When Diocletian and after him Constantine the Great
re-organised the Roman administration, the principal magistrates and
officials were divided into three classes:--1. The Illustres,
who held the first rank; [p. 1.992]
2. The Spectabiles;
and 3. The Clarissimi.
The title of Illustres
belonged only to the Consoles, the Patricii, the
Praefectus praetorio, the Praefectus urbi, the Praepositus sacri cubiculi,
the Magistri militum, the Magister officiorum, the Quaestor sacri palatii,
the Comes sacrarum largitionum, the Comes privatarum, and the Comes
domesticorum. Even among the Illustres there was a gradation of rank, the
Consuls and Patricii being regarded as higher in dignity than the others.
The titles Sublimissimi, Excellentissimi,
are used as synonymous with Illustres.
Among the privileges of the Illustres we read that in criminal cases they
could only be tried by the emperor himself or by an imperial commission, and
that they could appear before the courts by means of procurators. (Cod.
Theod. 6.6, &c., with the commentary of Gothofred; Walter,
Geschichte des römischen Rechts,
2nd ed.; Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
100.17, vol. ii. p. 21,