, Eng. dean), the
head of ten men. The word does not seem to occur before the time of
Constantine, and then, except in its ecclesiastical use, only in the Eastern
empire. It perhaps took the place of the classical decurio
at a time when the latter word had acquired its
special meaning in the colonies and municipia. We may distinguish three
1. A petty officer commanding a contubernium
ten men (Modestus, § 9; Veget. de Re Mil.
13). The latter says that in his time (the end of the 4th century) the name
had superseded decanus.
2. Officials at the court of Constantinople, but of no higher than menial
rank (Cod. Theod. 6.12; “principis famulationibus adhaerentes,”
Cod. Just. 12.27
). St. Chrysostom instances the ὕπαρχος
(= praefectus praetorio) and δεκανὸς
as at opposite ends of the social scale
xiii. in Ep. ad Hebr.
) Like other
they were under the orders of
the MAGISTER OFFICIORUM.
3. The members of a guild or confraternity at Constantinople, charged with
the burial of the dead (Cod. Just. 1.2
and 9; Just. Novell.
praef.). The institution appears to be a distinctly Christian one, and to
have organised what had been previously a matter of casual charity, the
decent burial of the poor. These decani are probably identical with the
so called from their pious
labours. (Cf. Dict Chr. Ant.
s. vv. Copiatae, Decanus.)
(Daremberg and Saglio, s.v. Ducange, s. v.)