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Lucius Nasica and censor

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bust of an older man – the so-called patrician Torlonia. Considered to be a likeness of Cato the Elder
Lucius Nasica and censor

At the office of censor in ancient Rome could have been chosen a person who had the appropriate experience and life was characterized by stability and on which she was confident that cope with responsible tasks such as monitoring the morality of citizens or conducting censuses.

During the Republic, specific censors established what could be considered inappropriate could realistically influence the lists of senators and the social status of individual citizens. Inappropriate behaviour of a citizen could result in imposing a censorship note on him: on the list of citizens next to a person who in the opinion of the censor deserved to be punished, there was an appropriate annotation that could apply to every sphere of everyday life (such as an accusation of unworthy occupation, the accusation of running too sumptuous style life etc.), which in turn resulted in the loss of a good name. These kinds of measures were intended to help censors exercise cura morum or control over morality. The conclusion is simple: it was better not to expose the censor.

As the Roman census was a very important event and taken completely seriously (there were serious consequences for failure to appear under the so-called incensus), then it was necessary to remain serious and answer all census questions. However, the history of Lucius Nasica1 was not very fortunate, he decided to introduce a somewhat humorous tone during censorship oaths. Interestingly, according to a message from Cicero, these events took place during the censorship of Cato the Elder (also known as “Censor”), i.e. in 184 BCE2

The censor who prepared the list of citizens had a question form. One of them was:

Have you, to the best of your knowledge and belief, a wife?

Lucius Nasica, as soon as he heard them, replied:

I indeed have a wife, p375 but not, by Heaven! such a one as I could desire.

However, this brilliant statement in his opinion did not make a positive impression on the official. He noted by the name Nasica that he was moved to the group of aerarii3 for a jester joke.

Author: Aneta Bąk
  1. Gellius did not provide his personal data in his work. We learn about the fact that Lucius Nasica was a participant in these events from a fragment of the song "De Orator" by Cicero, who recalls the described joke by Nasica; see.: Cic., De or., 2.260.
  2. Cic., De or., 2.260.
  3. Aeraria were a group of citizens who did not belong to any tribus and therefore could not serve in the army or occupy any office.
  • Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.20.1–6 [online:*.html ]
  • Pisma krasomowcze i polityczne Marka Tuliusza Cycerona, przekł. E. Rykaczewski, Poznań 1873
  • Rzymskie prawo publiczne, red. A Jurewicz, Olsztyn 2011
  • A. Tarwacka, O ukaraniu przez cenzorów tych, którzy przy nich opowiadali niestosowne żarty; oraz o rozważaniu nałożenia noty cenzorskiej na tego, kto stał przed nimi potężnie ziewając. Aulus Gellius, Noce Attyckie, 4.20 Tekst – Tłumaczenie – Komentarz [w:] „Zeszyty Prawnicze” 12.4, 2012

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