An aedile was an annually elected official in ancient Rome. The position of aedile probably originated in about 490 B.C., when two plebeians* were elected to assist the tribunes, leaders of the plebeian assembly. At first, aediles were responsible for overseeing the temple of the goddess Ceres and the cult* associated with her.
In time, the responsibilities of aediles expanded to include various minor functions of government. Among the most important of these was the maintenance and repair of the city of Rome, including the temples and monuments, public buildings, bridges, sewers, streets, and aqueducts. Other duties included the supervision of traffic, food and water supplies, market practices, and religious observances. Aediles were also responsible for organizing public celebrations, such as games, parades, festivals, and funerals. As judicial officials, aediles could impose fines and other punishments for breaking laws.
By about 45 B.C., the office had grown into a college, or group, of six aediles, including patricians*. During the period of the Roman Empire, the office of aedile became a way for prominent plebeians to advance to the Senate or other high office. Various towns and colonies throughout the Roman Empire also had officials known as aediles. The office disappeared about A.D. 200, and other imperial* officials took over the aediles’ duties. (See also Government, Roman; Patricians, Roman; Plebeians, Roman.)
* plebeian member of the general body of Roman citizens, as distinct from the upper class
* cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god
* patrician member of the upper class who traced his ancestry to a senatorial family in the earliest days of the Roman Republic
* imperial pertaining to an emperor or empire