly, the rich people were less influential than in the Comitia centuriata.

In the third and second centuries, the tasks of the aediles became more important. They had to take care of the temples, they organized games and were responsible for the maintenance of the public buildings in Rome. Moreover, they took charge of Rome's water and food supplies; in their quality of market superintendents, they served sometimes as judges in mercantile affairs. Because they controlled the games, they exercised some influence on the freedom of speech: e.g., an actor or a jester could not always freely say what he had in mind.

After the Lex Villia annalis (180), a minimum age of 37 years was required. In the first century, it became obligatory to have served as a quaestor first. Julius Caesar added two extra aediles, whose sole responsibility was the food supply. Someone who had served as aedile, was electable for the praetorship.

During the empire, the aedileship lost much of its importance. Many tasks were given to other magistrates (e.g., the praetorian prefect and the mayor of Rome). The food supply became the responsibility of a prefect.

An aedile had no bodyguard (lictor) but was allowed to wear a purple-bordered toga.

This page was created in 2002; last modified on 9 May 2019.