Praetor (Lat. prceire, to lead), the title of a Roman officer whose duties were chiefly judicial, and also, according to Cicero, that of the consuls as leaders of the Roman armies. The office was first created in 366 B. C, when the consulship was divided between the patricians and plebeians, and it was given to the former as an indemnification; it was not held by a plebeian till 337. It was a kind of third consulship, the praetor being called the colleague of the consuls, and appointed in the comitia centuriata with the same auspices. When the consuls were absent from Rome, he exercised their functions. He was a curule magistrate, and had the imperium, although subject to the consuls, between whom and himself there was also the difference that he was attended by only six lictors. Originally the praetor was a consul of the preceding year, and after the admission of plebeians to the office it was filled for some time alternately by the patrician and plebeian consul of the preceding year. In 246 another magistracy, that of prcetor peregrinus, was created with the special duty of deciding disputes between foreigners and between citizens and foreigners; and in distinction from him who filled this office, the other praetor was called prcetor uroanus.
These two, after their election, decided by lot which of the two magistracies should be filled by each; and if one of them departed from the city at the head of an army, the other discharged his duties. . After the extension of the Roman power beyond the limits of Italy and the formation of provinces, praetors were sent to govern them. Under Sulla the number of praetors was raised to 8; under Julius Caesar successively to 10, to 12, to 14, to 16; under Augustus it varied, but was finally fixed at 12; and under Tiberius it rose again to 16. By Claudius two praetors were created for matters of fidei commissa, but Titus reduced the number to one; another was created by Nerva with the duty of deciding questions between the Jlscus and individuals. At all times the prcetor urbanus was the first in position, and was specially spoken of as the praetor. He i was the chief magistrate for the administration of justice, and could not be away from Rome for more than ten days at a time. His duty also was to superintend the ludi Apollinares. He, along with the prcetor peregrinus, had the right of issuing edicts, and these edicts were one of the sources of Roman law, under the title of jus honorarium or prcetorium.
Under Hadrian these edicts were collected and arranged by Salvius Julianus, and entitled edic-tum perpetuum. After the reign of that emperor they no longer exercised the right, but they existed long afterward.