the title given to the deputy who, under the
kings, was named to represent the supreme authority during his absence in
war, or for any other reason. Lydus (de Magistr.
says that he was originally called custos
but this name is inappropriate to the office in its earlier
stages, and is probably incorrectly applied (Mommsen,
1.639). The office is said by Dionysius (2.12
) to have been held along with that of
Princeps Senatus, and the same statement appears in a still more incorrect
form in Lydus (de Mens.
1.19), but is quite
erroneous. Whether he had the right to convoke the assembly of the populus,
is doubtful, but on any emergency he might take such measures as he thought
proper; for he had the imperium in the city. (Tac.
; Liv. 1.59
.) Romulus is said to have conferred this
dignity upon Denter Romulius, Tullus Hostilius upon Numa Marcius, and
Tarquinius Superbus upon Sp. Lucretius. The statement of Lydus (de
1.38) that in 487 B.C. it was elevated into a
magistracy, to be bestowed by election, is wholly to be rejected; his
evidence is worthless, and such a notion is foreign to the very nature of
the office. All good authorities speak of the praefectus as nominated by the
consul who last left the city (Liv. 3.3
; Dionys. A. R. 6.13
; Tac. Ann. 6.11
). Persons of consular rank were
alone eligible; and down to the time of the Decemvirate every praefect that
is mentioned occurs previously as consul. The only exception is P. Lucretius
in Livy (3.24
), but recent editors here read L.
Lucretius, holding the MS. reading an error for this very reason. (Cf.
Niebuhr, ii. p. 120, note 255.) In the early period of the Republic the
praefectus exercised within the city all the powers of the consuls, if they
were absent: he convoked the senate (Liv. 3.9
), held the comitia (Liv. 3.24
), and, in times of war, even levied civic
legions, which were commanded by him.
When the office of praetor urbanus was instituted, the wardenship of the city
was swallowed up in it (Lydus, de Mens.
2.6), or rather became needless, as in the
absence of the consuls the praetor acted for them. Mommsen believes that the
right of nominating a praefectus urbi
expressly taken away by the Licinian law (1.644). But as the praetor himself
was absent during the Latin festivals, which lasted for several days, a
praefectus urbi feriarum Latinarum
still annually appointed, solely for this period, and thus held a mere
shadow of the former office. This praefectus had neither the power of
convoking the senate nor the right of speaking in it; as in most cases he
was a person below the senatorial age, and was not appointed by the people,
but by the consuls. (Gel. 14.8
.) When Varro, in
the passage of Gellius here referred to, claims for the praefectus urbi the
right of convoking the senate, he is probably speaking of the power of the
praefect such as it was previously to the institution of the office of
praetor urbanus. Of how little importance the office of praefect of the city
had gradually become, may be inferred from the facts, that it was always
given to young men of illustrious families (Tac.
), and that Julius Caesar even appointed to it several
youths of equestrian rank under age (D. C.
). During the Empire such praefects of the city continued to be
appointed so long as the Feriae Latinae were celebrated, and even assumed,
though perhaps hardly seriously, some kind of jurisdiction. (Tac. Ann. 6.11
4; D. C.
; J. Capitol. Antonin. Phil.
4.) On some
occasions, however, no praefectus urbi was appointed at all; and then his
duties were performed by the praetor urbanus. (D. C.
; comp. Marquardt,
3.285; Mommsen, Staatsr.
An office very different from this, though bearing the same name, was
instituted by Augustus on the suggestion of Maecenas (D. C. 52.21
; Tac. l.c.;
Suet. Aug. 37
), and because a permanent post
of great importance under Tiberius. This new praefectus urbi was a regular
magistrate, whom Augustus invested with all the powers necessary to maintain
peace and order in the city, which he exercised even when a praetor or
indeed a consul was present at Rome. But his functions were inactive when
Augustus was in Italy. It was [p. 2.478]
only during the long
absence of Tiberius during the last eleven years of his reign, that the
praefectus urbi became a permanent official of great power. He came to be
included among the magistratus, and even imperium was accorded to him (Dig. 2
). None but consulars were appointed to the office, and it was
often the crowning point of a distinguished political career, answering
somewhat to the censorship of the Republic. He had the superintendence of
butchers, bankers, guardians, theatres, &c.; and to enable him to
exercise his power, he had distributed throughout the city a number of
whom we may compare to
a modern police. These composed the cohorts x., xi., and xii. of the
their number being
afterwards increased. He also had jurisdiction in cases between slaves and
their masters, between patrons and their freedmen, and over sons who had
violated the pietas
towards their parents
). His jurisdiction, as
being based upon a general duty of looking after the peace and prosperity of
the city, thus became gradually extended; and as the powers of the ancient
republican praefectus urbi had been swallowed up by the office of the
praetor urbanus, so now the power of the praetor urbanus was gradually
absorbed by that of the praefectus urbi; and at last there was no appeal
from his sentence, except to the person of the princeps himself, while
anybody might appeal from a sentence of any other city magistrate, and, at a
later period, even from that of a governor of a province, to the tribunal of
the praefectus urbi. (Vopisc. Florian.
5, 6; Suet. Aug. 33
; D. C.
jurisdiction in criminal matters was at first connected with the quaestiones
, with the note of Lipsius), and to avoid collisions with
the praetor it was decided that that court should hear a case before which
it might first have been brought; but from the third century he exercised it
alone, and not only in the city of Rome, but at a distance of one hundred
miles from it, and he might sentence a person to deportatio in insulam.
and 4.) During the first period of the Empire and under good
emperors, the office was generally held for a number of years, and in many
cases for life (D. C. 52.21
Capitol. Antonin. Pius,
14; Vopisc. Carin.
16); but from
the time of Valerian a new praefect of the city occurs almost every year.
At the time when Constantinople was made the second capital of the Empire,
this city also received its praefectus urbi. The praefects at this time were
the direct representatives of the emperors; and all the other officers of
the administration of the city, all corporations, and all public
institutions were under their control. (Cod. 1, tit. 28, s. 4; Symmach.
10.37, 43; Cassiod. Variar.
They also exercised a superintendence over the importation and the prices of
provisions, though these subjects were under the more immediate regulation
of other officers. (Cod. 1, tit. 28, s. 1; Orelli, Inscript.
n. 3116.) The praefects of the city had every month to make a report to the
emperor of the transactions of the senate (Symmach. Epist.
10.44), where they gave their vote before the consulares. They were the
medium through which the emperors received the petitions and presents from
their capital. (Symmach. Epist.
10.26, 29, 35; Cod. 12, tit.
49.) At the election of a pope the praefect of Rome had the care of all the
external regulations. (Symmach. Epist.