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COMES denotes originally a fellow-traveller: hence it is applied to the members of the retinue of a magistrate or high official sent into the provinces (cf. Cic. Ver. 2.10, 27; ad Quint. Fr. 1.1, 3, 11; Suet. Jul. 42, “neu qui senatoris filius nisi contubernalis aut comes magistratus peregre proficisceretur” ); and under the emperors the term is used especially of those accompanying the emperor or members of his family (cf. Hor. Ep. 1.8, 2; Mommsen in Hermes, 4.120 ff.; Suet. Aug. 16, 98, Tib. 46, Calig. 45, &c.). From this it was a natural transition to apply the term to the courtiers generally, even when not on a journey ; and in later Latin we find it used of the holders of the various state-offices. About the time of Constantine it became a regular honorary title, including various grades, answering to the comites ordinis primi, secundi, tertii. The power of these officers, especially the provincial, varied with time and place; some presided over a particular department, with a limited authority, as we should term them, commissioners; others were invested with all the powers of the ancient proconsuls and praetors.

The names of the following officers explain themselves:--Comes Orientis (of whom there seem to have been two, one the superior of the other), comes Aegypti, comes Britanniae, comes Africae, comes rei militaris, comes portuum, comes stabuli, comes domesticorum equitum, comes clibanarius, comes linteae vestis or vestiarii (master of the robes). In fact the emperor had as many comites as he had functions: thus, comes consistorii, the emperor's privy-councillor; comes largitionum privatarum, an officer who managed the emperor's private revenue, as the comes largitionum sacrarum did the public exchequer. The latter office united in a great measure the functions of the aedile and quaestor. The four comites commerciorum, to whom the government granted the exclusive privilege of trading in silk with barbarians, were under his control. An account, however, of the duties and functions of the comites of the later empire does not fall within the scope of the present work. (Cf. Notitia Dignitatum, ed. Böcking; Wilmanns, Exempla Inscript. Latin. Ind. p. 555.)

[B.J] [A.S.W] [p. 1.503]

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.27
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 16
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 98
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 42
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.2
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.8
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